Trusted Voices


I have long said that when I would come to power there’d be a few things I’d do on day one.  I’d abolish benefits for people who are already comfortably off (left-leaning).  I’d make sure we had more programmes of community work for people who are fit and able, but out of work (right leaning) and I’d reintroduce some form of torture for people who throw their rubbish out of cars (just plain common sense)!

Actually, joking apart, I think you need the wisdom of Solomon to be a good law-maker and it seems that for every good idea there are plenty of possible reasons why it might not be the right thing to do.

But one idea that I am convinced is the right idea is that the UK should be spending more money on the BBC World Service.

I’ll come clean straight away, I’m a massive fan of the BBC and I see it as one of those institutions that makes Britain a great country to live in.  Like the NHS, it’s one of those things where we should count our blessings more and spend less time dwelling on its shortcomings.  If you ever tried to watch TV in America, I know you’ll be a fan of the BBC too.

Now the reason I would spend more money on the World Service is not to give more people in Guatemala or Mozambique the opportunity to tune into to Nicholas Parsons et al playing ‘Just a Minute’ or to give the Proms a more international reach, fine though those outcomes may be.  No, the reason I would like to see the World Service prosper is to get the BBC’s excellent and largely impartial coverage of news and current affairs out there into parts of the world where the local news can’t be trusted.  So much of the conflict in the world comes about through a lack of understanding or mis-information; I can’t help thinking that; given the peanuts it costs to operate the world service, spend here would give a brilliant return on investment.  Just the further promotion of the English Language has got to be a worthwhile benefit in itself, let alone any impact it might have on giving Britain an authoritative voice in the world.

And, credit to the BBC, they have gone and decided to spend more on the World Service at a time when that money would have been hard to find.

But we also need to hear more voices of reason and impartiality in our every days lives here in the UK.  In our world of Financial Services who do you turn to for impartial advice?  The Financial world has never been known for its trustworthiness, all the more so following a long list of scandals and misdemeanours by various companies.  Beyond the obvious examples of PPI and bank charges, think small print on insurance policies, and the revelation that price comparison websites are not as impartial as you’d think.  Who can you trust?

Financial Services is a complex and often technical world.  We need to have access to people who can guide us through the maze without taking advantage of us.  I’d like to think that could be a key role for Building Societies.  If that is to be our mission in life we know from countless surveys that have a head start on the banks.

In a very telling interview recently, the previous Chief executive of Barclays, my namesake, Antony Jenkins was saying that the banking industry had a long way to go to recover the trust of the Great British people.  This is because a quite different and aggressive culture has taken hold in the UK’s big banks

Now where did I hear that….?  Oh, yes, it was on the BBC!

In Current Affairs


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