So Dave used his veto. That must have made him feel manly, and powerful, and in control. For all of twelve seconds. Until someone pointed out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.
What strikes me about this sorry mess is how short a time it has taken for the “we must protect the City at all costs” attitude to become acceptable again. Rewind, if you will, back to 2008. Remember the collapse of Lehman Brothers? The credit crunch and the global liquidity crisis? The resulting recession and flatlining of the UK economy? Am I the only one who remembers the intellectual discourse of 2008/09 questioning whether capitalism had failed, whether the financial system was fit for purpose? Did I hallucinate all these things?
Well, apparently not. It was earlier this year that Mr Cameron’s own Business Secretary was still talking about banking reform and splitting retail and investment banking activities. Back in 2008, David Cameron himself said (emphasis mine),
I’m pleased that the European regulators are looking at our proposal to bring stability to the banking system.
Many bankers in the City were quite simply irresponsible.
They paid themselves vast rewards when it was all going well……
…and the minute it went wrong, they came running to us to bail them out.
There will be a day of reckoning but today is not that day.
And yet, not only has that day of reckoning not come; barely three years later it seems to be perfectly acceptable for the Prime Minister to put Britain’s membership of the European Union and the country’s standing in foreign policy at risk in order to protect those very same financial institutions for which he promised a day of reckoning. I seem to have blinked and missed something. What happened?
A second question here has to be what the hell have the Lib Dems done? The Deputy Prime Minister claims to be “bitterly disappointed”, almost as if the situation was nothing to do with him. But where was Mr Clegg last week when Britain’s negotiating position for the EU summit was being decided?
In Germany, Cameron’s name is becoming a by-word for causing a breach with Europe (German link). Much like Mr Cameron, the FDP – the junior partner in the German coalition government – are playing party politics with the future of Europe. Much like Mr Cameron, they are being petty, irresponsible, and myopic.