We don’t yet have much actual polling evidence to show us what the effect of the economic crisis is upon public opinion. The expectation seems to be that it will aid Gordon Brown and there are some voices calling it Brown’s Falklands moment (see the bottom of this post for a comment on that) but equally others like John Rentoul, James Forsyth and Iain Martin are saying it spells doom.

The latest figures from PoliticsHome’s Phi5000 daily tracker of opinion amongst their panel has Brown’s ratings moving up steadily since conference, with an increasing proportion of people seeing him as strong, competent, effective… all the sort of positive things that people used to think about Gordon Brown before they decided he was none of them. We don’t have any headline voting intention figures yet that will tell us the effect on topline figures, but my expectation is that they will show an improvement for Labour.

This is to be expected. The present situation is working strongly in Gordon Brown’s favour in several ways. Firstly, it has shored up his own position and taken away a negative media narrative. Prior to conference the polical dynamic at play in the media was “when will Labour kick out useless Gordon?”, the press were filled with speculation about how he would be done in, every announcement was hailed as a feeble attempt to shore up his position and so on. Now that narrative has been pushed out of the media narrative, so Brown is gradually looking less weak, his party less divided.

Secondly, it plays to his strengths. Gordon Brown can portray himself as a serious experienced figure, making incredibly important decisions about how to save the economy, taking decisive action, doing something, fighting to protect the country against the turmoil. Suddenly Brown can look like that strong, decisive figure he once did and can talk about hard economic subjects where his lack of empathic language or charisma isn’t such a weakness.

Thirdly, it gives Brown a purpose. One of the causes of the Brown government’s poor ratings has been his inability to put forward any compelling vision or purpose as to why he is there. What exactly is the point of his government? Events have provided Brown with a purpose, to save the economy, and a reason for people to support him and his government.

Fourthly, the opposition have been pushed out of the picture. On the economy, they can only offer bi-partisan support and try and look like they have some influence. On other subjects… at the moment there are no other subjects.

So, in conclusion this is a thoroughly good thing for Brown? No, probably not. In the next few weeks or months they will help, but in the long term, things still look bleak.

This new media narrative won’t last forever. The public get bored, and the media get bored. At the moment there is a new low for the FTSE, a new banking collapse, a new rescue plan every day, the pure volume of economic bad news pushes everything else off the agenda. It won’t last, there are only so many banks, only so many recovery plans. That is not to say that the economic problems won’t last months or years, but that this “active phase” cannot. Eventually a recovery plan will work, the economy will stablise and start the road to recovery – or it will totally collapse. Either way, the media narrative will move on. People will not buy newspapers for long if every single day the headline is “FTSE breaks new low”… eventually it will be on page 2, then page 5, then page 94. Then, it’s back to politics as usual.

Secondly, the situation won’t play to Gordon Brown’s strengths for long. Right now it is he – not David Cameron – who is really the “man with the plan”, but it is only one plan. One cannot keep on presenting recovery plans and gaining from it, if you present lots of recovery plans and the economy is still a basketcase, it portrays you not as being strong and competent, but as being ineffectual.

Thirdly, there is unlikely to be good economic turnout from this. However well the rescue plan works, the real question is how long and how deep the recession ahead is. There is going to be a lot of financial pain for people, a lot of unemployment, reposessions, a lot of tears and misery – a lot of people looking to a government to help them, when that government’s coffers are empty. Regardless of how much of it is actually his fault, this is going to happen on Gordon Brown’s watch, and some of the blame will attach to him.

Fourthly, the underlying figures are still awful. Despite the boost in his ratings, Brown’s figures are horrendous, we are talking about deficits in the low teens as being an improvement for Labour. The recent Populus poll, which would have started seeing the first effects of the economic crisis on public opinion, still showed that 61% of people thought it was “time for a change”.

In the short term, my prediction is this will be a positive for Gordon Brown and Labour in terms of public support. In the longer term, I expect it to be bad.

- * -

*Falklands effect. Just for reference, prior to the Falklands War Gallup showed the Conservative party two points behind Labour and the Alliance, CON 31%, LAB 33%, All 33%. Three months later they were seventeen points ahead of the Alliance, CON 45%, LAB 25%, All 28% – a 19 point transformation in the party lead. We’ve got rather a long way to go before it bears comparison to the Falklands effect.


