Banks

From FT Alphaville:

Here’s something of a surprise:

A fairly muted reaction (at pixel time anyway) from the UK banking sector to the new ConDem coalition.

Surprising because the Conservatives look likely adopt the aggressive anti-bank policies of the Liberal Democrats manifesto (although everything is subject to negotiation in this new collaborative age). Read more

Jim Pickard

I woke up to the dulcet tones of David Blunkett warning that a Lib-Lab coalition may not be quite the panacea that Lord Mandelson and others seem to think. “I believe it will lead to a lack of legitimacy. The British people will feel we have not head what they said to us,” the former home secretary warned.

“What would I have felt if Jeremy Thorpe had cobbled together a coalition with Ted Heath,” he said on the Today programme. “What would people have said?” (He also said the Lib Dems were “behaving like every harlot in history.”)

Tom Harris, Labour’s best (and arguably only readable) MP blogger, wrote this morning that the idea of a progressive coalition was looking somewhat desperate:

The word “progressive” has now been redefined as “willing to barter away everything you campaigned for in return for the chance to be in government, albeit at the beck and call of a party that has spent its entire existence trying to wipe you off the political map”. Who knew?

I’m equally incredulous about the attempts to cobble together up to seven parties (including the Greens’ single MP) to hold off the Tories at any cost. Not least because one pro-coalition cabinet minister told me at 5am on Friday that the game was up: “The arithmetic just isn’t going to work,” that person told me in the sleep-deprived early hours. Read more

If coming third in the polls and a seemingly collapsing campaign strategy wasn’t causing enough stress within the Labour party, a Labour parliamentary candidate from North west Norfolk has called Gordon Brown “the worst prime minister we have had in this country”.

According to the Lynn News newspaper, Manish Sood, who is contesting a Tory-held seat, said: “I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country … It is a disgrace and he owes an apology to the people and the Queen.” Read more

Jim Pickard

What will damage Gordon Brown over today’s unfortunate encounter is that Mrs Duffy – it transpires – seems to be far from the ignorant “bigot” that Brown labelled her.

Bewildered by her encounter with the prime minister, she said that all she wanted to know was “why I was called a bigot.” Mrs Duffy, in her own dignified way, said that Mr Brown was an “educated person” who should have known better. Read more

Jim Pickard

The problem with any plot involving Mandelson installing David Miliband into the Labour leadership is very familiar. It’s the sticking point which held back Brown’s enemies during the last three or four attempted coups against him.

It is this: the rules around Labour leadership elections are very complicated, especially if the incumbent refuses to step down. Even if Brown was to walk voluntarily there would still have to be a democratic election within Labour for his replacement.

You may remember that the Parliamentary Labour Party only has a third of the vote. Another third goes to the grassroots. The final third is the unions: and the barons are already unhappy at the idea of the Blairite wing of the party fixing the contest in advance. Read more

Jim Pickard

JP 11.27pm Time for my last attempt at sober analysis of the debate and the aftermath.

What matters ultimately is who came out on top between Cameron and Brown. After all, the Lib Dems have no chance in the majority of seats in the general election. They may still be glad to increase their number of seats from the current 63. Those are the basic facts.

If the preliminary reports are correct – that Cameron was significantly ahead of Brown – that may, ultimately, turn out to be crucial.

Regardless of Clegg’s moment in the sun (“Clegg the outsider seizes his moment in the TV spotlight” is the Guardian front page tomorrow. And “shock victory for Clegg” is the Daily Mail.) It’s still about blues versus reds. Read more

Jim Pickard

What to make of Brown’s new mea culpa over bank regulation in the run-up to the crash?

The prime minister has told ITV (in a programme to be screened tonight at 7.30pm) that in the 1990s the banks begged to be free of regulation and Labour in effect accepted this.

It’s a striking confession. Until now Brown has usually sought to shift the blame on to failures of international – rather than national – regulation of financial markets. And of course he has insisted that the credit crunch was imported from the US.

Alistair Darling has also blamed the banks instead of the regulators as recently as last summer. Read more

Nick Clegg has put a lot of effort into assuaging City nerves over a hung parliament. Britain’s credit rating will be safe in Lib Dem hands, he insists. But, even if that is true, Britain’s investors and bankers will still be poorer for it. Given half the chance, Clegg and Vince the Bonus Snatcher want to plunder the City, break up the big banks and mount Gordon Gekko’s head on a spike.

In Westminster it’s open season on bankers. Osborne, Mandelson — everyone has had a pop. But the Lib Dem plan unveiled today is the high-watermark, the Daddy of all City crackdowns. Most bankers will probably be thinking: Why should we care? Well, if there is a hung parliament, these reforms will be one of the top four Lib Dem priorities. Read more

Jim Pickard

Lord Mandelson has just described the manifesto as “Blair plus”. But how radical is it? We have trawled through the document (70 pages of it) and have found a few new policies and a few old ones dressed up to look new. Read more

Jim Pickard

Unless you read the financial pages you may not be aware of Corporate Britain’s latest eye-catching payout: a £92m remuneration package for Bert Becht (not to be confused with Bertold Brecht). He is the chief executive of Reckitt Beneckiser, which makes products such as Vanish and Dettol.

To be fair, Becht has set up a charitable foundation to which he has given more than £100m. Even so; isn’t there an issue with this kind of payout just months after the credit crunch?

Vince Cable told me last night this was “extraordinary” and “unbelievable” and showed the often painful differential between the highest and lowest-paid workers. Read more

Jim Pickard

As I predicted this morning, the stamp duty holiday for first time buyers up to £250,000 has come with a major “sting” – an increase on the levy for people exchanging £1m-plus homes. Read more

Jim Pickard

Outright criticism of the prime minister is not really Alistair Darling’s style. He prefers the raised eyebrow, the flat understatement. But you don’t have to be a Kremlinologist to get the message in this exchange from today’s Andrew Marr Show: It’s pretty loud and clear. Read more