The party conference season is over for another year. While it was uninspiring mid-term fare for the most part, I offer some observations. Thanks to Labour’s Manchester set-piece, we now know that party leader Ed Miliband wants to steal Disraeli’s “one nation” mantle. We learnt in Brighton that maybe, possibly, the Liberal Democrat’s Nick Clegg won’t back the Conservatives’ plans to find another £10bn of welfare savings, but he definitely wants to increase taxes on the rich.
In Birmingham, we were reminded of Boris Johnson’s oratorical skills and the affection he generates among his own party faithful. But it was also apparent that much of the Tory rank-and-file still see “Bozza” (for now at least) as an amusing rabble-rouser, rather than a future party leader.
Finally, the British political classes are starting to get it. Finally, a head of steam is building. Over the last week, calls to impose a proper division between investment and commercial banking have become louder, more authoritative and part of mainstream debate. Pressure for the introduction – or re-introduction – of this crucial split could soon become irresistible, however much the politicians wiggle and the investment bankers deceive.
Until now, it’s been mainly nerds like me who’ve advocated a full Glass-Steagall separation. Given the vested interests that would lose from this change, we’ve been lampooned for our “hot-headed” views. Yes – our message is awkward. Life would become difficult (and less lucrative) for a lot of powerful people, were we to prevail. Yet we “Glass-Steagallers” are right. We have history, logic and common sense on our side. And now – thanks to Barclays ex-CEO Bob Diamond, and “Liborgate” – we also have political momentum.