All of a sudden, the Big Banks are Big Politics again. And who’d have it any other way, on the day that the 84 percent taxpayer-owned RBS announced losses for 2009 of £3.6 billion? And that’s alongside a bonus pool for its staff of £1.3 billion. Yep – however hard they try, the exorcists of Westminster just can’t shift the ghost of Fred the Shred.
In which case, there’ll be plenty about bankers’ pay, and about getting taxpayers what’s owed to them, over the next few days. And rightly so. But I often feel that these issues detract from even bigger ones, such as how to ensure that there aren’t similar shocks in future. After all, the financial furniture is arranged pretty much identically to how it was a couple off years ago. If it all went wrong then, what’s to stop it going wrong again? And what’s to stop ordinary folk losing out?
On that front, I generally feel that the Tories don’t get enough credit for the de facto Glass-Steagall separation that they’re proposing. I’ve written about it in more detail here and here. But, suffice to say, it paints a stark contrast against Gordon Brown’s plans for reforming the banks – which, as Robert Peston put it a few days ago, are "conservative" in the extreme.
More broadly, today’s news is indicative of just how external financial and economic factors will impinge on the election campaign. Brown faces a whole heap of difficult numbers – including the possiblity of less-than-encouraging GDP growth estimates – between now and polling day.