Protestors who launched the Occupy movement last year have “touched a moral nerve” and are “right”, according to senior Bank of England executive Andrew Haldane. In a speech this week to an Occupy Economics event in central London, Haldane – who heads up the central bank’s financial stability team – said: “Occupy’s voice has been both loud and persuasive … policymakers have listened and are acting in ways that will close those fault lines.”
To those who think that very little progress has been made on correcting weaknesses in the financial system, he had these words of encouragement: “I want to argue that we are in the early stages of a reformation of finance – a reformation which Occupy has helped to stir.”
Haldane’s thoughts have come at an important time for Occupy, which has come under fire for lacking suggestions as to how the current banking infrastructure could be replaced. At the same time, public fears have grown over the slow pace of change since the financial crisis of 2008.
While Haldane may have played to the crowd, given the nature of his audience, his words had a much further reach than many had expected – particularly his rallying call for campaigners to continue with their protests.
Occupy spokesman Ronan McNern reacted cautiously to the speech, arguing that “there is a long way to go”, and that banking reform was “only part of the problem”. In McNern’s view, “it’s a system-wide issue where certain people are profiting off other people.” While the City bonus culture remains in place – and there has still been no equivalent of the Glass-Steagall Act brought in to separate commercial and investment banking – McNern is perhaps wise to be wary. However, there is no doubt that having such a high-profile sympathiser will provide a welcome boost to Occupy supporters.