46 Responses to “Prediction: Good or Bad news for Gordon Brown?”

  1. “One of the causes of the Brown government’s poor ratings has been his ability to put forward any compelling vision or purpose”

    i think you meant “inability”, but this is for me at the heart of it.

    Whatever Thatcher did, she had buckets full of Purpose.

    Major turned it around for himself when he got on his soapbox and behaved with Purpose.

    Now Brown is energised, has Purpose, and needs to sustain that beyond this crisis and really engage with the voters if he’s to have any chance of avoiding heavy defeat.

    Apologies – i put this on another thread, but it belongs here

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  2. Re The Falklands

    Don’t suppose you have any comparative polling data for the Argentinians?

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  3. I agree with you AW – I believe the next few polls won’t see Labour twenty points behind like they were. More like 10-14 I believe. My gut instinct is that the financial crisis will help Brown short term.

    However as you say Anthony it won’t help Labour to win the next GE since people tend to vote with their pockets and with the election only 18 months away at its furthest the economy won’t have time to get the feel good factor back , even if we are out of recession by then.

    Lets be honest, the prospects for the whole of 2009 look dire at this point.

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  4. Dontmindme – opposition political parties were illegal anyway, and I suspect anyone publishing polls criticial of the Junta would have been at risk of “disappearing”. More anecdotally however, anti-Junta demonstrations were replaced by spontaeneous demonstrations in support of the invasion and the general perception was that it vastly increased the popularity of the Junta…

    …until they lost, when their position became untenable.

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  5. GB certainly looks & sounds like a different man-energised by a problem he feels he understands and is telling the rest of the world how to solve!

    I think he will get some pluses for just looking in charge at long last.

    Glenrothes looks like it might be a plus for him too.

    The Credit Crisis is baffling for most people though-massive state & central bank interventions with mind blowing financial support….UK banks withdraw even more mortgage deals & still refuse to lend to anyone.

    Does this mean The Banks don’t give a s**t what GB does at present ….or is The Plan wrong?

    The Question Time audience was interesting.They treated Denham with disdain & were very angry about things.

    Ken Clarke got support from them when he majored on FSA/BoE oversight failure.The audience seemed to have bought into that idea.

    I can’t help feeling GB has the Credit Crisis hung around his neck, and the recession will make sure it stays there.

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  6. With the FTSE stuggling again today, the impact of the the huge bail-outs does not seem to have had the desired effect (although no doubt it will take time to work into the system). Throwing such colossal amounts of money will only remind people that they can find money for an illegal war, they can find money to bail out dodgy banks but the swimming pool down the road or the library is about to close

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  7. We’ve got to wait and see.
    If GDP shrinks by 2 points next year, but the banking crisis is ironically largely quiet,
    it doesn’t look good for the government.

    If it’s not as bad as that –
    but he gets browny points for rescuing banks every couple of months, then we could be in for an interesting time.

    I may be biased, but I doubt they can win the election,
    but we have seen the beginnings of perhaps a narrowing – or an indication that it can narrow.

    It will probably squeeze the Lib Dems,

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  8. What Gordon Brown was lacking before the financial explosion was confidence. He seems to have rediscovered it. He was much improved at PMQs; he was sharp, witty and looked on top of his brief. The comments in the press were largely favourable. It would be wrong to write him off yet. He has shown in the past, as Chancellor, and in his early days as PM, that he has formidable strengths. David Cameron looked quite the ‘novice’ by comparison. There could well be a ‘hung’ parliament where political parties have to work together. That is a phenomenon the British public might welcome.

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  9. “The public get bored, and the media get bored”

    Except for when the media are confused, then the public gets angry.

    Many people in the media got sucked into the bubble and are equally to blame for it with their false reporting, so we’ve yet to see how long it will be before they unanimously admit their culpability in the drama.

    Until that happens we won’t be getting bored and Labour will remain in charge and on top of the narrative.

    In the meantime we will be forced to accept this mixed picture and the continuing volatility. I expect the polls to remain unclear until well into the new year (unless something more calamitous occurs).

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  10. Judging by this week’s local council by-elections the Labour Party is getting a whipping.Brown has to be careful – there’s a fine line between being Mr Macavity and lying. Seems like John Prescott is being lined up to take the blame for local councils losing all their money in Iceland – well who advised John Prescott?

