Archive for December, 2011

Europe and Britain’s interests: 12 December

December 12, 2011

David Cameron’s UK veto of the proposed European Treaty to address the ‘financial crisis,’ is a terrible ungodly decision. Not because it isolates theUKfromEurope– geographically, historically, fundamentally, we are semi-detached. Not because it is a refusal to sign up to some sensible rules about governments borrowing money. But because it is proudly based on pursuing our own interests, and the interests of the City ofLondonin particular, without regard for the interests of others. Once again our leaders show how far we are from loving our neighbours as ourselves.

European nations have learnt that the long term interests of one are tied to the interests of others.Germanyhas been able to export so much partly because the Euro is fairly weak. The Euro is weak because other European countries are not so financially healthy asGermany,Greececriminally so. It could easily be argued that it is not inGermany’s interest to prop up much of the rest ofEurope. But German leaders understand that it is inGermany’s interest to continue as part of the fellowship, even if it means paying over the odds for a while. Germans also like to holiday in sunnier places and want to build and continue good relationships with their holiday hosts. German leaders see good sense in looking not to their own interests but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Britain, by contrast, is still set in looking to our own interests. David Cameron was proud to state that this was what he set out to do. He also said that he is favouring the interests of the City ofLondonover the rest ofEurope. This is crazy. The French President pointed out rightly that it is the financiers, looking to their own interest and those of their wealthy clients, who put us in this mess. The City ofLondonworks for the benefit of those with capital, not for the interests of British business or British people in general. Why should we refrain from helping our partner nations and holiday hosts and help the wealthy few across the world instead? Once again we are subsidising theLondonfinancial services ‘industry’ at the cost of every other industry.

 Giles Fraser, famous for resigning as Canon of St Paul’s, wrote in the Church Times this week decrying recent levels of executive pay, especially in the City ofLondon:

‘Part of this has to do with the indifference of institutional investors, and in particular those big pension funds that own the company. These are the people who ought to be hopping mad that top bankers are getting paid shed-loads of money, even when they are manifestly doing such a poor job.

Yet these big institutional investors don’t seem to care. This is because they are able to sell their shares with such ease that they have little interest in the long-term health of the companies they own…

Top executives come and go; shareholders come and go; the only people who have a long-term interest in a firm such as Barclays are those lower down the management structure, who work there for long periods of time. This is why we need more inclusive employee-representation in the boardroom, as they have inGermany. Many employees invest their lives in the long-term health of a company. They ought to have a greater stake in the decision making.’

Japanese companies, as well as German companies, have more employee participation as part of their structure. Perhaps the two countries have learnt that disaster comes from aggressively pursuing one’s own interests at the expense of others? British workers respond well to such participation.Toyotarecently announced its decision to make its new hatchback in Derbyshire, creating up to 1500 jobs. David Cameron said this was a ‘massive vote of confidence for British manufacturing.’ A distortion of the truth. This is a vote of confidence in British workers alone. British financiers and managers, in British shareholder companies, mishandled those companies, causing all British-owned car manufacturers to collapse. We need to learn the lesson: create companies in which investors and workers look not only to their own interests, properly loving each other as they love themselves.

 Roger Harper

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