Tory talk

The hall was full at the Conservative conference, but plenty of people to meet and I did get to hear George Osborne on how we have built an economy based on debt. Alan Duncan (Shadow BERR Minister) had his Heseltine moment when declaring that he would fight for business before breakfast. Though consumers had less of a mention, he was good on Post Office closures and indeed on fuel poverty.

Big week

Big week coming up as we go live as Consumer Focus on Wednesday. Still more to do before though (apologies for those in policy roles and Belfast admin affected). I am in Birmingham on Monday, Bournemouth Tuesday, Glasgow and Cardiff Wednesday and Belfast and London Thursday. A real sense that a new journey is starting.

Friends are further afield in Tianjin in China and send me this artwork on democracy in the digital economy!

The good guys

The Office of Fair Trading has not always been on the front foot, but its energy and drive over the last eighteen months is great for consumers. They are the good guys and the Daily Mail today cites Consumer Focus as 100% on their side in the face of business criticism. Quite right.

Is your bank safe?

Two out of five of us fear that our money isn’t safe in the bank on one survey out today. With HBOS taken over, Bradford and Bingley trying to keep its head above water, the financial turmoil is a huge consumer issue. 

John Kay, FT columnist and inspirational economics professor, captures some of the mood in terms of the shift in thinking on economic policy when he just recently retold the story of the demutualisation of the Halifax. He was on the board at the time and £20 billion was paid out to 8 million members. But, John admits, they got it wrong. “We let them all down.”

In US debate at present, this is called the Glass-Steagall Act, which said banks are retail banks or financial speculators, but not both. The Act, from 1933, was a pioneering piece of consumer legislation, setting up full deposit insurance for savers if banks did go down. In the UK, twelve months on from Northern Rock, where is the full deposit protection beyond £35k that we were promised? If consumers now don’t trust that banks are safe, this is one stable door that needs to be shut.