The London Paper – 20 Feb 2009
‘Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.’ Richard Nixon’s wise words reverberated around my throbbing brain after I somehow contrived to lose the motion ‘this house blames the bankers’ at a debate at the Oxford Union last week. Funnily enough, as I learnt that my opponents had won by 131 to 51 votes these words provided me with little solace. Indeed, as the result was read out I found myself smiling through gritted teeth like a failed Oscar nominee who had been convinced that that he was about to pick up the little gold fellah.
Now, the first thing to do when you completely fluff an open goal like this is to find someone to blame. Of course, my fragile ego had to assume that there was simply no way my own argument had been insufficiently cogent. Therefore, I quickly decided that the reason for my abject failure was that the audience were a bunch of reactionary wannabe bankers who didn’t dig my initial gags about Oxford being an inferior seat of learning relative to the other great universities of England e.g. “Cambridge, Edinburgh and, of course, Hull”.
However, I have to admit that my opponents came up with some fairly credible arguments. Tory MP John Redwood argued, somewhat unsurprisingly, that it was all Gordon Brown’s fault because he had deregulated financial markets and removed the banks’ capital constraints that had once ensured less risk-taking. He also blamed Bill Clinton for pressurizing US banks into lending poor trailer trash wonga they were unlikely ever to pay back.
Some geezer called Yaron Brook, who had more PhDs that I’ve had flaming Sambucas, went on to argue that it was all the fault of the central bankers who reduced interest rates to such low levels that banks had little choice but to recklessly lend out cash out willy nilly. Finally, the current head of Northern Rock, Ron Sandler, claimed that bankers shouldn’t be singled out since the rating agencies, the regulators and all we consumers who went heavily into debt were also to blame.
Trying to find anyone who will accept blame for the credit crunch is like trying to find a virgin in Shepherds Bush – near impossible. However, I believe that when the history books are written it will be the bankers who are most commonly accused. Sure, the politicians and regulators were asleep at the wheel but blaming them is like accusing an incompetent police force for a crime spree. Likewise, blaming the central banks for making debt ‘cheap’ is like blaming ammunition manufactures for a gun battle. My mum always said that adults should take responsibility for their actions and until we bankers start doing that we’re gonna remain about as popular as a turd in a swimming pool.
PS check out my speech here.