Suddenly, and somewhat belatedly, Gordon Brown is getting all macho with the banks. Apparently, he’s going to make the UK’s bank regulation the toughest in the world. That will certainly play well to the Labour faithful and a public heartily pissed off with investment bankers.
But hang on a minute, wasn’t the whole point of the G20 summit, and all the consensus-building which led up to it, to make sure that all countries have legislation that is equally tough? Isn’t the idea of global agreements on regulation about preventing bankers playing us off against each other by threatening to relocate? Shouldn’t Gordon be saying “our regulation is going to be just as tough as everyone else’s” ?
OK, the phrase doesn’t have the same ring to it and it wouldn’t sound as good in a speech. Surely, though, we don’t want to make trouble for ourselves by lurching suddenly from being one of the word’s most de-regulated banking markets to one of it’s most restricted.
This sounds very much like Gordon trying to make up for lost time. He knows now that too little regulation was a mistake and he’s trying to make amends. The trouble is, of course, it’s now too late. To stretch an analogy, he’s shutting the stable door and barring it with dozens of high-security locks, long after the horse disappeared over the horizon with most of our money.