Sunday 5 October 2008

Government of the City, By the City, For the City

When I first got a phone call telling me about the appointment of Mandelson to cabinet I thought it was one of those reshuffle day wind ups. Usually it is someone ringing a backbencher and pretending to be the Prime Minister offering a job. I though that this was a subtler version of the joke. When I found it was for real I expressed incredulity and the after a short while declined all media interviews because I thought it was coming across as personal and not political.

The significance of the reshuffle is not just the circling of the old New Labour wagons and the Faustian pact Brown has made with the Blairites to stave off another coup attempt for a period but more importantly the statement that is made by the appointment of Mandelson and people from the City like Paul Myners into government and the establishment of the National Economic Council makes about future economic policy.

This is in effect establishing openly the government of the city, by the city, for the city.

Look at the team of business advisers which Brown has appointed alongside the NEC. This includes :

Marcus Agius - Chairman, Barclays
Sir Victor Blank - Chairman, Lloyds TSB
Sir John Bond - Chairman, Vodafone
Lord John Browne - President, Royal Academy of Engineering and MD of Riverstone Holdings
Sir Terence Conran - Chairman, Conran Holdings
Mervyn Davies CBE - Chairman, Standard Chartered
Dr. Chris Gibson-Smith - Chairman, London Stock Exchange and British Land
Professor Malcolm Grant CBE - Provost and President, UCL
Sir Philip Hampton - Chairman, J Sainsbury
Dr John Hood -Vice Chancellor, Oxford University
Lord Digby Jones
Anna Mann - MWM Consulting
Dick Olver- Chairman, BAe Systems
Professor Alison Richard -Vice Chancellor, Cambridge University
Lord Richard Rogers - Richard Rogers Partnership
Paul Skinner - Chairman, Rio Tinto
Sir Kevin Smith, CBE - CEO, GKN

There doesn't appear to be a thought given to appointing a representative from the trade union movement to advise on economic, employment or industrial issues. Even the tamest general secretary in the history of the TUC, Brendan Barber, is not acceptable enough to sit at the high economic table. Surely all those trade union general secretaries who were convinced by Brown at the Labour party conference that a new dawn of policy change, partnership and co-operation had broken and the age of Blairism was over must now feel conned.

PS Here's a funny thing. When we were the first to call for Northern Rock to be nationalised, we were ignored then pilloried as dinosaurs. Eventially when Vincent Cable came out in favour of nationalisation he was depicted as prescient.

When we were the first to expose the role of Granite as a result of Richard Murphy's research, we were ignored and then looked upon bemusedly. When the government went into disarray on it, Cable then took it up and was praised for his sagacity.

For the last three months we have been calling for a significant cut in rates and the overriding of the Bank of England Advisory Committee. See the article reproduced from the Guardian's Comment is Free below and the LEAP website. (By the way we refused to support the independence of the Bank in the first place.) We were ignored again. Today Cable has come out with exactly the same demand and it is the number one story on the World at One and Cable is again feted as the profound greybeard of economic policy.

Next week we will be calling for at least a 3% cut in rates. I bet we will at best be derided but more than likely ignored. I also bet that within weeks people will be calling for a much more significant cut in rates than the Bank of England Advisory Committee will allow this week, amongst them will be one Vincent Cable.

Funny old world.