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London Should Love Its Bankers

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Do the British have a death wish? You’d be forgiven for thinking so the way so many of them seem to want to cripple the most dynamic part of their own economy. What is the world’s largest market for dollars? London. Where does the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange go when it wants to buy or sell billions of US Treasury bonds? London. Which sector of the economy delivers £12 out of every £100 in tax to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? London’s financial centre.

Its accumulated skills, its light touch regulation, its openness to competition – these have made London the envy of the world, the magnet for all the smartest financiers: they have turned London into the most exciting city to live in on the planet. Of course there have been scandals – what do you expect in the world’s most competitive market place? Yet instead of lauding London’s banks for their achievement in outclassing all their rivals, we seem interested only in penalising them and letting New York or Frankfurt steal the show. Stop it. Learn to love London’s bankers.

That’s the line being sold by those who love the City. But when you start allocating blame for the financial crisis, when you think that it was deals done in London that led to the downfall of Lehman Brothers, AIG and Bear Stearns; when you consider the bonus culture, the Libor scandal, the money-laundering of Mexican drug money – can you really buy it?

In this debate from October 2012, the motion was proposed by Chairman of Espirito Santo Investment Bank in London Anthony Fry, former MD of Goldman Sachs and former adviser to PM Gordon Brown Jennifer Moses, and writer and columnist on banking and financial markets William Wright.

Opposing the motion were economics leader writer for the Guardian Aditya Chakrabortty, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and associate editor at OpenDemocracy Tony Curzon Price.

The debate was chaired by the The Economist's international section editor, Edward Lucas.

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