Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Envy vs Greed

One politician said yesterday that "the City will face its reckoning". It wasn't Arthur Scargill.

For years we had to endure the City's cheerleaders accusing whoever called for more regulation of being "envious". The phrase "politics of envy" was dispensed as easily as hot cakes in a bakery. We were constantly reminded that everybody involved in the City was a wealth creator. You introduce a regulatory framework, you bring in accountability, and those 'wealth creators will flee.

This was Tony Blair's obsession throughout his tenure. Let loose the greediest human being on earth. Don't ask questions, don't whinge, everything is fine. Can't you see, you socialistic twit? We'll all benefit from the 'trickle down effect'. More cleaners will have a job, more hotels will cater for City types, and the champagne will flow.

But 2008 brought us a different perspective. What New Labour's John Hutton said only nine months ago (that we need to be even nicer to the rich in this country) today would be textbook political suicide.

It's turned surreal. The 'credit crunch' first and now Bernie Madoff's arrest for the biggest banking fraud in history have turned the rhetoric on its head. Would you believe it that the Daily Mail, is calling for regulation? And The Times too, is writing that what we need is "stricter scrutiny by investors and regulators", while Dominic Lawson in The Independent, adds that the greedy's "characteristic, of course, is that they truly want to be very rich indeed. The desire burns within them with an intensity which almost defies rational analysis". Belatedly, the accusation of politics of envy has been topped off the charts by the politics of greed. You've made £15om? You need to double that at all costs, otherwise your hands will start itching.

One politician said yesterday that "the City will face its reckoning". "On behalf of the cleaner on the minimum wage, on behalf of working families worrying this Christmas like never before about what next year will bring", he proclaimed, "I say it is fair and reasonable that those responsible are held to account for their behaviour and that we show clearly that in this country there is not one rule for the rich and a different rule for everybody else". It wasn't Tony Benn. It wasn't Arthur Scargill, whatever happened to him, it wasn't someone from Socialist Workers. It was David Cameron.

Polly Toynbee is right that "it should have been Gordon Brown making that speech yesterday", but the guy is too busy plastering town with 'We're closing in on benefit thieves' posters. In the meantime, rest assured City chaps, fuckall will change. But at least for the time being let us enjoy the rare feat of seeing all the former arselickers give you a right dressing down.

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