Some people save banks, and others save people. Most MPs, Tory and Labour alike, tend to fall into the former category, as do the hoards of tax lawyers employed to make sure that banks pay as little tax as possible.
Take Barclays Bank for instance: in 2009 they made £11.6 billion in profits, but paid just 1% of that in UK corporation tax. That is instead of the 28% of their profits — or £3 billion — that they should have paid into the government’s coffers.
Yet not content with letting their rich banker friends continue to avoid paying tax, the Tories have constantly acted to lower corporation tax, promising to their true constituents that by 2020 it will be a paltry 18%.
Other than avoiding tax, slashing jobs is but another way that capitalist profit seekers boost their profits. As once cut, jobs can be outsourced overseas, or bosses can simply bully their remaining staff into working twice as hard.
This is why it is so vital that trade unions continue to strengthen their efforts to organise all workers on an international basis.
Job cuts now seem to be a regular fixture, so let us return to Spring 2011 when Barclays announced they were axing over 1,000 jobs from their British workforce. This date is noteworthy because local Labour MP Keith Vaz was quick to respond, as just a few months later he attended a photo-shoot for the opening of a brand new branch of Barclays Bank in Leicester city centre.
Not a word passed Vaz’s lips about job cuts!
Then shortly thereafter, in the wake of the Libor banking scandal, Leicester’s Labour Council made national news by closing the city’s accounts with Barclays.
Rory Palmer, the deputy city mayor, said he was “appalled” by Barclays role in the scandal, and noted that his actions were informed by the Council’s “moral responsibility” to the people of Leicester (July 2012, Leicester Mercury).
But just two years later Palmer reopened Leicester’s accounts with Barclays. Apparently, despite the “bitter taste” this decision left in his mouth he had “to deploy an element of pragmatism to secure a service the council needs” (December 2014, Mercury).
A pragmatic acceptance of corporate profiteering is of course an essential attribute of most elected Labour representatives. So I was amazed to read that Keith Vaz recently joined a protest against the closure of a Barclays Bank in North Evington (September 19, Mercury). But despite his attendance at the protest, Vaz remains eerily silent about proposing serious solutions to resolving this issue.
On the other hand, the new leader of Vaz’s Party, Jeremy Corbyn, does have serious answers to the problem of corporate profiteering in the banking sector. Thus in 2012 he made clear that:
“The depth of inequality in our society cannot be solved while we allow all political and investment decisions to be made on the basis of the values of the private sector banks that consider themselves immune from the moral values that the rest of us live by.”
He then went on to “call for public ownership and control of the banking system and financial service industries”; a common-sense solution that many people would support.
This letter was sent to the Leicester Mercury on 19th September.