The Great Debate UK

Gordon Brown: flawed saviour of financial system


– Hugo Dixon is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Gordon Brown may go down in history as the flawed saviour of the global financial system. Brown had many faults including overseeing a public spending splurge in his decade as the nation’s finance minister. But he did make one big contribution. He galvanised other leaders to save the bank system during the post-Lehman <LEHMQ.PK> meltdown.

Brown, along with Tony Blair, was the main architect of New Labour — an initiative that dragged the former socialist party away from the fringes and towards the centre-left of the political spectrum. After New Labour took power in 1997, Brown devoted himself to the economy. His main achievement as finance minister was to give independence to the Bank of England. That depoliticised monetary policy.

Unfortunately, Brown didn’t have nearly as responsible an approach to fiscal policy. Despite telling the country in numerous budgets that he was pursuing “prudence with a purpose”, he actually allowed state spending to balloon — with the result that, when the credit crunch hit, Britain’s finances were not as strong as they should have been.

Inflation impoverishes Britons the easy way


– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
Critics might say the UK’s inflation target is just for fun. Consumer prices were 3.4 percent higher in March than in the previous year, well above the 2 percent target rate, but the Bank of England will do nothing at all.

If the central bank were serious, shouldn’t it raise interest rates and crush every bit of life out of the UK economy? Not really. The UK has above target inflation because world oil prices are high, the pound is low and VAT is up. But it has inflation for poorer and richer.

Election may be fought on peak between dips


campbellBy Ian Campbell

LONDON, April 13 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Gordon Brown says his Labour party will “secure the recovery” if it wins the UK election in May. The opposition Conservatives would kill the upturn, he says. Brown is right in one sense: the “recovery” can easily be broken. But only because it is so fragile in the first place.

The UK’s data looks more encouraging than it actually is. The UK needs exports and production to surge ahead. Trade figures released on April 13 might appear to herald that: February’s trade deficit was its smallest since June 2006.

Greenspan and the curse of counterfactual


Laurence_Copeland-150x150- Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School and a co-author of “Verdict on the Crash” published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Suppose that, instead of appeasing Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, Neville Chamberlain had taken Britain to war, what would today’s history books say about the episode?

from Breakingviews:

Bank of England turns more radical on bank terror

Central bankers' speeches tend to be dry affairs. For this reason alone, Andrew Haldane's latest thoughts on the financial crisis deserve attention. In a discussion about size in banking, the Bank of England's executive director in charge of financial stability makes reference to the structure of al Qaeda, the limits of Facebook friendship, and the world domino-toppling record. Rhetorical flourishes aside, Haldane's comments contain a serious message: regulators are thinking increasingly radical thoughts about tackling big banks.

Haldane is not in an academic ivory tower. If the Conservative opposition wins Britain's general election, the Bank of England will become directly responsible for regulating the country's lenders. Moreover, he has come up with some startling numbers. Using credit ratings to help quantify the implicit support that banks enjoy from the government, Haldane estimates that the UK's largest lenders benefited from an average taxpayer subsidy of 55 billion pounds a year over the past three years. An alternative approach, looking at the relative funding costs of big and small banks, suggests the annual subsidy is worth 30 billion pounds.

QE pause shows there is a long way to go


Mark Bolsom1.JPG

- Mark Bolsom is the Head of the UK Trading Desk at Travelex, the world’s largest non-bank FX payments specialist. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Thursday’s decision by the Bank of England to keep both interest rates and its asset purchasing programme on hold was hardly a surprise and had been largely priced in to markets.

Little chance of a rate hike until at least Q3


cr_mega_503_JaneFoley.JPG-Jane Foley is research director at The opinions expressed are her own. -

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s speech this week was well timed insofar as it has nipped in the bud a growing fear that inflation in the UK could be lurching higher.

Can inflation be controlled by raising interest rates?


MarkBolsom-150x150.jpg- Mark Bolsom is the Head of the UK Trading Desk at Travelex, the world’s largest non-bank FX payments specialist. The opinions expressed are his own.-

One of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee members, Andrew Sentance, was quoted this morning suggesting that the Bank of England will need to consider raising interest rates this year if a “recovering economy poses a threat to inflation.”

A tough spring in store for the pound


foley- Jane Foley is research director at The opinions expressed are her own.-

The pound has started the year on a negative note.  Ongoing concerns over the budget deficit, an impending general election, the prospect that the Bank of England (BoE) may yet increase quantitative easing (QE) and a drop in consumer confidence are all clouding the outlook.

from The Great Debate:

In praise of smaller banks, less volatility

-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

If we want a world with safer banks, we need to be prepared for the consequences; lower growth over a painful medium term but the promise of making it up over the long run as we suffer less devastating financial blowups.

A banking system forced to operate with more capital and a higher proportion of safe, liquid assets is one that will shrink and charge more for credit, potentially retarding growth as we transition to a different mix of financing.