By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Mexican drug cartels, terrorist organisations and now dodgy party donors. It’s a wonder HSBC had time to sell PPI insurance to us mere mortals, but they did…bless them.
Hours before today’s PMQs there were revelations about political benefactors (mainly Tories), peers and a high profile MP who held accounts in Switzerland with HSBC.
It appears the world’s local bank – for the super-rich – is an office in Zurich.
This was Ed’s chance to finally land some decisive blows on the Conservative party. The problem is, because HSBC have laundered Mexican drug money and funds for terrorist organisations, are we supposed to be shocked Zac Goldsmith, Con, has a few quid tucked away, in the land of Toblerone, Roger Federer and, er, neutrality.
So the main line of attack was whether Cameron should have brought up the issue of tax avoidance with Ex- HSBC chief Lord Green, before he gave him a peerage and the role of Minister of State for Trade and Investment.
This was the main issue of the day, with various opposition MPs posing the same question. It bore a striking resemblance to the Andy Coulson fiasco, when the PM failed to ask the ex-editor of the News of the World how things had been going at work.
Perhaps there is an innocent answer to all this though. It has recently been reported that the PM has shunned formal meetings, and instead he has a ‘chaterama’. So maybe it just slipped his mind, “I was chillaxing on the chaise longue, discussing the Lucy Beale mystery in Eastenders and just simply forgot.” I’m sure the Select Committee will understand.
Ed was resolute – not a penny of any Swiss-happy Labour donors had been on his watch (ok let’s just ignore Lord Paul whose donations to the party span 25years) and the PM was “up to his neck in it”. Lucky for Ed he is only up to his waist, but the same pungent scent wafts from both men.
The PM response to each question about Lord Green, was that Labour had welcomed his appointment, and even took him on a business jolly in 2013. We might own the beast, but you tickled his tummy, appeared to be his argument.
Lord Green has even written books about morality in banking saying that Lance Armstrong wrote books about how he won fairly.
When the argument that Labour had supported Lord Green too, didn’t work for the PM, he claimed it was all “desperate stuff, they can’t talk about economy, unemployment is falling, Ed can’t go to Scotland, annoyed women with his pink [it’s magenta] bus, business hates him and he has even offended British nuns…Labour haven’t got a prayer”. The Conservatives might be no angels, but it’s better the devil you know.
The Labours party’s new vibrant bus, designed to appeal to female voters, also seemed to annoy Karen Lumley, Con, who accused Miliband of “patronising pink [it’s magenta]) stunts,” I wonder whether she got the irony, as she asked the question with her garish purple (or it is mauve) hair.
The PM responded saying, “The wheels are falling off the bus. And surprise, surprise – it’s going to be driven by Unite!” It would be funny if they went on strike during the tour.
However, it doesn’t matter what colour the battle bus is, persuading the public to put their trust in either party seems like a war that can’t be won.
Sycophantic question of the day
Tim Yeo, Con, who compared the 1983 Conservative election landslide over a left-wing leader to the up-coming election. Cameron replied he was too young to vote in 1983, but there have been 1,000 jobs created each day he has been in power (I wonder how many UK based Swiss bank accounts had been opened in the same period)
All those other international banks with their unblemished records.