Did Gordon Brown's government tell Barclays to rig Libor? That's the essence of the charge circulating this morning, after Bob Diamond released the note of his conversation with Paul Tucker on October 29 2008. The senior Whitehall figures it mentions are unnamed, but the Tories hope they will turn out to be Ed Balls and Shriti Vadera.
Mr Balls released a denial last night, pointing to the fact he was Children’s Secretary at the time of the call: ‘There could have been discussions between the Treasury and the Bank of England. It wouldn’t have been involved anybody in the Children’s Department. It certainly wouldn’t have involved me in any way.”
But MPs will have a chance to explore this one when Diamond Bob (or Diamante, according to one of his daughter's more printable tweets) appears before the Treasury Select Committee at 2pm.
The email reads:
“Mr Tucker [Deputy Governor of the BoE] reiterated that he had received calls from a number of senior figures within Whitehall to question why Barclays was always toward the top end of the Libor pricing... Mr Tucker stated the level of calls he was receiving from Whitehall were 'senior’ and that while he was certain we did not need advice, that it did not always need to be the case that we appeared as high as we have recently.”
Damning stuff. Particularly when you check out the graph on the front page of the FT, showing how Barclays’s Libor premium fell off a cliff the day after the call.
Lord Myners, former City minister, has been on the Today programme. He said they did not put pressure on the Bank of England to reduce the Libor rates.
“I am not aware of any Whitehall figures raising this with the Bank of England. That is all I can comment.” But he said “it would not surprise me that the Treasury was in daily conversations with the Bank of England.”
He also stressed that Paul Tucker is likely to have a recording of the call, or have had an official listening in.
Nick Robinson says the most important question is: did the Bank of England give the impression that Barclays need to adjust the rates? Whether or not they were specifically asked is less important.
The political debate on how to investigate the scandal rumbles on. Labour continues to push for a vote on David Cameron’s desired Andrew Tyrie-led inquiry and call for an independent Leveson-style inquiry, but Mr Tyrie has said he will stand down if he doesn't have Labour support.
In an attempt to resolve this, MPs will vote on the matter today. We report that Lord Turnball, a former Cabinet Secretary, has been lined up just in case Mr Tyrie quits.
A Leveson-style inquiry is attracting support from many of the papers. Even the Mail’s leader says: “This paper, which can rarely be accused of supporting Labour, commends Ed ’s bravery in calling for a full judicial inquiry”. Not often that you see a Mail leader agree with the Guardian’s, eh?
Plenty is being said about the debacle, but perhaps the most surprising commentators is Bob Diamond’s daughter. She took to Twitter yesterday to tell Ed Miliband and George Osborne to #HMD (it’s best to Google the meaning of this).
Our leader is more diplomatic in its arguments. It says that we won’t sort out banking regulation, while “we are indulging in this country’s favourite pastime of find the scapegoat.”
We also welcome a new columnist, City A.M. editor Allister Heath, to our business pages. He argues that we need more capitalism, not less to resolve the crisis. Likewise,
Jeremy Warner warns that “Cutting the City of London down to size will shrink Britain too”.
And even in a banking crisis, Dave cannot escape his EU issues. Yesterday he tried to outline his sceptical cred by saying he’ll prevent Greeks fleeing to Britain if Greece is kicked out of the euro (you can read our report here).
His party doesn’t believe he’s a sincere Eurosceptic though. The Times reports that Tory activists narrowly endorse Dave’s position on Europe while heavily doubting his Eurosceptic convictions and approach, according to a ConservativeHome poll. (ConservativeHome’s Paul Goodman has a column in today’s Telegraph discussing this. He says Dave’s stuck between a rock and EU referendum).
But the Tories aren’t the only ones annoyed with Dave’s position on a referendum. The FT reports the growing irritation of EU leaders with his positioning. It quotes one diplomat calling it “the great British sideshow”.
He’s in a tough position, trying to please everyone. Michael Deacon captures it best, describing him as the “spokesman for the Department of Platitudes, holding forth emptily about The Right Thing to Do and The Need for Urgent Action. You are, to all intents and purposes, a fireman without a hose”.
OUT OF CASH NHS
Meanwhile, the IFS has bad news for Andrew Lansley this morning. Its report, covered in most of the papers, says the NHS faces a funding crisis. It explains that the next four years will be the tightest period of funding for the NHS in the last 50 years. One that will lead to rationing and charging for services. It’s worth glancing at the graphs in the FT report. The downwards sloping lines will make it difficult for Mr Cameron to say the Conservatives are the party of the NHS at the next election.
And finally, the Mail reports Nick Clegg admits to losing his head. In a speech yesterday, he said that working in gGvernment has left him feeling ‘lobotomised’. Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe couldn’t resist commenting that “It is good that he has finally admitted it.”
TWEETS AND TWITS
Tory MP Andrew Percy tweets:
“@andrewpercy: All this talk of hot pasties and rotisserie chickens in the chamber is making me hungry! A bizarre debate”
We’ve been thinking that since the Budget.
Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 35%, Labour 42%, Lib Dems 10%, UKIP 7%