Monday, September 21, 2009

Off Message & Off Course

Amongst other things, being a local MP means that you can make all the right noises, get the local rag to faithfully reprint them & thus give the impression you're taking a stand on an issue. That's certainly something Joe Benton & Frank Field, Labour MPs for Bootle & Birkenhead respectively, knew when they supplied Oldham Hall Street with a missive on bankers' bonuses earlier this month (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2009/09/04/merseyside-mp-s-demand-maximum-wage-to-prevent-return-of-city-bonuses-92534-24604709/ ):
"Birkenhead MP Frank Field and Bootle MP Joe Benton are among more than 30 Labour MPs piling pressure on Gordon Brown to rein in the so-called 'masters of the universe' as the end of the recession looms."
Rob Merrick's piece peddles the delusion that Brown is facing concerted pressure from backbenchers on the issue. He isn't. Bankers' bonuses is a major story, but it doesn't pose a terminal threat to Brown before the next election. It's also amusing to read that "the end of the recession looms."
Yeah, right. Then again, if your brief on Oldham Hall Street is to do a PR job for Liverpool One at every opportunity, I suppose stating the recession will soon end goes with the territory.
Merrick's piece should be compared & contrasted with a report by Patrick Wintour in the previous day's Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/sep/03/gordon-brown-bank-bonuses-plan ):
"Brown, determined to protect the interests of the City of London, insisted that the French plan for a bonus cap should only be examined, rather than endorsed, leaving a Labour prime minister taking a less radical stance than the the two conservative European leaders." [France's Nicholas Sarkozy & Germany's Angela Merkel].
Benton is quoted by the Post's article thus: "It would be wrong to attribute the whole of the crisis to bonuses, but they must have helped encouraged deals that were high risk. For a long time, it seems there has been no ceiling at all on the top wage earners, who should not be exempt from the restrictions imposed on public sector workers and others on low wages."
Quite right, just the sort of thing I'd expect to hear from the honourable member for Bootle, where the boom merely meant a less rapid rate of decline.
However, both Benton & Frank Field would do well to remember the infamous words of Peter Mandelson when he declared that New Labour was "intensely relaxed" about those becoming "filthy rich", as he so charmingly put it.
Both MPs should also take up the issue of the latest unemployment figures with New Labour's high command; they should note with more than a little concern the figures for their own constituencies. Birkenhead's jobless rate has increased by 53.3% over the last twelve months, while Bootle's has gone up by 46.9% in the same period (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/mar/02/unemployment-and-employment-statistics-economics ).

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