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  11. Agree with everything that has been said, this is just like the Brown bounce of last year when he looked surefooted in the aftermath of the terror attacks. But once the agenda switched things began to turn I can remember something similar happening for John Major during the Gulf War and when it was over people remembered the poll tax and Labour went back into the lead. If some of the comments on the various blogs are indicative of the public mood, Brown’s joke about everytime his phone rings it’s news of another bank failure hasn’t gone down well. That may undermine the serious image he’s trying to project.

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  12. Any pretence this blog had of being non-partisan has gone out of the window with this latest post. Just as we can’t wish the economy better, you can’t wish away an improvement, albeit small, in the standing of the government.

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  13. Erm…I’m predicting an increase in Labour’s share of support. I’ve just said why I wouldn’t expect the factors behind it to last. There’s my prediction, it’ll be right or wrong, take it or leave it.

    My political preferences are a matter or record and well known, but I do my level best to analyse the polling situation in an unbiased manner. The easy way to do that is sit on the fence and never say if anything is good or bad for anyone, never predict anything, but that’s a cop out (albeit, I’m probably guilty of it sometimes). What I try to do though is analyse how things are regardless of who its good or bad for – that can be hard to do, especially when what I’m writing co-incides with my own views (writing about things that are bad for the Conservatives is easy), but there goes. I hope I don’t do so badly.

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  14. It is indeed Brown’s Falklands moment.

    Only he has the role of General Galtieri.

    The economy is visibly disintegrating and will continue to worsen for at least a year.

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  15. Not sure the Falklands situation is directly comparable, since the effects of any action would have been seen quite quickly, whereas the actions Gordon Brown takes now will probably take longer than he has in office to be fully felt.

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  16. The fact that Brown is clearly enjoying this, and is practically the only person who thinks he is benefiting from this, won’t do him much good I suspect.

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  17. …until they lost, when their position became untenable.

    I look forward to your New Year’s predictions. It’s great to have such a clear mind to read/listen from! :)

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  18. I think it says something about how people really think about Gordon Brown that Royal Bank of Scotland shares feel dramatically yesterday when the City began to fear they would need help from the Government rescue package.
    I would say that this period hasn’t been all that good for the Conservatives especially the number of Tory councils who got stung by the Icelandic bank collapse.It doesn’t give the impression that there is too much brain amongst the rank and file.Ken Clarke was on TV recently and you do feel he has a certain ability which a minor celebrity doesn’t. By the way where are the Greens? Their moment surely?

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  19. Politicians on your side are stupid incompetent self- seeking liars. Those on my side are paragons of all the virtues. Why isn’t that obvious to all the voters – one of the great puzzles of life.

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  20. Whilst it is slightly irritating that Gordon Brown seems so pleased with himself because he for once did the right thing the opposition parties should not fret too much. Despite John C’s wishful thinking a Labour revival of any length or substance is so unlikely given the impending recession that the opposition should not lose any sleep over any blips in the polls over the next few weeks.
    A sea change has taken place in politics and it will take more than King Canute to stop the tide.

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  21. Nick,
    any impending recession does not necessarily correspond with a fading government revival in the polls, as the blame hasn’t been pinned on them alone, so I fear you’re as guilty of the accusation of wishful thinking as anyone else.

    The flaws in the global economy which are causing the current volatility are the result of structural damage done when the Bretton Woods agreements were abandoned around 1971 and which haven’t been fully addressed in the long meantime. Legislators, professionals and individuals have all been forced to play according to the new world disorder which has existed since then and we are all culpable to the result in greater or lesser extents.

    Just like Hank Paulson made clear, there is a lot of blame to go around.

    So I don’t think it should surprise anyone that poll ratings don’t correlate with the conclusions you articulated.

    However, if they do correspond accurately it will mean that Camerons Conservatives have successfully conned the public by perpetrating a lie which will return to haunt them down the line – either when the policies they advocate as a solution are proved to fail, or when they are shown these said policies act in opposition the mandate they’ve built their platform on.

    Therefore it would be a mistake for Cameron or any Conservative to attempt to pin singular blame on Brown or Labour in an attempt to absolve themselves, just as it is a mistake to absolve him and them completely with the offer of unconditional bipartisan support.

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  22. I’m not a fan of Brown or Labour but I don’t blame him for the current financial crisis. However I do blame him for a whole host of other things too numerous to mention here.

    Let’s all hope that stock markets stabilise soon otherwise we’re all in trouble. The next thing we could be hearing is that pension funds, including some huge public sector schemes are in trouble and need rescuing.

    And who’ll be paying for that ?

