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Backroom battle rages: what do we get for £35bn?

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Paul Mason | 09:14 UK time, Sunday, 12 October 2008

This week I have taken a punt on two propositions in my work on Newsnight: first, on Wednesday night, in response to a bank briefing, I said that some banks would not take up the offer of state recapitalisation but some would ask for so much that the state could more sensibly buy them; then on Friday, a day off having failed to soften my prognosis for the world economy, I said - and believe me it was wierd saying it on Newsnight - that the world is on the brink of a system-wide economic meltdown. And that a socialised banking system was probably the only alternative to a slump.

The Sunday papers appear to vindicate both these calls. Here's David Smith & Dominic Rushe in the Sunday Times:

"Tomorrow the first of the British banks to be bailed out by the government's £400 billion rescue plan will reveal how much money they want. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which has seen its market value fall to under £12 billion, is to ask the government to underwrite a £15 billion cash call. HBOS, Britain's biggest provider of mortgages, is demanding up to £10 billion, while Lloyds TSB and Barclays require £7 billion and £3 billion respectively.

Although existing investors will have the right to put up the new capital, and some may do so, the rescue could leave the government owning 70% of HBOS and 50% of RBS."

Just hold that thought a minute. The current market value of HBOS is 6.7bn. If it is demanding up to 10 billion then why does the government not simply use 6.7bn to acquire the company? ...

...There is an editorial in the Observer demanding contrition and a change of behaviour from the bankers. This shows it has now gone beyond money and into emotional territory:

"If the bankers will not volunteer to give an account of themselves, they must be compelled to do so before a public inquiry. It will take a forensic examination of how this crisis came about to design a regulatory system to prevent it being repeated. It will also take some show of contrition by bankers before public confidence and trust in the financial system can be restored."

Philip Aldrick, in the Sunday Telegraph seems to agree with my perception, that it would be easier to nationalise them than to bail them out without actually demanding behaviour change:

"Under the bail-out as proposed on Wednesday, the £25 billion recapitalisation would have been achieved largely through the issue of preference shares, a kind of debt that offers taxpayers' better protection than straight equity. Since then, it has become abundantly clear that the banks need principle equity - in other words cash for part-ownership - to meet regulatory demands and to restore desperately-needed confidence. Preference shares simply won't cut it any longer. As a result, the taxpayer may face the prospect of becoming a majority owner in the banks if the existing shareholders stay away."

To see the headline "Nationalisation - no longer a dirty word" in the Telegraph shows you that here at Newsnight we are not the only ones having to go through mind-bending leaps.

The Mail on Sunday places a different interpretation on the bailout plan: that the government will simply act as underwriter for new ordinary shares, hoovering up any that are not bought. This is a "market version" of the bailout and is what the banks would prefer, since they get effectively a free lunch. Instead of preference shares...

"it was understood last night that the banks would simply offer new shares to existing investors, with the Government agreeing to buy any shares not taken up, ensuring the banks would get the cash they wanted."

So, to translate all this, there is a massive political struggle going on with the banks. They want simply to be bailed out through state participation in a market mechanism that leaves them fundamentally unchanged in constitution; the reason is that two of them - HBOS and RBS - are in such severe difficulties that it is touch and go whether their shares could be traded tomorrow.

And one other detail: since the taxpayer has already waived the competition rules to allow Lloyds TSB to acquire HBOS, why should we now underwrite the takeover? Is it not cheaper to nationalise HBOS - and possibly bring a bigger upside for the taxpayer in the medium term as well?

All these arguments are going on way above the heads of the British people and behind closed doors. The Conservatives, a senior Tory says to me, are stricken by paralysis because they had an argument between George Osborne and David Cameron: Osborne reportedly did not want to give Brown carte blanche on the bailout and Cameron did; and Cameron won. Some senior Conservatives think this is as mistaken as Iain Duncan Smith's acceptance, on what is now perceived to have been a "false prospectus" of the Iraq war.

Meanwhile on the Labour back benches, again, paralysis: John McDonnell is the only Labour MP who is not a minister who is doing any business through the hallowed portals of 4 Millbank (where the TV studios are). He is, he says, gettting very little traction for his calls for outright nationalisation with heavy conditionality among the PLP.

However today's headlines might cheer him up. He is getting traction among the IMF, the G7 and the Eurozone it seems, plus the Telegraph, even if the PLP think he is bonkers.

Once this is over I predict soul-searching within both main parties as to why the elected politicians just stood there and watched it happen.

One final look-ahead. The news machine is so denuded on a Sunday that maybe nobody has noticed:

"Hungary's markets and currency took a particular beating, following a collapse in government bond trading Thursday and rumors of an impending state bailout of the country's largest bank, OTP Nyrt, which the bank and Hungary's government denied.

