Labour has picked a fight with the energy companies. The Conservatives want to make the world safer for bankers.
For Ed Miliband, the timing could not have been sweeter. One minute news was breaking that Icap, the City firm run by former Conservative party treasurer Michael Spencer, had been fined £55m for manipulating Libor interest rates. The next the Treasury was announcing legal action to prevent Brussels from limiting bankers' bonuses.
Britain's argument is that the bonus cap will make banks more prone to instability. Measures have been put in place already to limit upfront cash bonuses and to ensure they are linked to long-term success. Clamping down on bonuses will result in banks paying bigger basic salaries, which will be more difficult to claw back.
This is a somewhat contrived argument, and not only because the proposed EU-wide cap is not – by normal standards – especially draconian. Bankers would still be able to get a bonus worth 100% of their basic pay, rising to 200% if the payment gets explicit shareholder agreement.
The strength of the UK case can be tested by three simple questions. Did excessive City bonuses contribute to the financial crash? Has enough been done to prevent the bankers blowing up the world a second time? And does the government's determination to prosecute this case have anything to do with the fact that the City provides half the donations to the Conservative party?
To which the answers are: yes, no, and draw your own conclusions.
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