Gordon Brown admits he got it wrong on bank regulation?

Leaders should be big enough to admit their mistakes. Though the PM didn't quite go that far today...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will come out with a surprising mea culpa on TV tonight, according to reports of an interview he’s given to ITV: he’ll apparently admit that he made a mistake in not introducing tougher bank regulation of the banking sector during his time as Chancellor. Since we’re firmly of the view that leaders ought to be brave enough to admit when they’ve got things wrong, and since politicians are usually very bad at this, we’d like to give credit where credit’s due. Although on closer inspection, it was a fairly mealy-mouthed mea culpa – and he didn’t really have much choice…

In the interview, to be broadcast on ITV tonight, Brown will apparently say that he bowed to pressure from the City for lighter-touch regulation of the banks –  when ‘the truth is that globally and nationally we should have been regulating them more’. As a result, he says he’s learnt to think about ‘the whole public interest’, rather than just listening to industry special pleading. Since the PM has previously preferred to blame the US for all our financial woes, this counts as rather an about-turn. And generally speaking, we can’t help feeling the world would be a better place if politicians were honest enough to admit their mistakes. So it’s a step in the right direction.

On the other hand, this isn’t exactly an unprompted admission of guilt. This is clearly part of a tactic to show that he is actually open to feedback and willing to learn - both admirable characteristics in a leader, but this close to an Election it all feels a bit stage-managed and calculating. ‘I hope I'm not intimidating, I hope I am the opposite,’ he said. ‘I hope I am willing to listen and willing to learn.’ As well as learning from his experience with the banks, he also apparently ‘learnt a lot’ from his ill-fated decision to scrap the 10p tax band. No kidding.

It’s also an excuse to indulge in a bit more voter-friendly banker-bashing (equally evident at today’s Lib Dem manifesto launch). Labour is now trying to cash in on the prevailing hostility towards the City by promising tighter regulation of the banks – but it can’t do that without effectively admitting culpability for any previous regulatory failings. After all, the PM himself was in charge of the Treasury at the time – so if he wants his future plans to have any credibility, he doesn’t have much choice but to acknowledge that he got it wrong in the past. And he could probably do with getting these 'apologies' out of the way before these leadership debates kick off...


In today's bulletin:

Gordon Brown admits he got it wrong on bank regulation?
Intel perks up tech sector by smashing forecasts
Abercrombie & Fitch boss Jeffries gets $4m not to use his private jet
JD Sports plays it just right as profits jump 26%
EU sick pay rules hammering small business

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