Sunday, 23 January 2011
Fun and Games at the Banking Commission
There were early signs that the Independent Commission on Banking has great potential, when Clare Spottiswoode mouthed off before Xmas. And yesterday, this from the ICB Chairman Sir John Vickers
"Systemically important institutions now have an implicit state guarantee for risk taking activities, particularly those related to and/or inseparable from retail banking. This distortion, which is also a distortion to competition with other institutions, should be neutralized or contained."
Go, Vickers ! By the lights of the usual weasel-wording we are accustomed to, this is plain speaking of the highest order and, in theory, just what Osborne set them on for. Likely to prove a hot potato, though, as the months roll on. Can Sir John and his gang be 'encouraged' to be a bit more flexible and diplomatic ?
Hopefully not. Public life does not have many honours left to dangle in front of a man who is already Warden of All Souls. He is also delightfully academic: here's another extract from yesterday's speech -
"Then a necessary condition for U to fail is that R or I fails, but this is not a sufficient condition unless R and I both fail if either does"
What a man ! Now academics as a breed are hardly incorruptible, but the better of them are pretty damned obdurate. I look forward to many months of fun while Sir John, La Spotti, Martin Wolf et al go about their vital business. Let's see what neutralized or contained really means.