During his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Ed Miliband reminded Britain about David Cameron’s main priority – to protect the wealthy at the expense of the ordinary citizen. Reflecting on the Prime Minister’s boast that the economy has ‘turned the corner’ he argued that it is funny sort of recovery when only the wealthy are benefiting. That, he said, was not his type of economic recovery. Ed expressed himself succinctly: ‘They used to say a rising tide lifts all boats. Now the rising tide just seems to lift yachts.’
On the day following the speech, a new example of Tory sleaze was reported that seemed to confirm Mr Miliband’s point.
Concerned Citizen: George! Have you got a minute? What’s all this stuff about ICAP that I’ve been reading about in the news?
George Osborne: Well, it’s not really my field but I think ICAP is a markets operator business that sort of facilitates the flow of capital and investment through the financial system. It must be very important as it supports government and corporate borrowing. And it makes lots of money.
So it’s all good.
Concerned Citizen: So what’s going on with them?
George Osborne: Now then …. Look. Well. Here’s the thing. The thing is you need don’t need to bother yourself about this sort of stuff. Leave it to me to worry about.
Concerned Citizen: But it looks like it’s quite a big deal doesn’t it?
George Osborne: Well, if you must know ICAP has been fined a total of £55m by regulators on both sides of the Atlantic – £14m in Britain and £41m in the US – while three former employees responsible for the misconduct have been charged in New York with conspiracy to commit fraud.
Concerned Citizen: No surprise there, then, eh George? Snouts in the trough again! But what exactly has ICAP and its employees been up to?
George Osborne: Look, it’s a bit complicated and I’ve got to get down to the bookies to put a bet on.
Concerned Citizen: Look, George, I know how many beans make five so why not give it your best shot? What’s been going on?
George Osborne: Well according to the authorities, ICAP’s brokers were involved in the Liberace affair.
Concerned Citizen: Liberace?
George Osborne: No, that can’t be right can it? Ah, I’ve got it: the Libor affair.
Concerned Citizen: Libor? Libor? Ah yes, I remember now. Isn’t that the average interest rate estimated by banks that they would be charged if borrowing from other banks? If I remember correctly from the pub quiz I went to the other night it acts as a sort of benchmark for short-term rates around the world.
George Osborne: You seem well-informed? Have you been reading the Guardian again?
Concerned Citizen: No the Mirror, actually. So how did this scam work?
George Osborne: How do you expect me to know, I’m only the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Concerned Citizen: Well, it says here in my paper that by colluding to fix the Libor rate these brokers misled banks about currency exchange rates and made shed loads of money. Don’t you think that’s disgraceful George?
George Osborne: Look, this sort of thing is complicated and if we mess around with it then, you know, capitalism will collapse, the bankers will leave the UK, my shirts won’t get ironed and, and …. Right then, I’m off down the bookies.
Concerned Citizen: Just before you do, could you tell me what this has to do with the Tories?
George Osborne: Oh, it’s just something and nothing. We’re all Tories now, anyway, aren’t we? Property-owning democracy and all that.
Concerned Citizen: It says here, in the Independent, “One of the Conservatives’ most powerful and generous donors is at the centre of a political and financial storm after City watchdogs savaged his firm for its role in the Libor interest-rate fixing scandal.” And it also says, ICAP was “founded by the former Tory treasurer Michael Spencer.” Is that true? Is he still involved with it?
George Osborne: Is what true?
Concerned Citizen: All of it.
George Osborne: Yes, since you ask. But Michael stopped being our treasurer in 2010. So, it’s all good.
Concerned Citizen: But Mr Spencer is still close to many senior Conservatives, isn’t he? Isn’t he the chairman of The Conservative Party Foundation Ltd, an organisation dedicated to maintain Conservative Party finances in the future? And is it true that he gave the Tories £76,000 in March this year and £5 million in total?
George Osborne: Oh so many questions. Crikey, is that the time? Look I’ve got this cert bet I must put on so I can’t stop to chat.
Concerned Citizen: It says here that City watchdogs passed a file on Libor fixing to the Serious Fraud Office.
George Osborne: So that’s that then. Since it’s been sent to the SFO it would not be right for me to comment any further.
Concerned Citizen: Just one more thing, George. Is it true that you’ve launched a legal challenge against the European Union’s planned cap on bankers’ bonuses?
George Osborne: Well, this week Dave think’s the EU is a very good thing, so of course we have!
Concerned Citizen: OK then George. But before you go, what’s this bet you are so keen on? Should I have a punt?
George Osborne: Well, following Red Ed’s speech, the bookies have just shortened the odds on a Labour victory in 2015. Thought I might bet the family fortune on it!