Margareta Pagano: Who's more tuned in, Vince Cable or George Osborne?

In the City: If the Chancellor is to keep the Business Secretary out of the charts, he has to change his tune

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has always had a taste for the limelight as his dancing skills have shown, right. Now he's heading for the music charts. His new band, Vince and the Supermarkets, more heavy metal than his usual swing, has a new single: "We're Not Out of Rehab." As lead singer, Cable hit the first notes of the tune on the Warwick University stage last Wednesday. His anthem was that while the economy is recovering, there is no room for complacency. More tartly, he also took a swipe at George Osborne for trying to take credit for the recovery rather than the hard-work of the British people.

Vince's singing was backed by a strong downbeat bass line from Dalton Philips, the boss of WM Morrison, after his supermarkets group, the UK's fourth biggest, reported falling sales as customers fled to discount stores. Worse still, Philips says the economic outlook remains tough for customers as inflation outstrips wages and warned that a third of them are "one pay cheque away from bankruptcy". Morrisons has 10 million customers each week so that's a scary number of people on the bread-line.

Lifting the pace was Terry Duddy on lead guitar. The chief executive of Home Retail, owners of Homebase and Argos, stunned the audience with a great set of results – particularly good at Homebase because of soaring barbecue and garden furniture sales. But Duddy upset the tempo by admitting higher sales were only due to the heat-wave and nothing to do with economic policy: "Cameron didn't do it. Those big macro-economic factors haven't fed through to consumers yet – if anything, disposable income is less than it was last month."

Picking up Duddy's sombre beat was Asda's boss, Andy Clarke on drums. His beat was loud and clear; he says the nation remains gripped in austerity. Clarke warns worse is to come; a report commissioned for Asda by the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts spending will rise by £4,000 a year on essentials like food, petrol, rent and utility bills in five years time. With inflation rising faster than wages, and wages already being squeezed, disposable income will fall for most people for years to come; worst-off will be the under-thirties.

The Chancellor knows the melody; indeed, he admits that rising living costs are a problem and that something must be done. Yet there is no evidence to show that either he or the coalition – or Labour for that matter – understand how they should be getting to grips with roaring energy prices, unlocking an uncompetitive banking sector, rocketing train fares, stamp duty, fuel prices, controlling a housing bubble, and of course rising food prices. In many cases, the coalition's policies have made living costs higher with hikes in house-buying taxes, green subsidies to the energy companies which have pushed up utility prices and subsidising parents for child-care, to name a few.

If Osborne wants to keep Vince's song out of the charts, he must change his tune and come up with a better rhythm; take the poorest out of National Insurance, push through banking portability, more personal tax cuts, reconsider tightening the second part of the Help to Buy scheme, build more homes and encourage business to invest more in infrastructure and stop QE. He must get a new song to go with the new haircut; "It's Never Too Late" could yet be a hit.

Lehman's anniversary

If you landed back on earth today after a five-year space trip and were told you'd missed the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the world's biggest corporate bankruptcy which triggered the world's greatest financial crash, you would be forgiven for asking what's changed. Banks are bigger than ever, the shadow banking system is ballooning, the politicians and regulators are still in thrall to bankers and the banks can still take deposits alongside their investment activities.

Our space-travellers would be right in asking one question. Why is it that supposedly bright people turn dangerous when running big banking institutions? Are they narcissists? Is it the financial rewards?

Who knows, but it's worth watching The Banking Brain, a film by Suzanne Smith, a former World Bank economist, to find out more about bankers' extraordinary behaviour. If there is another banking collapse, it will be the taxpayer who stumps up, again. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent