Tim Ambler

The financial crisis: finger pointing at last

Written by | Thursday 3 May 2012

Four years on, Mervyn King has finally admitted to some of his culpability for the banking crisis.  At the same time, he rpoints to the Treasury, FSA and Bank of England “Tripartite” for its combined responsibility.  He is right about that. Incredibly, during the ten years leading up to the crisis, i.e. as it was slowly developing, the Tripartite met only once.  King notes the mea culpa from the FSA, again only partial, but also notes the absence of penitence from Gordon Brown and Ed Balls.

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Is minimum alcohol pricing the answer to binge drinking?

Written by | Friday 2 March 2012

The Prime Minister has announced that England will follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol. That would, it is claimed, protect responsible drinking in pubs but deter the binge-drinkers and the addicted. Unfortunately he has got a bit ahead of himself.

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The good intentions paving company

Written by | Tuesday 28 February 2012

By now we should be well on our way to the "Big Society, Small Government" that David Cameron promised us. Now the Coalition is weakening on GDP growth, the idea is to promise us happiness, or at least well-being. Apparently, the government will nudge us towards more wholesome life styles rather than enforcing it through tax and regulation. In December 2010, the Nudge Team in the Cabinet Office published how their insights could be applied to health.

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Whatever happened to deregulation?

Written by | Thursday 16 February 2012

Older readers will recall two major initiatives for less regulation and deregulation.  In 2007 the EU created an “Action programme” to reduce the administrative burden of regulations by 25%.  In the event, they claimed to have reduced the €126bn p.a. by 31%.  Unfortunately they did not take into account the new regulations since 2006 and furthermore the 31%, even if correct, was not passed along to EU businesses.  UK businesses have certainly not seen any benefit from this EU Action programme.

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Euros and sense

Written by | Friday 3 February 2012

In all the panicky talk of haircuts and economic Armageddon, it might be wise to step back and consider the two basic options: Euro or no Euro.  The Euro is only a means not an end and preserving it at all costs makes little sense.  With hindsight it might just look like an interesting experiment.

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Stakeholder Capitalism

Written by | Friday 27 January 2012

One of yesterday’s headlines, “Davos elite confronts capitalism crisis”, reflects the widespread view that the financial crisis shows that capitalism has failed and “we need another economic model”.

The anti-capitalists see making money from other people’s needs as wicked.  Business should be there to help people, they say.  Of course, communism was seen as good because profiteering was illegal, but that was a main reason for its collapse:  it removed the profit incentive.

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Quango merry-go-round

Written by | Thursday 26 January 2012

Quangos were invented in the 1960s but not much used until the Thatcher administration saw them as a means of downsizing government and reducing ministerial meddling.  They have blossomed since causing the Coalition to make big claims that they would cull their number and their costs.

As we now know, what the Coalition says and what it does may not always match.  The claim was to push autonomy down to locals and reduce the coverage of central government.  In fact the reverse is happening.

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Whistling in the wind

Written by | Sunday 8 January 2012

Andrew Lansley has provided a new, from 1st January, independent helpline for NHS staff with concerns about malpractice.  The line (08000 724725) is operated under the auspices of Mencap and is already very busy.  The questions though are whether the whistleblowing needed to improve the NHS will take place and the NHS be any more transparent as a result.

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Measuring government performance

Written by | Thursday 5 January 2012

What is “good government”?  How would we know, for example, that this government is better, or worse, than the last or than UK government in previous centuries.  This should be of interest to scholars and other citizens but the last thing any government would wish is an objective measurement of its own performance.

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Labour on the financial sector: Amnesia or duplicity?

Written by | Friday 9 December 2011

Douglas Alexander, Shadow Foreign Secretary, was whingeing on the Today programme this morning about Cameron’s failure to repatriate regulation of the UK financial services sector.  The truth is that Labour, voluntarily and unnecessarily, gave Brussels responsibility for financial services regulation only in 2009.  The UK is left with merely supervising the EU’s rules.

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