We already know the phrase "the Icelandic government stands behind all savers" is a joke. We are now about to find out how resilient the governments of East Europe are in the face of this. If they are not, given the strength of far right opinion in both parts of the old Austro-Hungarian heartland, I would see central Europe as the first place where economic collapse leads quickly to social unrest.


  • Comment number 1.

    You say there's a political battle going on inside banks to get the dosh and continue business as usual. But who is pressuring them otherwise, apart from the numbers of noughts?

    The ugly lineup in Washington yesterday and the nature of Bush's drivel statement shows the priority of maintaining the neoliberal model, despite all the bailouts and nationalisations in the world.

    Here's the test. RBS is the main bank for PFI lending. With the nationalisation of Northern Rock - using that as the 'mature' model - mortgages are (were?) being 'run down', in the shadows, to avoid messing with the competition model. Note the priority.

    In human terms that means packing motgagees off to find mortgages elsewhere, whether they can or not, by using a prohibitively high go-away Northern Rock rate.

    Nos if a mostly Govt owned RBS does not renew the PFI loans, or makes them prohibitively expensive - we are talking about big dough here - then we can get the PFI projects back into national hands, so long was we have proper control of what is essentially a nationalised bank. This will avoiding paying out highly around the circle of investors, from public service budgets, for my kids' lifetime, as was the plan.

    But as I say - the pathetic govt aim is to preserve the neolib privatisation model at all costs - everything Brown has done supports this thesis.
    This intention is shown in the fact, as you point out, that govt loans are much more expensive than buying the banks.

    So the sorts of moves I am suggesting will be resisted mightily. But this is certainly the time to force the economic model change.

    One London Council has reverted to real people language today.

    Viva. More of it.

    The discourse has been a potent weapon to get us into mess. It can be a potent weapon to get us out, and something people can readily understand and take up.

    I hope the BBC explores and challenges on the PFI angle as well as this questioning of loan cost compared to buyout cost.

    One bit of language to question - 'must preserve the banking system as it has been at all cost'.

  • Comment number 2.


    You say

    "that the world is on the brink of a system-wide economic meltdown".

    I would say this is a symptom of a much larger planetary ecological system meltdown.

    This is the concern. We can live without a financial ystem, we cannot live without a planetary ecological life support system.

    I still maintain that if we focus on fixing this larger system, the economic system will automatically sort itself out.

    With all this talk of nationalisation one point seems not to have been covered.

    The state at the moment has far reaching powers over the individual, some would say too many.

    Do we also want it to have complete control of our individual finances?

  • Comment number 3.

    Could I add, now having read Staying Cool. I agree that Bush's statement was drivel.

    Surely what we need in the first instance is not a 'stronger' economy, but a 'sensible' economy.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's great to be able to post first! Might as well take advantage...

    Of course the British Government could just nationalise the banks and not pay a penny. Give RBS and HBOS a couple of days and there may not be a choice. So to actually buy stakes in the bank is extremely generous of the government (taxpayer), or a waste of taxpayers' money which could be useful further down the line as the economy worsens. I don't see how £50 bn or even £500 bn can do much good against some of the figures I'm reading and I can't help thinking of RBS's buyback: buying shares a £19 a share is a waste of money. In retrospect, they should have waited - that money would be very useful now. The government, I believe, is trying to support the financial system at too high a level; it may effectively support it with more chance of success further down the line - politically very, very difficult, probably impossible, but maybe a better idea. (By the way, targetting this money at the symptom is misguided anyway, I think.)

    My second point is the old one of fractional reserve banking. I understand that no journalist that wants to keep their job in the mainstream news media will raise this issue, but given the way it works, and the extent to which it has been used, then it is almost impossible not to see a Depression come out of this, and one deeper than 1929, especially for the Western world. As the world deleverages money is virtually disappearing and what people will be left with are massive debts; they will be lucky if they can reduce the principal of those debts otherwise they (and we) will be looking at a situation where in a recession the debt burden gets bigger dragging the economy down further.

    My third point is about social unrest. Without wishing to be too dramatic, history teaches us that this is an inevitable consequence of economic shocks. Huge political events follow from huge economic events. This is a huge economic global event. In some countries it looks like an inevitable shift to the Right, because they are the parties that are making the running. In Britain the case is similar: in the 2005 election the Tories won - in England! With a manifesto that was the most openly Right-wing by a major party since the war, and this was during a boom. If things get bad there will be, I imagine, a very ugly backlash against immigration and immigrants: all too easy to take advantage of. I think blaming bankers and immigrants and then profiteers will be the programme of a successful party (just like the National Socialists, incidentally).

