Sunday, December 09, 2007

Why Vince is my Darling

On Monday morning I awoke to the dulcet tones of our acting leader on 5Live's "Wake up to Money". Vince was putting forward an eminently sensible proposal that rather than mortgage companies repossessing houses, they should look at a shared ownership option. Michael Coogan from the Council of Mortgage lenders tended to disagree. However, later this week, my own Managing Director, Clive Briault, warned that up to 1.4 million householders, with fixed rate mortgages that expired next year, could find themselves in difficulties.

Last year the FSA published the Baseline Survey an ambitious survey that measured the financial capability of the UK population. It found that although only a small proportion of the
population is experiencing problems with debt, they are often very severely affected. In addition, a further two million households (or around three million people) are exposed to potential difficulty in the event of deterioration in economic conditions, since they are constantly struggling to keep up with their commitments.

A combination of the credit crunch and fixed rate mortgages expiring is going to mean misery for many of our fellow citizens. It seems to me that if you had a choice between Darling, Osborne and man is head and shoulders above the rest. Darling seems scared and Osborne is scary. The people of this country need to be confident that whoever is responsible for the economic wellbeing of this country they know what they are doing, that they put the nation's interests before their own party political interests and that they will not be swayed by the need to keep the powerful financial services industry sweet.

Vince has always been ahead of the game in anticipating the problems, he has made tackling debt a particularly important issue, so when we met him on Monday I asked him whether he thought the problems we were facing were systemic. He did and he criticised Gordon Brown for not having had the bottle to face up to the banks - who he said operated rather like casinos - and implement the recommendations of the Cruikshank Report in 2000.

And Andrew Marr this morning acknowledged Vince's prowess as an economist, someone whose intelligent contribution to the debate on Northern Rock, the potential economic squeeze and the problem of tackling debt in this country, should not be underestimated.

On a personal note I was also delighted to hear Vince picking up the issue of the failure in the duty of care of this government in relation to our armed forces, and calling for the honouring of the military covenant.

Good for you Vince, you are making the running and some. Let's hope whoever takes over from you next week they will be able to pick up your baton and continue the fight.

So, Darling, watch out, there is a far more competent shadow chancellor waiting in the wings, and George ain't!

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