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  23. I know this is a little controversial, but has Gordon Brown finally removed politics away from governing by consensus to actually doing what he believes to be the best way to deal with the current crisis. I feel as though the ‘Chosen few’ journalists who had access to government under TB are now excluded from the policy making decisions and do not feel special any more. I have read their poisonous comments about each politician that falls out of grace with them and now they are desperate to get back into the inner circle. They must accept, however reluctantly, that the governement are elected and answerable to the people, they are not.

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  24. Phil T,
    I have to admit I’m amazed that you think Anthony/this blog is biased against Labour. I’ve always viewed it as meticulously impartial. Anthony states that his views are well known but I wasn’t aware of that from the content that I’ve seen.

    You may have confused the blog articles with the comments that users leave which are always likely to be less even handed!

    I say this with open eyes, I know that the Daily mail and Fox news lean right and that the BBC leans left for instance, but I’ve never felt that kind of editorial skew here.

    I think you’ve done a great job Anthony.

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  25. Ivan,

    I’d agree, I didn’t know what Anthony’s politics were and had wondered.

    I have to say, that part of the reason it puzzled me was that I hadn’t been able to discern it from his posts.

    I am more than open about who I am and who I support, but apart from occasionally being overly robust in defending SNP policy where I think it has been misrepresented I feel that by and large I give an objective view of Scottish politics.

    That includes freely admitting that Glenrothes looks a lot closer than it did this time last month.

    I still think we can do it, but the economic climate, the boost it’s given to Brown ( He may even campaign), the questions raised over Iceland and Ireland as small independent European nations and an rather good start for Iain Gray all make it harder for us.

    I don’t think stating your allegiance means that you can’t make objective comments and many openly Labour and Tory contributors here often do.

    If I have an issue it’s with people who make ridiculously partisan comments which aren’t related to the evidence or people who claim neutrality while clearly favouring one party over others.

    Peter.

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  26. “I’d agree, I didn’t know what Anthony’s politics were and had wondered.”

    Me too.
    You do a great job Anthony-& conceal your political preferences abstemiously.

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  27. I don’t wish to denigrate the sterling work that Anthony has done on this blog over many years, but as a long-time reader (or, as some would say, lurker), I can’t help but detect a subtle shift in tone. I’ve never confused the readers’ contributions with the main posts – if I had, I would probably believe this blog to be somewhere to the right of the Daily Mail on a bad day – but I just felt that some of the language in this post went far beyond what would be expected of a unbiased analysis.

    In short, I think I felt that the certainty of some of the contentions in the post did not correlate with the volatility of both the economic and political outlook in the wider world.

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  28. Phil T: “No man is an island”…. & all that. We all start to leave tracks the minute we put hand to keyboard – you too!. I think this blog is more neutral than PB.Com – tho my own prejudices mean i spend a lot more time there than here!

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  29. Phil T, Anthony is a Conservative, but his blog is a model of impartiality, and accuracy.

    Incidentally, Anthony, is there any possibility of your resurrecting your old blog, which contained lots of great articles, in particular the hilarious rise and fall of UKIP?

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  30. A few things to consider/debate:

    1) Arguably Labour’s deficit in the summer was due in part to voters blaming Brown for the downturn. Events in recent weeks have laid blame for that much more squarely on US banks, US sub prime lending and international financial organisations.

    2) As with the trends in the US, people who feel economically threatened tend to move towards those parties – Democrats/Labour – who are percieved to offer state support for those in difficulty.

    3) If Obama wins, Brown will by necessity have to meet and work with him to tackle the global downturn/recession, and may benefit from Obama’s “first hundred days” effect during the last 18 months before the UK election.

    4) Any Labour recovery in the polls may be rewarded by further gains in support. As people felt Labour was hopeless/doomed they were less inclined to associate themselves with the Party as positive/definite supporters. If the next election looks more competitive and Labour become seen in a more positive light, the Labour vote may firm up.

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  31. Phil – I don’t often do posts that are predictions like this and they are a slightly different type of post with a slightly different tone. It isn’t an analysis because the polls haven’t been done yet, it’s what I think they’ll say and do. The language isn’t hedged with lots of caveats because I don’t really approve of wording predictions with lots of get outs so I can weasel out of it if I’m wrong.

    Sean – no chance I’m afraid. I often don’t even have time to give UK Polling Report the time it deserves, let along right cheeky blogs about UKIP.

