..Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” The words of none other than Henry Ford. (Even if you don’t know of him, you must recognise the surname? No-one is that insular are they?) It is a belief that perhaps should have been heeded by some of our political figures during the past week. When Labour came to power all those years ago, (trivia question: Name the (now) professor who played the drums at the 2005 Labour Party Conference as Tony Blair glided up the steps to the theme of, “Things Can Only Get Better”?), Gordon Brown, Prudence’s brother and best friend gave The Bank of England greater independence, allowing and indeed encouraging its governor a free voice. Oh how times change. The past five days – in fact the past five hours – have seen a plethora of banking changes heralded by Ed Milband that will be implemented on Labour taking back the hot seat at Number 10. Though leaked to the media in the preceding days, Mr Miilband announced his proposals in what was vaunted to be a key note speech to the University of London earlier today. Jostling for primacy on his to-do list were a cap on bonuses paid to bankers and the formation of at least two, new, “sizeable and competitive banks”, to challenge those currently in existence. “We need a reckoning with our banks, not for retribution, but for reform”. Speaking of retribution Ed, have you heard from your brother recently? As is the norm of the modern world, these proposals had already been touted and promulgated to the world some days ago, allowing any number of comments to be made. Not least of those offering opinion was the current Governor of The Bank of England, Mark Carney (exercising the free voice championed by Mr Brown). Mr Carney was adamant that the proposed cap on bonuses would not help the roses grow in the garden. He is of the opinion – that one should perhaps heed as he was selected as Governor of the BOE presumably because he knows something about banking – that a cap on retail bank market share in the US had, in part, fuelled the behemoths on Wall Street that were at the very epicentre of the global financial crisis. Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umumna reiterated the plans of his glorious leader with his comment that, “It is not healthy for us to involve governors of The Bank of England in big political debates”. Ok. Did you really think about what you were saying there Chuka? Anyway, if Messrs Miliband, Umumna and Co. aimed to generate activity in the economy, they got what they wanted. As I type, millions are being wiped off the share prices of both RBS and Lloyds. Well done lads. Perhaps we should not be wholly surprised as it was the Labour party who ‘instructed’ Lloyds to take over the Halifax/Bank of Scotland with the result that Lloyds shareholders saw the value of their holdings dive more quickly than Andy Carroll when there is only a minute left of extra time. Mr Carney’s view that Mr Miliband’s policies are unlikely to benefit the country was perhaps strengthened by his listening to Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this week when Mr M. got in a bit of a pickle both numerically and tautologically when struggling with the concepts of a quarter of a million and 250,000. I know that I struggled on occasion with O-level maths, but I am not putting myself forward as the future leader of a G8 country.
In his comments on matters fiscal, Mr Carney took the view that the growing housing market would not be a threat to financial stability as mortgage levels and property sales are coming from such a low base. We have been saying this for some time; just as the Help to Buy Scheme is modest in scale compared to the overall market. The hysteria over a housing bubble is now akin to that generated by the possibility of catching bird flu from chicken McNuggets (I am not going to walk myself into a libel case by questioning the organic origin of the said nuggets). Future borrowers are already being subjected to tougher mortgage criteria before institutions deem them suitably risk-free. Without a doubt this will hinder the steady progress of the housing market’s resurgence as it increases completion times and may well bring about higher charges. As always, the results will be determined by what the computer does with the information put into it by whoever is doing the inputting: regardless of their intelligence, subject knowledge and common sense. Now everything is based on what the PC says. There has to be some correlation between the increasing reliance on computers and obesity rates going through the roof. The days of someone getting up from their desk and walking to ask someone with a better knowledge base than theirs are diminishing as quickly as people are buying a bigger trouser size.
To go back to Mr Ford. He was a pioneer of ‘welfare capitalism’ and was stridently against labour unions believing that many were too heavily influenced by some leaders. He took the view that the latter often started with ostensibly good intentions but ended up doing more harm than good. What price would I get on there being a picture of a Model T on the walls of Miliband Towers?