    My final point is a request to the readers of this blog and the news media (I should put it on Robert Peston's blog but it's hard to get posted in the top 100 at the moment!) Today, on his TV programme, Andrew Marr asked Robert Peston if he felt a twinge of guilt about what he'd done - some people in the city are angry at him for his reporting. NO WAY! It is ridiculous, childish, and wrong to start making Robert Peston or any other journalist part of the story. Yourself, Paul, Robert Peston and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph are the only journalists in the mainstream who are providing interesting, thoughtful, accurate and relevant copy. Just like Great journalists should do and not the ones who are constantly hedging and trimming - nearly all the others. People do have a right to know because the consequences are huge for all of us. I don't want to wake-up the day after an economic collapse and read 'The Economy has collapsed'. I want step-by-step information so I can make evaluations and figure out actions accordingly. For those that are blaming the journalists, let's stop it. The MATHS shows we are in trouble and heading for breakdown - no journalist has the power to change that, accelerate that, or slow it down. This is one story that isn't created or a fashion.

  • Comment number 5.

    What we "should" get for 35 billion pounds:

    1. Public control of all salaries, bonuses and pensions for all present and former staff and directors or all companies and related controlled companies, with full publication.

    2. Public control of lending criteria with full disclosure and oversight.

    3.Full public financial control with full disclosure.

    What we "will" get for 35 billion pounds:


  • Comment number 6.

    Fat on the The Fire: Bush's Stronger Economy

    (The U-shaped channel, skateboard half pipe and bob sleigh run are just analogies for descriptive purposes. They are a 4 dimensional space-time continuum, composed of a relative negative entropy topography.)

    There is so much in the media about about the global economic situation. I am not even going to call it a crisis, it is just something that is happening. Firstly it is not some unforeseen event which has just occurred.

    In 1991 we had an economic situation both in the UK and to a certain degree around the rest of the world. Here lies the roots of the present situation. This time of relative chaos and appropriate reorganisation gave us the opportunity to develop an appropriate trajectory of development, which if taken could have avoided what is now going on in the world

    My opinion then and still hold today is that it was obvious that future development would be defined by the parameters of what was possible within and by environmental and planetary ecological systems.

    There seemed to be no debate or consensus then on how development should proceed. It just shot off willy nilly. If someone was climbing a a cliff or a steep slope and having found the going too difficult or gradient impossible and slide back to the bottom. What would have been the sensible thing to do? Decide on and take another route. A route that offered less resistance to progress.

    The economic system did not do this, it made the same mistakes as before, but with renewed vigour digging deeper into its resources, resources which come from the conversion and hence degradation of planetary ecological systems.

    Now it has predictably slide back. Imagine reality as a U-shaped channel, a half pipe as the skateboarders would call it. Imagine it covered in grease. Now imagine somebody (the economy) trying to run vertically up the side. They will get so far, once gravity becomes stronger than the increasing gradient, grip of their feet and loss of momentum, they will just slide back to the bottom again.

    So why try to do the same thing again? If the U-shaped channel was a section of a a bobsleigh run, the time base, then best progress is made taking the racing line, along it -to the future.

    Mistakes were made in 1991 which have lead us to the present situation.

    So now global leaders are meeting. Using £ or $ 100s billions to try and force the global economy up the same impossible slope. President Bush says we want a stronger economy. I would suggest we need a more sensible economy.

    There has been some knee jerk reaction, if not overnight, certainly over days or a few weeks, without any thought of where we are going, how we will do it or the consequences.

    I can only see this borrowing, to sort out the present, as borrowing from the future. Taking stability from the future before we get there. This is borrowing from the future stability of the planetary ecological life support system.

    My opinion is that world leaders are creating a very dangerous situation, without thinking through what they are doing.

    When an economic system collapses we can still survive. When a planetary ecological system collapses we die.

    I do believe there is a better way

  • Comment number 7.

    "two of them - HBOS and RBS - are so effectively bust that it is touch and go whether their shares could be traded tomorrow."

    Hello Paul,

    I must presume there was some reason you focussed on only HBOS and RBS here. I mean, comparing RBS with BARC for example - BARC has higher gearing, has made smaller writedowns to date, and has far more short-term debt that needs to be renewed in the next 6 months, has been less successful in rights issues to date...

    Can you share that reason?

    And 'effectively bust'? Are you attempting to engage in market manipulation? You surely can't make claims of that magnitude as a BBC news editor without stating any justification whatsoever for it. As a BBC editor, on what grounds are you declaring RBS and HBOS effectively bust (but not other large UK banks in a worse position?)

