Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Shares And Share Alike

Published Monday 27 June, 2011

So Mr Clegg. Let's get this right. You've had an idea! Dangerous that, you know … look what happened the last time you had one of those … all those students believed you meant no increase in tuition fees (in fact, you pledged their abolition; the fees that is, not the students. Ah! But then, perhaps as ideas go … ?) and look where that got you. 

So Mr Clegg. This idea of yours. Our shares in RBS and Lloyds/HBOS (funny that Mr Salmond; the two Banks that brought our financial system crashing to the floor and needed shed loads of our money to rescue them had one thing in common; the word "Scotland") are to be sold off to repay the £66 billion capital we're owed and then (disregarding recompense for the carrying cost of that huge sum over the past few years) the balance is to be given to every adult in the Country.

Everyone.

Presumably including those who have never paid a bean in income tax in their lives; those who haven't lived here very long; those (and this is the clincher,  Mr Clegg) who will take their shares (given to them in the name of widening a shareholding democracy) and, in pursuit of their hard-won freedom to do what they like with them in our happily free-market capitalist society, sell them the next day and use the dosh to go on a fabulous foreign holiday.

Yes. That's right Mr Clegg. At a stroke you will put loads of bonus-earning fees (the sort of remuneration your mate Dr Cable really hates) into the pockets of the brokers, you will end up with the shares back in the hands of the few … and you will have done wonders for the hard-pressed tourist economies of Spain and … errrr … Greece. Not a jot of sustainable, beneficial investment for old Blighty; just a short ("how was it for you?") injection of feel-good and a boost to the Eurozone; all off the back of our money. Not a tax-cut (for the lowest-paid not the fifty percenters in my view) to stimulate the economy; not a bit more off the deficit; not a new road here or a power station there. No Mr Clegg; just a turkey delaying Christmas and helping out the Euro. Come to think of it … now where's that Manifesto? …

 I've got to go Mr Clegg. I have a guy called Sir Walter Raleigh on the 'phone. He wants to talk about selling a bit of weed he's grown, evidently he sets fire to it and … errrr … puts it in his mouth!  Mr Clegg? Mr Clegg? You still there Mr Clegg? You might be a little less bonkers than I thought.  Yes Mr Clegg … call me back … my name Mr Clegg? Bob Newhart.