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Thursday, July 05, 2012 

The fix is in.

Well, we certainly learned a lot from today's parliamentary debate. Ed Balls, for one, has mad staring eyes when riled, whereas George Osborne has an upper lip that curls when he knows he's been caught out in a lie. Quite why Osborne thought that he could accuse Balls of being involved in trying to get the Libor rate lower when as it now seems he had no evidence whatsoever and get away with it is unclear, unless the omnishambles has unfathomably failed to put a dent in his hubris. It wasn't a case of the Labour party never being so rattled, as Osborne claimed, as it was Balls and others being outraged by false accusations, and as so often in politics, it's not the real examples of suffering that MPs could do something about that really motivate them, but rather personal so-called smears, even those that never happened.

The other fix then is in. Partially down to how Cameron had his fingers burned when he was bounced by Ed Miliband into setting up the Leveson inquiry, and partially down to his adherence to George's wheeze to blame everything on Labour, we have a parliamentary rather than an independent inquiry. Sure, they'll apparently take evidence under oath and will be "briefed" by QCs, but anyone who claims this isn't a poor substitute for a judge-led inquiry is lying to themselves. As Labour managed to dredge up, back when the boot was on the other foot the Tories were of course calling for an independent inquiry into banking as a whole, one they didn't get at the time. Now with the opportunity to launch one, they've ducked it.

All the stranger is that while Cameron was always likely to regret Leveson, having continued to employ Andy Coulson for reasons known only to himself, they are on the whole pretty clean on banking. Yes, they've been funded by the City, but then they always have been, and yes, they warned about excessive regulation when Ed Balls was in charge of making sure it was "light touch", but they can hardly be linked to the Libor fixing or the disasters that led to the bail outs. At worst they can share some of the blame for delaying the full nationalisation of Northern Rock, having disingenuously claimed it would take us back to the 70s, something that rattled Brown and Darling to the point of doing everything other than obvious, but that's a fairly minor point in the debacle. If Cameron and Osborne really believe that Shriti Vadera or whoever else was involved in telling the banks to set Libor lower so that they looked more secure than they were, then who's more likely to get to the truth, a judge and a QC or a cross-party group of MPs and Lords?

Osborne's gamble was that by linking Libor to Balls and friends it would therefore damage Labour's standing in the polls for economic credibility. If anything, it seems likely to have the opposite effect. All today's clusterfuck will have done is convince people that politicians, as ever, will fight amongst themselves and duck the big decisions when it has the potential to damage them personally. They'll have noticed this is just another exercise in blaming the last government for the mess everything's in, something they'll only put up with for so long, and about two years into a parliament as we now are is the limit. We already knew that Osborne is a tool whose powers of political strategy, if they were ever as impressive as claimed, have currently deserted him. More surprising is that Cameron was just as daft in going along with it.

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The Conservative party maybe relatively clean on banking, but their financial backers certainly aren't. As you say, they are still very much funded by the city.

I wonder if the refusal of a judicial enquiry may be simply about protecting the people who really run the party.

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