Thursday 18 September 2008

It's the economy, isn't don't be stupid

Just walking by Lehman Bros in Canary Wharf this afternoon, it's impossible not to notice the stunned atmosphere hanging about the whole plaza. People sitting around looking normal, but then the film crews outside the Jubilee Line station give away the oddness of the week.
Normal conditions do not apply. The wharf usually feels a bit like a financial Disneyland cut off reality, where, if you have an entrance ticket, you can have fun, party or just visit the themed restaurants.
Service standards are unusually high, and price tags often are too. Right now though, there is a sense that the "real" world has peeped into this gated community. As thousands of jobs go, huddled reviews of what could have been avoided are being discussed on every corner. Should there have been more regulation? Should the banking system have been stopped from going too far?
It's easy to be wise after the event.
How many books have suggested that the Wall Street crash was inevitable? Something that no one seemed to notice in September 1929.
The Labour party conference should now focus on the economic questions of the moment, rather than in-fighting about the leadership. What the people outside Westminster care about right now is whether they will have jobs next month; whether their savings are safe in British banks; and whether they can afford to pay their mortgage.
As the sudden takeover of the Halifax/Bank of Scotland has shown this is not an economic bubble that is breaking purely over the super rich with big annual bonuses. It worries grannies, students and normal, everyday British people.
If the Labour party wants to talk about something that people care about this weekend, they will focus on those things that actually change people's lives.

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