    "Is it not cheaper to nationalise HBOS - and possibly bring a bigger upside for the taxpayer in the medium term as well?"

    Well, you're the Newsnight economics editor - why not describe what would happen if the UK were to take control of these banks - and therefore all of the liabilities of these banks were placed onto the UK's balance sheet for the foreseeable future.

    Do you actually think the pound would be unaffected by this? Do you think the havok wreaked upon of the country's pension funds would have no significant consequences? Let's remember that the 'greedy shareholders' of RBS and HBOS and BARC are in fact almost any UK citizen with a personal pension fund and exposure to the FTSE.

    It is not simply a matter of taking on 8 billion of equity; it is a matter of taking on many, many times more in liabilities, potentially for the long term.

  • Comment number 8.

    One word. Haloperidol.

  • Comment number 9.

    You are entirely corrct, Paul, to suggest that the main UK political parties are so saturated after presiding over 20+ years of deregulated markets and the linkages they forged to a successful form of populist electoral politics, that they find it all but impossible to position the state in ownership and control of the commanding heights of the financial economy in this dire emergency.

    But then, as you also point out: 'All these arguments are going on way above the heads of the British people and behind closed doors.' Indeed, without a brave and committed running commentary (partly public service journalistic and partly participant observation) such as yours, many in the chattering classes would also remain largely uniformed of the situation and what lies behind present events. We all owe you a very great debt of gratitude for this.

    Nevertheless, there is a gradual (and very hard) learning process going on amongst the wider public and if and when they grasp what has actually happened (and depending on how dire the outcome is) it will not only be Eastern European extremist politics that will emerge as a force to be reckoned with. In America, for instnce, it may be Obama who benefits in the short term and wins the Presidential race, but it may be Sarah Palin and all she stands for which reaps the following political whirlwind.

    This situation is now critical, as you suggest, with a real a possibility that events could lead to a profound global depression, without better judgement, coordination, and a dose of luck on the part of governments across the globe.

    I wonder, however, if there might be an elephant in the room here, at least as far as these governments are concerned! Would the 'markets' really react positively to a wholesale global nationalisation including control of the private banking system, or might this also provoke panic amongst investors? If the answer is that they would react positively, then it suggests that the markets realise that this is their last best hope for survival. If not, then this would be a potent force acting against such policies, at least in the minds of our current political masters.

    David Baker

  • Comment number 10.


    I see no sign of a resurgence of the far right here in Hungary. They have traditionally taken to the streets on the national day (coming soon - you may recall that I sent some feedback about it a couple of years back when it was serious). However, mainstream opinion is that a large proportion are disaffected unemployed and bored football hooligans. This is the view in cosmopolitan Budapest but there is certainly a groundswell of support for Fidesz (centre right) in other parts. There is no election imminent and, on the face of it, MSzP can survive if the coalition holds. This is quite different from Austria where recent elections have seen far right gains.

    You are right about OTP. It is the privatised former state bank from before the changes, the biggest in the country and many are sentimentally attached to it. It is also a significant barometer of the economic climate.

    I simply warn that it might be a mistake to lump Austrian and Hungarian politics together for historical reasons which no longer apply and to counsel that street protests are part of the Hungarian tradition on the right and, while they can be dramatic, they do not necessarily signal a shift in mainstream political thinking.

  • Comment number 11.


    "Even though the units of exchange (the dollar, the pound, the franc, etc.) differ from country to country, when all are defined in terms of gold the economies of the different countries act as one-so long as there are no restraints on trade or on the movement of capital. Credit, interest rates, and prices tend to follow similar patterns in all countries. For example, if banks in one country extend credit too liberally, interest rates in that country will tend to fall, inducing depositors to shift their gold to higher-interest paying banks in other countries. This will immediately cause a shortage of bank reserves in the "easy money" country, inducing tighter credit standards and a return to competitively higher interest rates again."

    Alan Greenspan (1966)

    See Friday's Gold price above bearing in mind a) Obama's in the lead, b) there being more dollars in US circulation alone than all of the gold ever mined (at $1000 per oz), c) the fact that the world population (although see Europe's 'growth') has doubled in just in the last half century, and finally, d) remarks elsewhere in the blogs on our (and USA's) ethnic demographics, immigration, growth of uncritical consumer base (debtors) and 'human capital').

    and Greenspan in 2007, albeit on Fox News.....

    'When you've got them by the short hairs.....' ;-)

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm resigned to the notion that we're about to see, to all intents and purposes, the whole of the UK banking system nationalised, but the implications horrify me.

