Can Con-Vince er... convince?
The First Test starts on Tuesday. Not against Bangladesh. But it is the Test day for Vince Cable: he will surely need to jump one way or the other.
For on Tuesday the Ecofin ministers meet to decide whether they are going to punish Hedge Funds by regulating them. This, part of a drive by right and left in Europe to take on the speculators. Will Vince be happy to be in the wrong team on this one?
Hedge funds are essentially vast pools of unregulated money derived from God-knows-what, from God-knows-who-or-where. Their lack of transparency is their raison d'etre. Don't be fooled by the title 'hedge fund'. That's there to make them sound respectable and astute.
Since the single biggest attraction of hedge funds is that they are...well... unregulated, the intention is to regulate them out of existence in Europe in their present form.
Are Cable and Osborne going to jump different ways? Will the coalition agreement force either's hand?
Well, the coalition agreement is, curiously, silent on the issue of regulation of Hedge Funds as such. Presumably this gives, and was intended to give, early wiggle room.
Osborne will oppose the move where such wiggle room exists. He will argue against the regulation and vote against it. But there's no veto, so Europe-wide regulation there will be. But will Osborne argue well enough to get concessions under intense pressure at home from the London-based hedge funds themselves?
And will Cable welcome those concessions? Not so much because he disagrees with them, but because it shows that the coalition is on the wrong side, that the coalition is there to back up bankers and speculators and their bonuses.
Actually Vince's record on hedge funds is not really that good. He discounted them as a problem in the past, taking the view that it was 'their money, their risk'. Subsequent events proved him wrong. Their activities became and continue to be part of an unregulated gorging of speculative greed which could end up driving the world back into recession.
The great seer called that one wrong.
It is obviously the first in many tests for the coalition. The Coalition Agreement is verbose indeed on the subject of banking reform, but in reality kicks it into the long grass with a Sir Humphrey-inspired 'Independent Commission'. This also leaves lots of time for the lobbyists to get to work.
They won't, of course, be lobbying Vince.
Will Vince stay quiet on Tuesday? Or will he be sent on a fact finding visit to a sun-clad tax haven for 48 hours?
In the immediate future and, I suspect, the long term, the signal to the banks and the speculators and the financial engineers is Carry On Dealing!
Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence; author - Andrew Sales as amended by J.Clancy