Slowly, slowly we progress: Nick Clegg's speech on the economy, while I was away in Estonia, was reasonably trenchant, especially in claiming the mantle of Economic Liberalism.
I think the stuff on the Banking system was very much to the point:
"The truth is, the British banking industry is cosseted and closed. It is not truly competitive.
For years it’s been almost impossible to get a new banking licence. New banks are usually just a subsidiary of existing banks.
And the Northern Rock episode has demonstrated that it’s also nearly impossible to stop being a bank.
The government and regulators are too afraid to let a bank fail.
Unless we lower the barriers to market entry and market exit, we will not have a truly competitive banking industry that can eradicate the poor service and high charges consumers currently face.
To make true competition possible without jeopardising customers, deposit protection needs to be beefed up, and widely publicised, to protect individuals’ deposits and give them confidence in the banking system.
Deposit protection should be peer-funded by the banks themselves, as in the US.
And then we need to look at making banking truly competitive again: allowing new entrants in more easily and allowing failure too.
Whatever happens, the Bank of England also needs – at a senior level – to secure greater expertise in relation to the workings of the financial markets."
This is good, and the other thing that impressed me was that the thread of the speech was very clear. He set out the key principles and then showed how policies flowed from them. The key ideas: open markets, competition, are all reflected in the specific policy agenda that he put forward.
Nick Clegg is increasingly impressive: he has a clear agenda and a clarity of thought which marks out a definate direction. At a time when Gordon Brown has broken all his golden rules, and when Cameron seems to go out of his way to obfuscate and hide whatever his political agenda actually is, such directness is particularly refreshing, I think.