    I know it's the lesser of two evils right now: either nationalise the banks or watch the system collapse precipitously. Since the latter is deemed to be both unthinkable and unacceptable, we're faced with the former.

    However, the mind boggles at politicians and civil servants running the banking system. I can barely get my head around the implications of what now lies ahead. I feel that too few, if any credible commentators are setting out honestly and clearly what life is going to be like in the UK over the next few years - even the next decade.

    People seem to be pussyfooting around the dire economic and social consequences of what will be, in effect, the collapse of the banking system, albeit in slow motion. Nationalising the system is merely an attempt to cushion the fall.

    Let's be clear: our dismally incompetent politicians are primarily to blame for this mess; the bankers have simply exploited de-regulation and/or crap regulation. Our so-called regulatory authorities have been as useless as the politicians.

    We citizens are next to blame behind the politicians: we wanted to get rich quick and to do so without working or saving. Now, we'll get our come uppance; sadly, the innocent will feel the pain just as much as the bankrupts.

    Finally, I hope the free press hammers our political elite into the deck on this matter over the coming years. And, I hope too that those who have suffered at the hands of certain corrupt and greedy bankers at least have the wherewithall to take them to court.

  • Comment number 13.

    its charming to note that people think those to 'blame' have done something illegal and that they are within the uk. if there are no rules there is nothing illegal.

    its also noteworthy the people most defending peston mark 1 [he has calmed down a bit recently] are also those lefties who have a vested interest in creating social instability. like the loons trying to 'storm' the Royal Exchange on friday [notice the press blackout on that story?]. There is a video of the 'demo' on youtube. Peston spooked the markets before when he was an FT journalist so there is history.

    also beware people talking in 'us [we] and them' rhetoric which is a standard agitation ploy. [a ploy also used by jihadis]. what they really show they have divided [in their mind] the world into workers and capitalists. A simplistic good and evil which works for simple minds? Like they were full of anti tibet chinese 'students' before the olympics the blogs are full of such 'us and them-ers' at the moment .

  • Comment number 14.

    nationalisation does not neccessarily mean that it will be run by the government, that is simple minded daily telegraph thinking. It simply means that the government will back up the banks and then reap any rewards. In other words WE get the dosh back which has been going in bonuses before. No problem with that. I say that with some regret as I would actually like to see the whole financial sector nationalised on principle and its executives and speculators subject tot he same stringent tax regulations as the rest of us. Moray mint, you must be truly wedded to the Thatcherite system still if you truly believe that the poor old bankers were just doing what they naturally do and that the government caused this crash. Actually, what happened is since 1974 the shift to deregulation, the Washington consensus and financialisation basically bludgeoned governments of whatever colour into a situation where they became the political wing of capital. That is what has to change. Theis crisis was caused by the primacy of economics of politics (and politicians). Now it is up to us to restore political control of economics.

  • Comment number 15.


    moraymint (#12) "Let's be clear: our dismally incompetent politicians are primarily to blame for this mess; the bankers have simply exploited de-regulation and/or crap regulation. Our so-called regulatory authorities have been as useless as the politicians.

    We citizens are next to blame behind the politicians: we wanted to get rich quick and to do so without working or saving. Now, we'll get our come uppance; sadly, the innocent will feel the pain just as much as the bankrupts."

    But surely the electorate is responsible for the government it gets? In this country the electorate has, charades aside, consistently voted in light-touch government (Austrian School laissez-faire/anarcho-capitalism or its Chicago School equivalent. This has been the influence of Trotskyite, Gramsciite, Lucaksian, Frankfurt School political-correctness ('anti-statists') in our universities over several decades as much as it has been backers of Thatcher's and Blair's governments.

    Many of these 'economists' want a return to the gold standard or some other commodity money rather than fiat-money (but how?) as they think this promises even greater international free-rein to market forces, i.e. further erosion of statism in pursuit of internationalism (which inevitably means weakening of sovereignty/national government - cf. Lisbon and the EU) and especially the powers of our regulators/Civil Service (which in nationalised days ran the Post Office, railways, transport, gas, electricity i.e. country). Anyone who has had any dealing with the UK Civil Service over the past three decades knows this to be true. Big Government means the Civil Service and it has been market-tested, privatised and opened to The Third Sector and weakened through bad recruitment relentlessly. Look to the Lisbon Treaty and Ireland breaking ranks. Then Germany, then the UK and Iceland to see how precarious all of this is.

    In these muddled times, I't's hard to be sure who is sending who messages, but I suspect the Republicans aren't too happy about Obama being in the lead at the moment, and that the EU-26 were not too happy when Ireland scuppered their plans via their NO vote in their referendum.

