Banking: keep it simple, stupid

The Tyrie report doesn't go far enough in its call for simpler banking, says Jodie Ginsberg.

Last week I wrote about the importance of simplifying the way in which banks talk about what they do and what they sell. So I was pleased to see that the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards – which has spent the past year exploring how to improve culture and ethics in banking – makes explicit reference to the need for improvement in this area in its final report, published today. ‘Alongside financial literacy,’ the report says, ‘there is a need for a r...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 19 Jun 2013
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The race for soft power

John Holden explains why cultural diplomacy is increasingly about people, not states.

Today, the British Council and Demos are publishing a new report called Influence and Attraction: culture and the race for soft power in the 21st century. Cultural contact between nations used to involve high art and elite meetings: Harold Macmillan visiting the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow with Khrushchev in 1959 is a paradigmatic example. But in the 21st century both culture and communication have become democratised.  Cheap flights, 24 hour news, migration and the internet have combined...

Posted by John Holden on 18 Jun 2013
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The hidden cost of reforming banking

The Commission on Banking Standards must prove it is worth the money, writes Jodie Ginsberg.

How much has the year-long investigation into culture and standards in Britain’s banking system cost the Exchequer? The UK Treasury refuses to disclose, saying the amount has not yet been finalised, but – given the amount already pumped in to prop up our ailing banking system – taxpayers deserve to know the costs of attempting to reform it. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards - set up in the wake of the Libor scandal in 2012 - is expected to issue its final re...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 14 Jun 2013
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Making markets work

Chris Grayling's legal aid reforms fail to grasp the benefits of markets, writes Duncan O'Leary.

One of the arguments that the Conservative Party made in the run-up to the last election was that, unlike New Labour, Tory MPs were not naive about Capitalism. They had never hated the private sector, nor had they become starry eyed about it. They understood what genuinely free markets looked like and accepted their limits. For some of the Tory modernisers this is certainly true. As part of our 20th birthday celebrations Demos will be hosting Jesse Norman next month, who has written thoughtf...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 11 Jun 2013
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Finance - it's not clear enough

If we don't understand what we're being sold, how can we know the risks, asks Jodie Ginsberg.

Last week I was talking to a senior fund manager - one of those who decide how to invest the billions of pounds we pay into our pensions. "Imagine I told you I made decisions about what to do based on some slightly artistic methods of thinking and some reasonably educated gambles," he said. "Would you give me a million pounds to manage your money? No. Now imagine I said that I used an investment methodology based on an optimisation model that had evolved into a highly effectiv...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 10 Jun 2013
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Don't be evil

The PRISM revelation is shocking - but not for reasons you'd expect, writes Carl Miller.

The Guardian today is running a red-hot scoop. A 41-slide PowerPoint presentation leaked from the US National Security Agency, famously the most secretive agency in the US intelligence community, details how a previously undisclosed programme – PRISM – has for the last five years allowed intelligence agencies to access a broad swathe of digital information, from Google chat to Skype calls, held by the web giants. Whilst the PowerPoint slides are certainly bad enough to plausibly ...

Posted by Carl Miller on 07 Jun 2013
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The EDL: a Facebook group with a militant wing

Jamie Bartlett on the attack in Muswell Hill and the true nature of the EDL.

An Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill was attacked in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and according to the police, the letters 'EDL' were found scrawled on the walls. Scotland Yard are believed to be looking into whether there is any link to the English Defence League. If it turns out to be a racist attack, it adds extra significance to the Prime Minister's new task force to stop extremism in all its forms. Correctly, the focus will be on the Islamist variety, but Cameron point...

Posted by Jamie Bartlett on 06 Jun 2013
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How Labour can offer something for something on welfare

Duncan O'Leary puts forward a two-tier system of benefits to restore the contributory principle.

This is set to be a big week for Labour. Today Ed Balls launched a foray into pensioner benefits, later this week Ed Miliband is set to address the question of working age welfare. The question is what principle (or combination of principles) should underpin any new approach. The shadow chancellor’s announcement today points towards more means-testing but in January, Miliband defended universal benefits and since then Liam Byrne has promised that Labour would "strengthen the old pr...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 04 Jun 2013
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When in doubt, bash the unions

Using the lobbying scandal to target trade unions is bad long-term politics, writes Max Wind-Cowie.

The fallout from the recent 'lobbying' scandal reached its climax yesterday, as the Government pledged to rush through legislation to register lobbyists and their clients.  How, exactly, this would have prevented dodgy MPs and peers offering their services is less than clear. Nonetheless, the register was promised long before Patrick Mercer became so interested in Fiji and is, probably, a good thing. The industry itself have been calling for its implementation for some time. How...

Posted by Max Wind-Cowie on 04 Jun 2013
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What's in a name?

Jamie Bartlett on how political language is distorting the Communications Data Bill debate.

You can usually tell a lot about someone’s hidden view on a subject by the nouns they use to describe it.  The 9/11 ‘truthers’ (who believe the 2001 attacks were orchestrated by the US government) call the widely accepted account of events – overwhelmingly agreed by academics, independent researchers, terror specialists, and journalists – the ‘official account’, with its shadowy hints of government manipulation.   Language matters of course...

Posted by Jamie Bartlett on 03 Jun 2013
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