Evan Davis goes to the top of the class today. Why? For pointing out something on the Today programme that no other commentator has had the wit or the understanding to do before. To challenge the CBI on its close links to the banks.
Interviewed by Davis this morning, John Cridland, the Confederation’s Director General – someone who has never actually done a days’ work in ‘industry’ in his life – was very much playing the bankers’ tune by saying that this was not the time for bank reform..
“…anything which makes it harder for the banks to keep the wheels of the economy well oiled is not good timing”, he protested.
That Mr Cridland believed that the banks were keeping the wheels of the economy well oiled was a bit too much for seasoned economist Davis who asked politely if he was speaking on behalf of bankers. A brief pause whilst Cridland’s brain cells registered that he had been bowled a very fine googly. “But banks are members of the CBI, are they not”, continued Davis. “Well, yes they are, but…”, Cridland spluttered. His ‘but’ was the start of some deft side stepping.
Davis then went on to challenge Cridland about why his organisation had not said a word about the banks’ PPI scam. ‘Looting the public on a scale of billions and billions of pounds’, as Davis put it. Why had the CBI said nothing about the atrocious behaviour of some of its members? Cridland was well and truly stumped.
That banks are members of an organisation representing British industry is baffling to anyone other than a banker to whom it makes perfect sense. As major contributors to the coffers of the CBI they’re able to keep the lid on criticism. With committees and Regional Councils peppered with bank representatives, they are the elephant in the room, the intimidator that ‘keeps an eye’ on what is being said and by whom.
In the same programme, Lib Dem MP John Thurso made the point that, in his constituency, many good businesses found it extremely difficult to get finance, and any that was offered was at usurious rates. He also pointed out that there was a total disconnect between the banker at the ‘coal face’ and the faceless drones at ‘head office’ who were blocking perfectly good lending propositions (maybe one of the reasons why bank net lending has not increased one iota). In the face of this onslaught by banks against business, has the CBI been fighting the corner for their members? Have they been battering down the door of the Chancellor to get him to act? Have they hell.
Even in the aftermath of the banking crisis which saw many good businesses go to the wall because of the actions of banks (they reduced facilities, increased charges and generally made life hell for British business), barely a cheep of criticism of banks’ behaviour was heard from the CBI.
The CBI is a flawed, paper-pushing organisation which has done precious little to represent the interests of British industry – a bit strong? Their actions – or lack of – speak for themselves.
Time for CBI members to consider not renewing their subscription? With finance difficult to come by, it could be a useful saving.