    It's all this that I fear is regarded as 'too big to fail', and everything else surely has to be looked at from that 'Socialist' Internationalist (Trotskyite/neocon?) bigger perspective.

    Nation states are just like large families. Look at the demographics of Europe. What's happening? The same is happening to European USA. Why? Why does Jeffrey Sachs say 'we' are bursting at the seams?

  • Comment number 16.

    #15 Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism. In a nutshell, these forces were oppositional, anarchistic or nihilistic, which became very popular amongst baby-boomer social science students of the 60s onwards as 'post-modern' university courses proliferated as almost half the population wth 5 or more GCSE's went on to university, mutating into free-market anarcho-capitalist MBAs, management 'science' degrees etc under Thatcher/Regan. The rest is the sorry history of spin, journalism and qualification inflation.

  • Comment number 17.

    I will just add that my views on HBOS and RBS are not based on any insight into their solvency, only that their P/E ratios are approaching what banking experts tell me are unsustainable. And obviously if all websites thisafternoon are saying RBS/HBOS about to be bailed out to the tune of figures at or above their market cap, then they can hardly let their shares be traded. With Barclays I am told it believes it can raise capital effectively through the private route as well as the public route. I will happily, in case it causes confusion before the markets open, amend the phrase to: "in such serious difficulty".

  • Comment number 18.

    #15 JadenJean wrote:

    "...political-correctness ('anti-statists') in our universities over several decades as much as it has been backers of Thatcher's and Blair's governments"

    Just a footnote really: I recall Mrs Thatcher closing down schools of economic thought that did not agree with her monetarist / no-regulation view of the world. So it is perhaps unfair to academics whose pay and position was dependent on following the Thatcherite line to say that Mrs Thatcher paid only a minor role.

    It is also true that perhaps the majority of economists are out of touch with reality and profess ideas that are wide of the make in terms of sanity, but at least they express heterodox views and are willing to support them. But as nobody really listens to them until there is an economic catastrophe what does it matter! The politicians made and implemented the rules.

    Politicians are only interested in being re-elected - not the overall economic health of the nation. We, the people, will always vote for lower taxes and easy money. It is a major fault of our system that the way we have constructed out system of government means that crashes are inevitable on the basis of "oh please make me chaste but not quite yet"!

    Are you implying that a technocratic national management system that stops politicians being able to construct bubbles is a reasonable proposal? Or should we, or indeed is there any way to, modify the present system of national management that can prevent bubbles and crashes? Hell no! that would be undemocratic! So we are left with a flawed economic management system because to change it to a more long term system would be undemocratic and because of that it would not be voted for.

    The Romans used to appoint a Dictator in times of national peril and perhaps we should do the same - in our case a National Government (which essentially suspends party politics until the emergency is over). The problem is that as we (in the UK) have no constitution we have no mechanism of appointing such a system of government. (It is noteworthy that the opposition has become almost invisible during this time of peril so we are in effect moving towards a National Government of the Labour Party.)

  • Comment number 19.


    Greenspan defending himself.

    Oh dear....oh dear in the context of Greenspan's reply to the Republican Bernard Sanders.

    We (and especially Newsnight) won't properly discuss this dysgenic trend because it's so politically incorrect? Is it empirically incorrect that GDP and mean IQ are highly correlated, whilst IQ and TFR are highly negatively correlated, and that we (and the USA) have growing differential fertility?

  • Comment number 20.

    In return for £35bn we should have their nuts on a plate.

    Without the UK citizens to bail out the banks they would simply fail. The only reason to save them is they serve us all by the part they play in the system.

    As we all effectively own them, they must now be made to serve us all.

    Mutual banking, mutual mortgages, accounts for all the people who want them on fair terms........................

    These bankers now work for us all - let's start making them sweat !

  • Comment number 21.

    You were right the first time. They've gone bust. Now that we own another 2 banks can the executives go immediately onto civil service payscales. Can we backdate them going onto civil service payscales to a point where we think they started losing money.

    When my NHS 'Agenda for Change'scale was eventually decided I got a 'bill' from my state employer saying I owed the hospital money. If it's good enough for me then it's good enough for them.

  • Comment number 22.

    #18 John from Hendon

    Having advised the Cabinet Office on aspects of Regulatory Impact Assessment and been part of a number of projects to advise the Government.

    One thing talking to very senior civil servants is that though we have all this evidenced based policy etc. When it comes down to it a Minister decides what they decide whatever they have in front of them.

    It is up to a Minister.

    The economic systems programmed itself to self destruction. Living systems create stability, the economic one just headed off on a path of suicide.

    It doesn't need bailing out it needs putting down and a workable one creating instead. One that reflects some fundamental purpose and not the self serving money for money's sake and the flaws that go along with that.

