Friday 19 February 2010

Better banking and PMs

So while I was in Norfolk talking to members my dear Deputy, Dr Kyle, was in No 10! Who says I don't put members first!

He was chairing a meeting of the Better Banking Coalition with senior officials, policy makers and advisors in the Treasury and PM's office.

The meeting took place, appropriately, in the historic Treasury Board Room, sitting around the original 'Exchequer table' - the table that gave its name to the job title!

Two hours of non-stop and intense discussion was very productive. Members of the coalition made presentations and were then questioned by attendees. There are some very encouraging signs that our campaign has already made significant impact in public and with policy makers.

The budget is next month, then the election manifestos. These will be the key tests of success for us, and the meeting was a big step forward. The next presentations are to the Opposition.

I have been sitting in the Progressive Governance Conference in Westminster today. "Growth strategies after the crisis". Indeed. Actually more interesting than it sounds, but then when you have the Prime Ministers of Spain, Greece, Norway and the UK it would be. Organised under the auspices of Peter Mandelson who seems to command all he sees these days. Come a long way since those days when I sat on his floor at St Catz drinking coffee and talking Europe federalism! Him I mean, not me!

He presides over the Policy Network, which is an international network that brings together policy makers, politicians, top bureaucrats and practitioners.

These conferences take place annually and I have been at the last three. The content of discussion and debate is incredibly high and the networking tends to be rather good too ...after all you don't get that many Prime Ministers at third sector receptions; even ACEVO's!

The opening speech by our PM was good, though perhaps too much local party electioneering which spoiled the overall plea for global action to tackle market reform. He argued that markets need morals. That we need a world financial constitution or else we risk a return of the problem we saw with the behaviour of unregulated banks and financial institutions.

It was a great underlining to our own Better Banking Campaign. And there was a call in his speech for a mass movement from people and communities to achieve change.

He also argued that if all politics are local as some argue, then local politics are global too. A rather neat point for our own sector too, when we get hung up on arguments about local or national and forget the interconnections that bind us together when we want to achieve change.

A range of interesting contributions but perhaps the most interesting was from John Kay, the FT economist. He argues that yes, we need growth but growth is not just about more staff. It involves investment too in life style. Growth is also about better consumption not more consumption. So, for example, food in UK. We are now eating better not more. Obesity has now become a disease of the poor. So how does growth contribute to better life.

Economic growth is about us; not something separate. Not about more stuff but more choices. That rather underlined the role our civil society and third sector organisations play.

Kay said he is not sure if we need more regulation but rather a restructuring of the system itself. We need to rethink the role of the financial sector itself not more regulations!

They do not lend to SMEs etc and the real needs of the economy but in activities that reward the bankers themselves. He argues most new jobs will come from SMEs but they are not being supported by banks. He is spot on!

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