Saturday, June 30, 2012
We need a Leveson Inquiry for banking
Lord Leveson has not produced his recommendations yet, and when he does many of us of a Liberal persuasion may not like them. But we can already say that his inquiry has been a great success.
That is because it has laid bare the working of politicians and the media. We have heard editors, owners and politicians describing that they do under forensic questioning and on oath.
It seems it was the US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who first said "sunlight is the best disinfectant". He was right, but the Leveson Inquiry has done more than expose wrongdoing. It has been an education to those who have taken an interest in it, laying bare the culture of journalism and its relationship with the political world.
And that is why we need a Leveson Inquiry for banking too.
Many of Leveson's most reported witnesses are facing criminal charges, which has meant that he has had to stay well clear of some topics.
That might turn out to be the case with any inquiry into banking too, but what it could do is allow sunlight to shine on the industry's practices.
The law may be adequate in banking: certainly, with phone-hacking it appears that a large part of the problem has been the authorities' strange unwillingness to enforce the existing law.
But whether or not the law on banking needs changing, it is certain that the culture of banking needs changing. And sunlight and a Leveson-style inquiry are the first steps in tackling that.
Of course the bankers will oppose it. Their apologists will tell us that all British bankers are always on the point of departing for highly paid jobs on Wall Street and must not be upset for that reason.
But that is nonsense, isn't it?