Northern Rocks - Invest now!
Help make public ownership a success, and give a poke in the eye to the big business and free market rogues who created the banking crisis.
Northern Rock is now under public ownership. Hurrah! But now comes the real challenge to liberal and left opinion. If you really believe in public ownership and public services, put your money where your mouth is - switch your savings out of private banks into the publicly owned Northern Rock
If savers can withdraw £2 billion in three days last September, then some of Britain's 15 million progressive Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green voters can easily pump £10 billion-plus into Northern Rock over the next month.
Those of us who believe in public ownership and public services have a moral obligation to support the people's bank - and to press it to pursue socially and environmentally progressive investment strategies.
And while the state is restructuring Northern Rock, let's have another innovation: employees on the board of the new publicly-owned bank, to transform this capitalist shark into a cooperative partnership. Let's utilise the accumulated expertise and inside knowledge of the staff who have worked long and hard by giving them a stake in the decision-making process.
With an injection of new savings and industrial democracy, Northern Rock can recover and thrive as a success story for public ownership where private ownership has failed; giving a poke in the eye to the big business and free market rogues that caused the current banking crisis.
An expanded base of solid savings assets and new investments should mean that Northern Rock is eventually able to repay the £55 billion in government loans and guarantees - with interest - and start returning a profit.
Contrary to the government's plans to return a revived, robust Northern Rock to private ownership, the bank should not be handed back to the private sector that caused its ruination. Why should private capital gain from a government/public rescue? If the state and individual savers help succeed in making the bank profitable again, the public should share in the future profits.
Northern Rock should remain permanently in public ownership and should branch out into ethical investment. It could, for example, adjust its investment strategies and carve out a niche market as the high street's leading green and ethical bank.
The Northern Rock saga is not just about the fate of one bank. It is the new frontline in the battle between public versus private ownership, control and accountability.
For the left, greens, liberals and all progressives the nationalisation of Northern Rock cannot be allowed to fail; that would be another defeat for public ownership. Northern Rock must succeed to demonstrate that public ownership can work where free market capitalism has failed.
With high interest rates and 100% government protection for savings, Northern Rock is one of the safest and most profitable places for savers to deposit their money.
Current rates of interest are some of the best offered by any bank - 6.49% for an instant access tracker online account, 6.45% for a one year fixed rate bond and 6.10% for a one year fixed rate mini-cash ISA.
Ethical banking is best. But for savers who have not got an ethical savings account, Northern Rock is a better home for their savings than the privately owned banks.
I have no sympathy for the big hedge funds who speculated on Northern Rock's future. But if the bank is revived, smaller shareholders should get some reasonable compensation.
The government's current plan for minimal compensation to shareholders is, apart from being ethically dubious, politically risky. Chancellor Alistair Darling doesn't seem to realise that if the Northern Rock's 100,000 small investors don't get reasonable compensation they could be Labour's undoing at the next general election. Let's not forget that a mere 15,000 swing voters in key marginals gave Labour its majority of seats at the last election.
The small shareholders anger may be unjustified (after all most of them got their shares for free when Northern Rock demutualised) but can the government afford to ignore their wrath? At what electoral price?
Whoops! Northern Rock could yet end up rocking Labour to its knees.
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