  • Comment number 23.


    John_from_Hendon (#18) "Are you implying that a technocratic national management system that stops politicians being able to construct bubbles is a reasonable proposal? Or should we, or indeed is there any way to, modify the present system of national management that can prevent bubbles and crashes? Hell no! that would be undemocratic! So we are left with a flawed economic management system because to change it to a more long term system would be undemocratic and because of that it would not be voted for."

    Well, as you may know that's pretty much what I've suggested. I also agree with your comment to Paul in the next thread, and whilst Paul's done some good work here recently, I hope he has the cojones to take just and constructive criticism better than some of his colleagues.

    The Civil Service was traditionally far from
    Liberal-Democratic, but it was fair and honourable. Verbally adept Administators had too much power relative to the technical specialists, but 30 years ago it was still pretty much GOSPLAN in all but name. Sadly, those days went long ago, largely through recruitment of 'Press-Officers' and other wreckers once Thatcher took control. I now think this has all been about the EU(SSR), NUTS, Regional Assemblies/Development Agencies etc. I'm just still not entirely sure it's the right way to go - but maybe, maybe, smaller IS more manageable? I watched the NOMS/ROMS Offender Management Bill go to Act with some interest (it is just one example of this fragmentation). What bothered me was the degree to which so much was to be farmed out to the Private/Third Sectors - and market forces as the country slips ever more into dysgenesis through the forces I've covered elsewhere.

    Is this most recent step part of the creation of a EU(SSR)/NUTS) GOSBANK?

  • Comment number 24.

  • Comment number 25.

    celticlionltd (#24)

    Do a little thinking about a) names and groups (#5) b) group competition, c) statistical base rates, d) democracy and political correctness', e) cognitive verbal-spatial tilt and biology, and e) population base rates.

    Why are (indigenous) European populations well below replacement level? Where is that headed?

  • Comment number 26.

    #24 JadedJean

    Looked at ref. How deep do you want an analysis? I have been following your arguments and I agree with much of them.

    I think you throw a lot of references and obviously have a strong academic and intellectual background.

    Just as a defective gene can spread through a population, which may also give some advantage eg sickle cell/malaria.

    We can also have defective ideas 'memes' which spread through culture. Or you could even relate to Jung's collective consciousness.

    What I think we have is a defective idea, that is held by a dominant class, which is therefore exercising an influence greater than would be expected if not for the influence of the carrier /host.

    Or the class becomes dominant due to the defective idea.

    Distilling it down even further I would say the strange attractor of the economic system is diverging away from the optimum planetary and cosmic evolution trajectories.

    These being determined and reduced to a basic analysis of thermodynamics. Here I would have to go into Schrodinger and Shannon and Weaver etc.

    As regards populations basic demographic transition applies with references to the specific ones in question.

    There is a destructive cultural strange attractor that which in trying to become the dominant idea, will destroy the greater system ( and hence itself) or which it is part of.

    One of the arguments presented by such as T O'Riodan (Environmentalism)UEA is such as momentum and ideology created culturally by Genesis where it said God gave man dominion over the world. Not stewardship.

    Masters of the Universe. (By the wrong means)

    Where is it heading? To complete and total planetary system crash. This financial blip is nothing to what will happen.

    Unless we can change the direction of the crashing system and quickly .

    That's what I tried to do with the Dome. Now through Celtic Lion as the present vehicle.

  • Comment number 27.

    celticlionltd (#26) With all these self referential acolades, you're going to have to proivide some extrinsic evidence, or suffer the inevitable consequences.... I fear, as attractors and 'strange attractors' are just solutions to N dimensional statistical problems (though it can make money to say otherwise knowing most folks won't understand),what you are saying is a tad obscurantist if not predatory.

  • Comment number 28.

    '21. At 10:19pm on 12 Oct 2008, moritat : the executives go immediately onto civil service payscales. '

    Easy, Tiger.

    That would also include Civil Service pension arrangements too, would it not?

    And empathising with how those work for the rest of the country generating the money to fund them has not as far as I can see, worked too well of late in the various mindsets at play.

    From the Independent to Eric Pickles I am still resisting the notion of 'The Two Choices', namely taxes up or services down, without the other in the mix even registering: public service sharing the public pain, too.

  • Comment number 29.

    As a public sector worker for the past 20 years I can say the idea that I should share in the pain caused by the greed of the capitalist system handing out money to itself when I have taken below inflation pay rises for every one of those 20 years is absurd and an insult. What we need is not only proper nationalisation but also confiscation of assets gained improperly. Just as drug dealers can have all their assets seized, so those who peddled money in order to get the vulnerable hooked should also pay the price. I am not the only one who has been warning about this crash for many years (ask my students) and no one took any notice, so busy were they making money, so I feel no hesitation in saying sort your own bloody mess out.

