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They’re nationalising Bradford & Bingley… what the hell? September 28, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.

I was out of Dublin for the weekend so I was a bit gobsmacked to return this evening to discover this

And it reminded me of John Sullivan’s incomparable piece on the British left which in the section on Militant noted:

FOR many people their first contact with Militant has taken the disconcerting turn of hearing an audience groan as someone with a fake Liverpool accent and curious hand movements stands up and demands the nationalisation of the country’s 253 leading monopolies. When the political novice is then told that the strange figure is a Trotskyist, she is understandably confused, all the more so if she is familiar with any of Trotsky’s works. How do hand gestures, however elaborate, transform a series of reformist demands into such a fearful revolutionary perspective?

Well indeed. But perhaps Militant were at least partially onto something when we see governments in 2008 forced to nationalise financial institutions. And what’s stunning to see is how what was once beyond the pale in political terms is suddenly normalised as if overnight. Wait… it is overnight. Where the US leads others follow.

Incidentally intriguing to hear the Conservatives whine about this turn of events.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne expressed concern that if B&B was nationalised, the taxpayer would be taking on a “huge risk”.

“This choice between either a private sale, which is obviously the thing you most want to arrange, or nationalisation where the taxpayer bears the full cost is not a great range of options.

“There should be a third option which is a Bank of England-led reconstruction where, in the end, the large institutional creditors to the bank bear the risk, not the taxpayer,” he told Sky News’s Sunday Live programme.

So let’s get this straight. The private sale is the one you ‘most want’. But there should be a ‘third option’. Er why George? To mask the actuality of what is happening behind a farrago of further financial doublespeak whereby taxpayers still wind up carrying at least some of the can?

I can’t but think that the latest events in international markets might take even a bit of the shine off the Cameron brand. After all, fine to blame Brown for the failings of the market, but any fule no that it’s a bit bigger than that. Indeed what dream world does he and his potential Chancellor live in where when the US government has just given nationalisation the best shot in the arm in decades that he decides this is a bad thing…

And while no fan of the Prime Minister I thought that in comparison to his supposed successor he presented – for all his obvious failings – a rather more substantial figure than the one who pottered around the stage this weekend.

So, what about the other 253 monopolies Gordon, or even some of them? That’ll be the day.


1. Garibaldy - September 28, 2008

I was suprised at this myself, though mostly because I remember their adverts from the TV. Halix/Bank of Scotland, now Bradford and Bingley. This is a long way from Northern Rock as an individual bank. Brown made a good speech, and hit the right note with the Fair Society stuff, which should now become his overriding theme of everything he does. Like Roosevelt/LBJ. But I suspect it won’t. Agree that Cameron still looks like a lightweight, but that silly Ruth Kelly person resigning at the wrong time damaged the fightback. We’ll see how it all pans out after this week.


2. CL - September 28, 2008

Serious questions are being asked and not just by leftists.

“As we move into the future, and as the crisis finally passes into history, how will we deal with this earth-shaking blow to the most basic principle of our economic system? ”
Peter Bernstein, author of Against the Gods (a history of attempts to deal with risk and uncertainty)
Orthodox economics has no answer. Do leftists?


3. WorldbyStorm - September 28, 2008

Yeah, I wish Garibaldy that the last week represented a new direction forward, but it links into CLs question. These people don’t appear to believe in social democracy let alone socialism. Maybe events will push them towards it, as they have GW Bush! 🙂


4. garibaldy - September 28, 2008

One can hope.

Main Street not Wall Street? Pure class politics. From Palin. And she loves guns. What a woman!


5. ejh - September 29, 2008

The B&B, of course, didn’t use to be a bank. It was a building society, in which capacity it could not have found itself in the trouble that it has.

Most British building societies became banks in the Nineties following elections of account-holders which I regarded as a scandal: if the vote was for conversion, you were normally entitled to receive a sum of several hundred pounds, which meant that the vote always was for conversion. This strucks me as an extremely dubious procedure, ethically if not legally.


6. WorldbyStorm - September 29, 2008

A similar process took place here as well IIRC, although I don’t think they converted straight to being banks.


7. Pavement Trauma - September 29, 2008

It was a building society, in which capacity it could not have found itself in the trouble that it has.

Hmm, not so sure about that. Being a mutual BS may have made it a little less likely to get into trouble but by no means impossible. Case in point: the Irish Nationwide.


8. harpymarx - September 29, 2008

“FOR many people their first contact with Militant has taken the disconcerting turn of hearing an audience groan as someone with a fake Liverpool accent and curious hand movements stands up and demands the nationalisation of the country’s 253 leading monopolies.”

Well, that took me back to the LPYS circa 1986……


9. skidmarx - September 29, 2008

I see this evening that the House of Representatives has yet to commit itself to the “slippery road to socialism”.
The reporting of the deal last night exposed for me how little news reporters understand about economics as all any of them seemed capable of was regurgitating whatever Nancy Pelosi had said.

CL’s question at 2: I think Marx had a fairly simple answer that the pursuit of profit inevitably leads capitalism into crisis, and that production for need rather than greed doesn’t have the same dynamic.

When I heard a B&B shareholder on the TV I thought back to the theft of the TSB de-mutualisation and my sister telling me about how friends of hers had put £100 in every building society hoping to profit in like fashion. Swim with the sharks and you sleep with the fishes.


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