    Warren – Number 4 is very true. Good news begets good news. After I wrote this I noticed a couple of people pondering whether Labour might hold Glenrothes after all, which is something I hadn’t pondered. There is some potential there: Labour get a short boost, but during that they hold Glenrothes, which gives them another boost – suddenly they’ve got a virtuous circle.

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  32. Warren-I think the second sentence in Number 1 is contentious.

    Surely events in “initial” weeks laid blame on US Banks & sub-prime lending.

    Events in “recent weeks” in UK have begun to concentrate attention on the failures of NR, Bradford & Bingley, Alliance & Leicester, HBOS & HalifaxBoS.

    And the resulting comment & analysis has focused on the relative stability of old fashioned prudent mutuals, versus the instability & excesses of some of our Banks-and in particular the trend to the Wholesale Funding Market, whose seizure brought those lenders to their knees.

    Other comment has focused on the investment by Banks like those listed, in Securitised Mortgage instruments, whose value and very nature the directors of those failed Banks appeared not to understand.

    And finally, the failure of the FSA to blow the whistle on any of these trends & risks, or to make cautionary comment on the explosive expansion of cheap credit to uncreditworthy borrowers by highly incentivised bankers has come under scrutiny.

    So I would suggest that “Events in recent weeks” have laid blame much more squarely on UK banks,their lending & funding strategies, and the failure of UK Banking regulation & oversight.

    The USA Congress has already grilled the hapless boss of Lehman Bos.

    I hope sincerely that the UK Government will follow the American practice of forensic & ruthless public examination into how this catastrophe in UK Banking occurred, and who was responsible.

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  33. Hmm. Several polls have asked people where they think the blame lies, but from memory I don’t think two polls have asked the same question at any point so we can see if there is any shift in where people are laying the blame.

    It would be nice if someone did!

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  34. I think it is fairly obvious the blame lies in poor decisions by banks and greed. The rush to lend people money they could never repay and then hopefully cash in on the equity their home had built up has backfired spectacularly and we have the crisis. Sadly, I do not live on credit nor have a fixed mortgage which allows me to live beyond my means, so I have no problems with repaying my mortgage. Why should I feel sympathy for those that do. I was made redundant 2 years ago and nobody came to my assistance, I was just left to get on with it. Not a nice feeling at all.

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  35. kevindurkin,

    “The rush to lend people money they could never repay and then hopefully cash in on the equity their home had built up has backfired spectacularly and we have the crisis.”

    Except that for more than three decade it had worked and as long as it worked not many questioned it and those that did not one listened to.

    In 1970 the average UK home was £5k, by 1980 it was £23k, 1990 just under £60k and in 2000 it broke through £100k.

    In that situation people saw property as the best investment and it sucked in cash. It made good returns that were invested in property and as the demand for property rose so did the price accelerating the upward spiral.

    It had to end some day, as it was in it’s way just like pyramid selling, it could only last as long as their was an endless supply of people coming in with new money all wanting a piece of the action.

    As with other schemes, when it fails, as they all do, people demand recompense and justice, claiming they were duped by criminals or let down by the authorities.

    What they tend not to mention is that they were eager to join and weren’t complaining while they were getting rich.

    What you reap, you sow.

    I’ve been warning of this crash since I before first started posting on this board which is probably more than two years now, but now that it has come I am not going to cry foul and say it’s the nasty bankers or the crap government because we were all to an extent willing participants.

    Peter.

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  36. I’m pretty sure we’d have had some sort of house price crash a couple of years ago, but were “rescued” from it by the CDSs and the re-packaging of sub-prime by the banks. The “rocket scientists” not only came up with devices that sustained the bubble, but ensured it would make a much bigger mess when it finally burst.

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  37. John tt,

    Goldspans ballon; he warned that the dot com bubble would burst and tried to warn people and talk it down. But when it failed he cut interest rates to slow it’s descent an stop it crashing.

    In effect to much speculation and cheap money had lead to speculation and a credit boom based on over hyped stockes, so when the crash came he cut interest rates to make credit even cheaper and allowed people in debt to take on more.

    The economy kept going with the thing to buy shifting from technology stocks to property. Like Brown at the time goldspan was seen by most as a safe pair of hands on the economy who could defy boom and bust when what he was actually doing was just keeping the boom booming.

    Peter.

