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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fighting the bankers

Yesterday's Independent contains the rather interesting claim that Liberal Democrat MPs believe that Mr Cameron, rather than the Chancellor, George Osborne, has emerged as the main obstacle to tough action against the bankers.

The paper says that MPs are furious that Downing Street signalled a climbdown this week while talks continued with the big banks on a new settlement covering bonuses and lending to small businesses and first-time buyers.

The paper's source appears to be Lord Oakeshott, who is quoted extensively and who, I believe, also acts as a Special Advisor to Vince Cable:

Lord Oakeshott, a former City fund manager, said the Government must stick to the agreement made when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats joined forces last May. Its opening section says: "We will bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial sector." The Liberal Democrat peer said: "Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are putting up a terrific fight for the Coalition Agreement. It is a package deal, not a pick-and-mix of the policies you fancy."

That he is fronting up this small revolt is significant especially in light of Nick Clegg's New Year resolution that the Liberal Democrats plan to air future disagreements with their Conservative partners in public in an attempt to assert a more distinctive identity for the party.

I was fairly doubtful about that plan when it was announced, which is why I wonder now whether Lord Oakeshott is speaking with the backing of the party leadership. This latest piece of flag-waving is quite risky. The good Lord is saying and doing the right thing but if he doesnt get his way then the party's influence will be weakened.

I trust that all of this was thought of before the decision to go public was made.
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