  • Comment number 30.

    #27 Jaded Jean

    Words are just models to try and explain and understand reality. No model can ever be reality.

    If 'hedging' your bets is now not a dirty word, just take a very small part of you life and try and understand what Celtic Lion wants to do over the next few years even support it if you feel.

    You are searching for big answers to big questions.

    A few years ago I applied for a job and no one told me what it was to do. So no one asked me how I would do it.

    When I found out, it was to set up the site of Europe's largest civil engineering project.

    Once my team had done that and I thought my job was done, I was given some font line logistics General Foreman position dealing with a 1000 people a day, getting a £30 per second project to flow.

    The project was hailed as the model for the future of the industry.

    I am not a possessor of great verbal skills -I exist at the other end of the spectrum.

    I love this planet and life and don't want to see it destroyed.

  • Comment number 31.

    29. At 08:52am on 13 Oct 2008, citizenthompson wrote:

    An interesting insight into the 'them' vs. 'us' mentality that somehow creates a different form of working person to those not in the public sector, and then conflates all with a bunch of City bankers.

    To get insulted by the odd notion that, in addition to whatever adjustments (I'm betting down) to the pay structure many like myself labour under, whatever else, we either fork out more to keep public sector workers on track or keep paying and see what they currently deliver removed is... interesting. And also rather cute divorcing oneself from your direct employers so totally when it comes to accountability. I've told a lot of folk who hired me that they were wrong, and often paid the price of being right. That's life.

    As one who has gained very little from the mess of the last decade (with public spending for often poor returns a factor of note) over which I have had no control, I'd like to think my forthcoming vote (though frequent poster Barrie S and I have disagreed on this) might go some way to expressing how I feel about the 'bloody mess' that has been imposed on me and mine, but at least by accepting (if not enjoying) my position in the electorate of a democracy, and being subject to and grudgingly accepting the consequences of same, I will politely suggest it is, at the very least 'our' mess. Grasping that might be a help, for both teacher and students alike, in the future.

  • Comment number 32.

    £6.7Bn to buy the bank Paul ... but would still need the £20Bn to get out of jail. And in a sense would own 75% of its paid up share capital??

  • Comment number 33.

    Northern Rock

    Having now acquired a de-mutualised building society, the state should now “mutualise” it by paying off all the non-depositor creditors, relieving it of its bad borrowing, so that it can revert to being a proper building society with just domestic deposits.

    If it then re-possesses the houses of defaulting mortgage holders, it will simply pass the upkeep of those made homeless to the state and local authorities. The state's problem is also exacerbated by the re-possession of houses mortgaged by other banks.

    Let Northern Rock then buy the insecure mortgages from other banks, perhaps at a substantial discount. Northern Rock can then temporarily convert its own and its acquired mortgages to rents, while allowing its tenants to revert to ownership at some later date when house prices have risen again.

    Given that the state has to pay for the consequences of re-possession and homelessness, this could be the cheapest solution and has the advantage of an eventual recovery of the losses. An unemployed man or woman has little chance of finding a new job without an address and the stability of retaining a secure base for his family would provide the breathing space for finding another job.

    By nationalising Northern Rock, the state has acquired a suitable vehicle for restoring the housing market and easing the current emerging social problems.

  • Comment number 34.

    Dear All
    When will someone start to ask the pertinent questions that to date have been ignored i.e.:
    1. If the UK governement will be attempting to borrow all this money who will be the lender and what interest rate will they be demanding.
    2. What is the current credit rating of UK Plc?
    4. What political capital is being given away by becoming so indebt to countries that currently run a trade surplus with the UK and the rest of the world.
    3. Why has no one asked the question as to whether it makes sense to be a borrower in the international capital markets in order to then re-lend that money to a population of consumers and small business's that have already binged on too much credit?
    4. Why are these questions not being asked by economic commentators?
    5. Why is the government gaining poltical momentum for a problem which they have created? By this I mean they have:
    a) shored up an extended economic boom and taken credit for it on the basis of borrowed money at every level:
    b) Allowed the the poor consumer (shame on the celebs who sold TV ads to encourage vunerable people to borrow money) to rack up impossible debts.
    c) Presided over spectacular and tragic goverment borrowing to spend on the likes of GP salaries of £150K PA (most of their diagnoseses can be had on the internet for free) and Civil servants pension committments
    Why is no one including the BBc asking the penetrating questions that really count???????????

    Dominic Sheridan


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