The recession has not led to a sea change in public opinion towards the super rich, said Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee in a panel discussion at the Fabian New Year Conference on the “haves, have nots and have yachts.”
"There is no sign whatsoever of people changing attitudes about bonuses at the top. The re-moralising of the rich is not beginning and the government is not promoting it.”
But the blame doesn’t just lie with the government:
“What depresses me is: where is the rage? Things are out of control and the financial collapse shows that. But where is the absolute fury against bankers who have stolen people's pension money? Outrage can change moods enormously. People agree that it is not right but where is the spark?”
“I know Fabians are gradualists, but we should send out a hit squad shaming the rich."
Also on the panel was Treasury Minister Angela Eagle, who responded by recognising – as has been the general theme of government speakers at the Fabian Conference – by recognising that we have entered a new era and that new systems need creating.
“It is end of the Thatcher/Reagan era and it has come not a moment too soon. The unfetterred 'market knows best' attitude has gone."
Eagle said the next era would be built on curbing excess and seeing government policy "more holistically", as well as a more balanced and more collective approach that is not so strongly based around the individual.
"We need markets in some sense, but believe they need morals,” she said. A problem of the present system has been that "we are now subject to the risks created by the weakest links in regulation."
"We are now in a third era since World War Two, and it must be built on progressive values and fairness."
But Toynbee criticised Gordon Brown’s reliance on outside business figures for the government's restructuring of the financial system, meaning it is being designed by the very people that got things into such a mess in the first place.
"BERR is run by goats; and Peter Mandelson is an honoury goat," she said.
Digby Jones was singled out for particular criticism.
"He came along for one year, took a nice peerage and now rubbishes Labour and the civil service" she said.
"He is a know-nothing idiot."
The likes of Will Hutton, Robert Skidelsky, John Kay, and session chair David Coats were suggested by Toynbee as better bets to radically recalibrate the system and avoid ending up with "minor tinkering".