Who’ll we get to run our bank?

I’d thought it was a nearly-amusing coincidence that Northern Rock’s ex-chairman Matt Ridley shared a name with the journalist and science writer.

But no, apparently they’re the same guy. Now, I know that chairman is a non-exec role, but even so – if I were selecting a chairman for a major bank, I’d probably opt for someone with more experience in financial services than, err, none at all. Or at least, someone with more experience in running a medium-to-large company than, err, none at all…

(via)

But financial standards ARE interesting, dammit

I’ve got a new Sharpener piece up on the unholy trinity of Craig Murray, Alisher Usmanov and Prem Sikka. It’s got accountancy, it’s got bribery, it’s got a respected writer making himself look like an idiot and accidentally libelling people – what more could you ask?

“A post which isn’t about transport or accountancy, please, John…”

Maybe one day. The thing is, my social life is so extreme and hectic [*], and my professional life so amazingly fun and high-powered [**], that it’d just sound too gloating-ish if I were to post about them on my blog. Talking about financial standards and transport projects is the only way I can stop your jealousy of me reaching unbearable levels. Honest.

[*] last night I went to two pubs, and considered going to a third
[**] last month I got taken to a lasagne factory in Wales

Hooray for London

It’s truly an autumn of Finally Approving Transport Projects That Should Have Happened 10 Years Ago. As well as Thameslink 2000 and Crossrail (both of which approval I’ve somehow failed to write about – bad me), we’re now getting the Camden Town station rebuild.

As regular readers may be aware, I approve of all of the above. If we were hanging all the NIMBYs, that would be even better still…

We have the statistics. Why not consult them?

From ‘Not A Sheep‘:

In 2003 [Trevor Phillips] wrote an article where he said “from Rome, through Constantinople to Venice and London, our (European) nations have a history of peacefully absorbing huge, diverse movements of people, driven by war, famine and persecution; and there is no history of long-term ethnic segregation of the kind one can see in any US city.” A statement that any trip to Southall, Brixton, Tower Hamlets or many northern British towns would render negated.

Tower Hamlets population by ethnic origin: 51% white, 37% Asian, 22% others. Brixton population by ethnic origin: 62% white, 26% black, 12% others. Ghetto-tacular! (the latter is a ward of only 12,000 people, so you’d need to drill down pretty deep to find any hidden ghettoes…).

Admittedly, Southall population by ethnic origin comes a bit closer with 75% Asian and 12% white. But Southall is famed as bloody unusual by UK immigration standards; it’s also not what one would class as a long-term Yank-style ghetto – 44% of the population was born in Asia, for [deity]‘s sake. Taking Southall as a sensible example of race relations in the UK would be like taking Whitechapel in the early part of the last century as your only datapoint and concluding that we were second only to Poland in the ghetto-isation of Jews…

In short, Trevor Phillips is absolutely right: in London, we don’t have the long-term, self-and-society-imposed segregation between races that exists in the US. People of different races in the UK live together, socialise together, marry each other, and have babies together.

There are exceptions – notice I haven’t covered the northern ex-mill-towns here, because they’re goddamn complicated and I’ve never lived in one. As I understand it, they’re as close as it gets to serious long-term segregation in the UK, and I’d be interested to read a rational analysis of how that’s developed – but bracketing them with mixed-race parts of London is as mad as saying “Brian Sewell and Jade Goody are both white, so we can draw meaningful conclusions about one from the other”…

Northern Rock and moral hazard

People have been blethering on about the ‘moral hazard’ created by government deposit insurance for banks. Unfortunately, they’re idiots.

Deposit insurance *does not* encourage financial institutions’ shareholders to invest in risky assets, because it doesn’t prevent the shares from losing all their value when the risky assets go tits-up and the company goes bust. Since shareholder liability is limited to the value of their shares, there is no difference whatsoever for shareholders between a bank that goes bust losing its depositors all their money, and a bank that goes bust but whose depositors are baled out.

Providing deposit insurance simply means that the grannies who’re getting 5% a year on their life savings don’t need to become financial analysts to work out whether it’s safe to leave their money in (what they still think of as) the building society…

On that whole Northern Rock thing

What kind of loony keeps more than £35k in savings accounts with a single bank?

NB if you’re reading this and you have more than £35k in savings accounts with a single bank, you should immediately transfer the balance over £35k to a different bank. There is no sane reason not to do this, and it’ll save you from having to spend your Saturday in comedy queuing lemming mode next time there’s a bit of a liquidity fuss…

Two exciting data points

#1: I’m the top hit on Google Hong Kong for “senior accounting partner glamorous life”. Hurrah! (note: I’m not a senior accounting partner, despite my glamorous life).

#2: a right-wing nutcase (with the amusing trait of pretending not to be right-wing, which is easier to do if you oppose extra-judicial punishment beatings) is trying to smear me as the world’s most evil, objectively-pro-thug person in the comments to the last post. Even though the last post was about iPods. Ahh, it’s like summer 2005 all over again – do feel free to pile in.

The idle musings of John B