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Gordon Brown Is Sorry – But So Are Voters

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told British voters Wednesday night that he was sorry for not imposing stiffer regulations on the City of London and banking industry in the UK when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Simon Dawson
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In an interview with ITN ahead of the first of 3 US-style TV debates between the leaders of the UK’s main political parties on Thursday evening, Brown said he should have done more in the good times to curb excesses in the industry before things got out of hand.

The Prime minister now claims he is the best man to push on with reforms at a global level.

“So you don’t listen to the industry when they say, 'this is good for us'. You’ve got to talk about the whole public interest. And so we are tougher on the banks and tougher on the way they behave and we can be relied on to make sure the banks act in the national interest so you’ll see more measures to do that,” he said.

This from the man who said the following while opening Lehman Brothers' new London head quarters in 2004, standing shoulder to shoulder with Dick Fuld:

“I would like to pay tribute to the contribution you and your company make to the prosperity of Britain. During its 150 year history, Lehman Brothers has always been an innovator, financing new ideas and inventions before many others even began to realize their potential."

Now we have all made mistakes in life but for Gordon Brown to claim that any attempt to impose tighter regulations in the good times would have unleashed a wave of criticism from the industry, lobbyists and the opposition Conservatives, is a bit rich.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government between 1997 and 2007 Gordon Brown was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the finance industry on the planet.

With tax revenue flowing into the Treasury and helping to fund his ambitious social welfare programs, Brown would tell anyone who would listen that Britain led the way in financial innovation and that the City of London was one the world’s most important financial centers.

To turn around just weeks before an election and indicate you always had reservations and would have done more if it had been possible is getting good laughs across the City of London this morning.

The Financial Times reported Thursday morning that the real cost of Gordon Brown’s handling of the economy and the banks over the last 13 years will be a £1,100 ($1,694) bill for each family in Britain.

Having gone over the three main political parties' election manifestos in detail, the paper concludes that Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Party all have £30 billion ($46 billion) black holes in their election pledges.

Whoever wins the election, the paper concludes, will have to plug the gap in the public finances with tax rises or big spending cuts. This is hardly news but expect some tough questions on how this will be done in Thursday’s debate.