Eurozone banking union could challenge the City of London

Labour Party

Monday’s extract from the latest tranche of Alastair Campbell’s diaries, The Burden of Power: Countdown to Iraq, published in the “Guardian” is very telling on the Euro question.

According to Campbell, Blair was well and truly thwarted by Brown. What is more, Tony Blair feared “we were making the wrong decision for the wrong reasons”.

While the bickering, not to say in-fighting, between Blair and Brown as told by Alastair Campbell makes depressing reading, there is no doubt in my mind that Tony Blair’s instincts on the Euro were right, even in the light of the current crisis in the Eurozone.

When British commentators talk about the Euro they all, almost without exception, take a congratulatory, not to say patronising, tone. The UK is deemed to have done the right thing by staying outside the Euro. We are not, after all, embroiled in the current economic problems.

Except of course, we are. The recession is deeper here than elsewhere in the EU. Britain’s double dip recession matches the economic problems of almost any save the most deficient Eurozone country. Unemployment in the UK stands at 8.4%. This is higher than Germany at 5.4% and Holland and Luxembourg (5.2%). True, there are also very high unemployment in the Eurozone, especially in the member states facing huge problems such as Greece and Spain where the rates are in the low twenties. Overall, the Eurozone total in 11.2%, more than Britain, but not much more given that the peripheral countries are in such difficulties.

As readers of this blog know, I very much support what was the Tony Blair position on the Euro in 2003, the year Campbell features. In a world where economies are intertwined, it would have made a lot of political sense for the UK to join the Euro at that time.

The UK has once again failed to join the European project at the right time. Former Permanent Representative to the EU Sir Stephen Wall is quite clear in his excellent book “A Stranger in Europe” that Britain would have not faced many of the issues it found itself dealing with regarding the European Union if we had been there at the beginning rather than leaving it until 1973 to join.

The same, I fear, will happen in relation to the Euro. If a country is not there at the start they stand to miss out on crucial decisions, finding that the architecture has been put in place without their input. This is, of course, why the UK is uncomfortable with some aspects of the European Union, especially when it comes to agriculture.

The Eurozone seems to be going in the direction of some kind of banking union. This will obviously have an effect on the City of London. Being outside whatever kind of union emerges may well prove problematic for our financial services industry. We in Britain should ask ourselves whether we really want a powerful neighbour with a unified banking system which will be able to challenge, not to say get the better of, our most important industry.


Labour Party

This may well be the last book review I do before the European election campaign starts in earnest at the end of this week.  I am off to Strasbourg in a few hours for the last plenary session of this parliamentary mandate, and then we begin the final thrust leading up to 4 June.

It is perhaps appropriate that today I am talking about the debut novel from Alastair Campbell, which is, incidentally, another bestseller.  There are even rumours that it may be made into a film.  Which brings me on to my real point – I didn’t really find the book that good.  The main character, an eminent though harassed professor of pscychiatry treats, amongst others, a rape victim, a woman who suffered severe burns, a long term depressive and an MP who is terrified his alcohol problem will be exposed. 

Inevitably it all gets too much for Sturrock, the person who looks after others but has trouble looking after himself.

There you have it.  Though well written and eminently readable, as you would expect from a tabloid jounrnalist, the book lacks substance.  Cardboard cut out figures are never really developed.  Although I felt sympathy for Professor Sturrock at the end, I found most of the book unconvincing.  Nonetheless, I look forward to the film.


Labour Party

I have always liked Cherie Blair (or Booth according to choice). As well as being exceptionally able, rising to be QC in what, as her book describes, is still a very male dominated profession, she also has an undiminished ability to speak her mind. The book’s title “Speaking for Myself” may therefore be read two ways – at last she can speak out now that the shackles of Downing Street are removed or, alternatively, she is continuing in character, being straightforward and straight talking.

Both are, of course, true. The book is a cracking read, despite the fact, as is generally the case with books of this type, it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know. The exception of exceptions is, of course, the story of her contraception, or rather the lack of it, on one fateful visit to Balmoral. I salute Cherie for including this tidbit. It makes both her and Tony more human.

I cannot, however, help but feel that the Prime Minister, his wife, his omnipresent oppo (Alastair Campbell) and his partner (Fiona Millar) are perhaps all to present to the British public at the present time. The rush of “I was there” books provide us with an intimate insight into prime ministerial life the like of which has never before been seen. While I truly believe all representatives should be fully accountable for their actions in representing their constituents and governing the country, personal privacy is also important, and has been pushed to the limit post Blair.

Having said that, I found Cherie’s writing on her children often moving and always interesting. She was a real pioneer – the first Prime Minister’s to have a full-time, professional and successful career and to have a child while at Downing Street. I think that’s a real achievement, and if some members of the fourth estate objected to some of her behaviour, that says more about them than it does about Cherie.


Labour Party

Paul Taylor in the Financial Times  waxes lyrical about the second generation Amazon Kindle , Kindle 2. 

Devout reader as I am and more or less OK with technology, I must confess to not having tried Kindle 1.  It’s probably more about nostalgia than anything else; there is just something uniquely satisfying about holding a book and turning pages, not to mention knowing when you are nearing the end. Yet I think I really have to bite the bullet, as it were, and pick up a good electronic reader.  Kindle 2 can apparently store 15,000 books – enough to keep anyone going for a long time.  No more carting massive tomes about on public transport.  Like many other Labour Party members, I read Alastair Campbell’s diaries – a weighty volume indeed which did nothing for either my back or my arm sockets.  Two such mighty works at any one time could well be a risk to someone’s limbs if not their life.  

What joy to have everything in a slim and stylish Kindle, the ipod of the written word.  My concern, and it is a very real one, is with Amazon, the producers of Kindle.   You will have seen a post on this blog about a completely unacceptable game using rape for fun sold by Amazon.   Do I support such an organisation?   Answers please.


internet, Labour Party, Social Networking

I am pleased to see Alastair Campbell blogging and I’ll be adding a link.

His piece could also add that compassionate conservatism is not being practiced by
Tories. I’ve been pointing out some example to readers, ranging from a Tory councillor who put a page 3 calendar up in his office to the shocking decision to abstain on a vote that gives women and men equal treatment at work.

I’m unsure whether designing his website around Alistair’s beloved Burnley
Football Club’s colours works. How many shades of claret are there?

I would have significant problems using the colours of the clubs close to
my heart: Bristol Rovers and Millwall! Also the blog in a box is not so
easy to navigate and will be even more fiddly on smaller devices.

Alistair’s arrival must mean there’s an election coming soon. Good to see
from Luke Akehurst that last night every by-election had a swing to