Daily View 2×2: 29 July 2009

2 Big Stories

Kingman steps down from UKFI

As the Press Association reports:

The company responsible for the taxpayer’s stakes in ailing banks saw a leadership shake-up as chief executive John Kingman announced plans to step down. Mr Kingman, who has led UK Financial Investments (UKFI) since it was formed last November, will step down from the £143,000 post in “due course” for a career in the private sector.

Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable is worried by this upheaval at the very top of UKFI:

UKFI is one of Britain’s most powerful bodies and these changes at the top come at a very sensitive time. What is worrying about these changes is that Mr Kingman is leaving at a time when it’s clear the Government hasn’t really got a grip on the banks.

“This is the one person within the Treasury who knew where all the skeletons are buried and what’s going on. His departure at this time will leave a massive hole.”

Meanwhile in other Vince-related, recession-related news, our shadow chancellor has once again called for the big banks to be broken up for posing too great a risk to the taxpayer:

He criticised the combination of ordinary banking, such as business lending and mortgage payments, and so-called casino banking.

“These two things should not co-exist in the same institution,” he said. “It is highly unstable. It means the British taxpayer is underwriting very dangerous high-risk activities, so for that reason alone they should be split up. In addition the European Commission has made the case that there is now far too little competition.”

He said increasingly concentrated ownership did not give the consumer a good deal. “It is dangerous in giving excessive market power and before these banks are returned to private ownership they should be split up,” the Lib Dem MP said. “This may mean reopening, for example, the whole issue of the Lloyds/Royal Bank of Scotland merger and possibly reversing it.”

Lib Dem celebrity news round-up

There’s a headline you don’t often get to write…

Following last week’s revelations that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will “almost certainly vote Lib Dem” at the next general election, the Independent’s Pandora diary column tried to find out if the party’s spin machine would take advantage of the surrounding publicity:

Would he be invited to do a star turn at this year’s party conference, I optimistically enquired? “We are not actually doing anything at the moment to follow up on this story,” a spokeswoman politely informed me. “Nick may have sent him a letter to thank him. It’s not something we will be pursuing.”

Which is either fantastically far-sighted or short-sighted, according to your taste.

And then there’s Lembit… Amid reports that he’s now dating model Katie Green – prompting the Daily Mail headline, How DOES he do it? – the Guardian asks if it’s all just a publicity stunt to boost the ‘Give a big zero to size zero’ campaign they’re jointly fronting.

Somehow, I suspect this story will get more coverage than Lembit’s other, perhaps less glamorous, intervention: speaking up in Parliament for local newspapers hit by the recession.

2 Must-read Blog-posts

Councils killing off local newspapers (Cobden’s Comments)

… by all accounts, some Council’s actually prepare very well written weekly newspapers complete with TV listings and Sudoku, and ‘at little or no cost to the taxpayer’. What [the Evening Standard’s Andrew] Gilligan does very effectively is delve into the finances in more detail and what he uncovers is that they are funded in the main by adverts taking out by public sector bodies, which in return, are guaranteed positive editorial coverage. Tower Hamlets secures over £1 million of advertorial funding from public sector bodies.

Ranting about Rantzen (Wit and Wisdom)

Sure politicians can be a pretty poor lot, as the abject failure to do anything in the wake of the Great Expenses Teacup Storm of 2009 demonstrated, but Rantzen might usefully reflect on the fact that it is still a serious, grown up job, a full-time one (William Hague excepted, of course) which will require commitment and donkey work, not just a glad-handing campaign and lots of free media coverage.

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