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  38. I think this is not a Falklands moment but it surely is an “ERM Ejection” moment. This generation of Labour politicians will be tarred with this and any survivors of this administration will find their association with the Blair / Brown mega bust impossible to shake off. Of course the Tories seem irrelevant at moment as everyone looks to Brown to hopefully give us the benefit of his experience but when the general election comes around peope will be looking for vision and a narrative. Still not easy for Cameron because so many of the nation’s challenges would seem to require collective solutons. Should be a golden opportunity for the Lib Dems but I don’t think Clegg has it in him …

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  39. We won’t necessarily be in recession by 2010 spring – the mega-bust this time has one or two important distinctions from the early 90s – low inflation and low interest rates most importantly. It’s likely that we’ll have a (ok painful) growth rate of .5% in 2009 before re-claiming 2.5% in 2010

    Peter, what is slightly worrying is that at the same time as wanting to encourage saving, the Govt appears to be about to join the boards of the major banks and insist on making it easier to borrow/lend.

    There needs to be a co-operative attitude within the EU, and in the USA in order to effectively create a new banking system that allows a balance of freedom and responsibility within it.

    Thinking of “oneself” first before one’s responsibility to one’s neighbour clearly is not as good as thinking of both at the same time.

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  40. This New Banking Era is already fascinating.

    The Taxpayer share purchase deal apparently includes commitments for the relevant Banks to return to” 2007 lending practices “( though I haven’t caught up with the detail yet)

    On BBC Radio’s Money Box Prog this afternoon, some small business people were complaining that their Borrowing rates had recently been increased & their facility tightened.

    BBC advice on the show was-go back & tell them the rules just changed-they can’t do that!!

    Things could get very uncomfortable at Bank Counters as “The People” assert their rights.

    Will we see the Tumbrils trundling up to NatWest Branches and recalcitrant managers being dragged away by those who bailed them out?

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  41. “Govt appears to be about to join the boards of the major banks and insist on making it easier to borrow/lend.”

    That’s not what Adair Turner-new boss of FSA said today john :-

    “What we do not want is a return to some of the extreme lending practices – the very high loan to value ratios, the self certification of your income which applied in the past. We want a more sensible approach.

    “We’re trying to make sure, and I think we will undoubtedly make sure, that there is adequate credit for sensible lending, but without going back to some of the extremes that did help us get into this mess in the first place.

    Many lessons to be learned over what has gone on in the last ten years. There are many interrelated things that we have got to think about.

    ” I think at the macro-economic level we probably allowed a boom to go on for too long and with too much rising house prices, rise in share prices etc. There are issues that we need to think about the whole macro-economy.”

    I wonder who he means by “we”?

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  42. The Taxpayer share purchase deal apparently includes commitments for the relevant Banks to return to” 2007 lending practices “( though I haven’t caught up with the detail yet)

    is exactly what I was referring to when I said :

    “Govt appears to be about to join the boards of the major banks and insist on making it easier to borrow/lend.”

    By “we” I think he means all those who did not reccommend credit controls or controls on “rising share prices”

    Probably most of us.

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  43. “Probably most of us.”

    I don’t think he meant most of us at all.

    If there were no rules or regulations in our society , crime, chaos & anarchy would soon be the order of things.

    Given cheap & untramelled credit-lot’s of people borrowed sums they couldn’t afford to repay.

    Lots of people didn’t.

    When the Banks who touted this cheap credit totted up their bad debts-and their fellow bank’s bad debts-they froze in fear, shut up shop & hoped it would all go away.

    We have all suffered for this-the imprudent borrower & the prudent saver alike.So I don’t buy the “it’s all of us who are at fault” version of history.

    I suspect what Adair Turner meant by “we” is the FSA before he joined it-the FSA who were set up by GB & who manifestly failed to ensure that UK Banks acted within the bounds of -dare I say it-Prudence.

    I suspect he meant the “old” FSA before the present one, which under his regime is now imposing the most stringent Capital Reserves on Banks, and dictating their remuneration & lending practices.

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  44. GB already has the dubious distinction of replicating Sunny Jim’s feat of October 1978 – cancelling the election he had a real chance of winning. However, the present crisis offers him an alternative to just soldiering on until overtaken by events. That alternative is to go to the country in February, before the depression really bites, but whilst memories of how he steered the ship of state through the financial storm still fresh in the voters’ minds. The best he can hope for might yet be a hung parliament, but a Tory administration dependent on the SNP and a diminished band of liberals would surely not last long….

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