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Ministers play a blame game

“Global” was the buzzword that Labour ministers and on-message MPs were shoehorning into every conference speech, fringe event and journalist briefing at last week’s party conference.

The strategy was clear. The current economic turmoil cannot be blamed on individual countries (apart from greedy American banks, of course) and in a global crisis, the UK needs a leader with lots of experience on the international stage.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown set the tone in his speech, discussing the difficulties of managing “global financial systems” with national regulators. Chancellor Alistair Darling spoke of the economic shock “which has hit every country in the world”.

Any references to UK financial difficulties were few and far between and always followed by the disclaimer “originating from problems in the US sub-prime market”.

Solutions laid out by Brown and Darling needed “global” co-operation with improved supervision, transparency, action to curb bonus-driven short-term risk takers and standards for credit rating agencies.

The other buzzword was “fairness”. The Chancellor refused to rule out tax hikes when grilled by the national press and Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham had a similar message at a fringe meeting entitled Tax and Equality.

He declined to answer a question from Money Marketing on whether Labour was looking at meddling with higher-rate pension relief to fund relief for lower income pensioners or to contribute to personal accounts – an idea he floated last time the Labour conference came to Manchester two years ago, when he was outside the Government.

News of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle broke on the eve of the last day of conference and left many wondering whether there could be yet more changes at the top of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Industry figures were left questioning whether Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell and pensions minister Mike O’Brien will remain to deliver personal accounts in 2012 or if the DWP’s ever revolving door will continue to spin round.


Playing by the rules

I was pleased to be reminded of a set of rules that are all to easy to forget when markets prove as tricky as they have been. Originally laid down by Merrill Lynch’s Bob Farrell and styled as Ten Market Rules to Remember, they were designed as a guide to wise investing. Recently, the economics team at Merrill revisited these rules with the intention of applying them to current market circumstances.

Policy decision

If I was one of the 140,000 employees of HBOS and Lloyds TSB, I would go and buy whatever forms of income and payment protection insurance those banks offer as soon as possible.

Tech winners keep on winning

By Ali Unwin, chief technology officer & fund manager, Neptune Artificial intelligence, driverless cars, big data. As technological advancements – and disruption – increasingly dominate headlines, Ali Unwin sets out six key themes he is watching in 2017. Read more Important Information Investment risks Neptune funds may have a high historic volatility rating and past performance […]


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