The City’s elopement with New Labour has ended violently. A poll of leading financiers, conducted by City AM, reveals that 73 percent think that a Tory majority would be best for the economy; a mere 10 percent support Labour. But the City has little enthusiasm for George Osborne: 23 percent believe he has the mettle to be Chancellor, 13 percent behind Ken Clarke.
So where is it going wrong for Osborne? James Kirkup observes that the Tories recent collapse in the polls coincided with Osborne and Cameron obscuring their economic message. But the City’s antipathy to Osborne is long established. Disquiet reigned even when Osborne and the Tories were storming the polls. On the eve of the last Tory conference, Fraser reported that:
‘Despite numerous charm offensives, Mr Osborne is still not winning them over. Financiers who attend his soirees grumble that it is all politics and no economics.
He is being damned on the flimsiest of grounds. A senior financier told me over lunch last month that he lost faith in the shadow chancellor when he found that Osborne had reviewed a book about the Nixon presidency for The Spectator in August last year. It was a fine review — and this was the problem. It suggested that in the first summer of the financial crisis, Mr Osborne had his head buried in an 880-page book about American political history instead of finding out about the financial world which was collapsing around him.
This is, of course, grotesquely unfair. Every politician is entitled to a holiday.’
Many in the City dislike Osborne precisely because he is competent. As Mark Bathgate has noted, despite bailouts and public floggings the City remains unreconstructed and has escaped essential regulation. The owners of capital keep losing, and the middlemen prosper. Free market capitalism has been suspended by a self-appointed financial oligarchy. Osborne would end the middlemen’s party by enacting ‘Glass-Steagal’ principles as part of a regulatory package that elevates shareholders above management. It is unsurprising that those vested interests view him with contempt.