The church appears to have finally chosen a side in the people vs capitalism debate and called off their impending legal action to remove the protesters from St Paul’s Cathedral as well as calling for a tax (as opposed to a pox) on the banking industry. As increasingly senior members of the clergy started resigning over fears that an eviction of the protesters would lead to a Dale Farm-type scenario with anti-capitalists being tasered on the steps of an iconic religious building, the Corporation of London decided to abandon its court case in favour of actually talking to the protesters.
Now the Archbishop of Canterbury has nailed his colours firmly to the mast in support of what’s being called a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on banks. It’s actually called the Tobin tax after US economist James Tobin but presumably that was too difficult to understand. The idea behind the Tobin tax was to impose a levy on transactions while raising money for developing countries. It’s been proposed before but has never received enough support. So the upshot of all this is that the church and the protesters are once again on the same side against the evil corporates.
Without wanting to go into a boring apologia, the financial industry is a huge and massively complex beast and thanks to a certain amount of dumbing-down and wild reporting over the last three years, an entire industry appears to have been distilled down to one thing: banks. Banks are bad. Banks are stuffed full of people being paid outrageous salaries and six-figure bonuses while taking insane risks with taxpayers’ money and still having time to quaff a magnum of champagne at lunch. Though in light of broker MF Global’s recent demise, it would appear that with all the attention focused on banks, a broking firm can discover an unexplained £700m-shaped hole in their client accounts and get away without Lehman-esque levels of media hysteria.
David Cameron and George Osborne say they support the idea of the Tobin tax, but only if it’s implemented globally, which given the previous lack of commitment from the US and Asian markets could be a long way off. Instead they have the unenviable balancing act of being seen to be tough on any whiff of irresponsibility in the markets while trying to retain London as a major financial capital.