Occupy protesters were right, says Bank of England official
Andrew Haldane, a member of the Bank’s financial policy committee, said the Occupy movement was correct in its attack on the international financial system.
The Occupy movement sprang up last year and staged significant demonstrations in both the City of London and New York, protesting about the unequal distribution of wealth and the influence of the financial services industry. Members of the movement occupied the grounds of St Paul’s and remained camped there for more than three months until police evicted them in February last year.
“Occupy has been successful in its efforts to popularise the problems of the global financial system for one very simple reason; they are right,” Mr Haldane said last night. Mr Haldane, the Bank’s executive director for financial stability, was speaking to Occupy Economics, an offshoot of the Occupy movement, at an event in central London.
In a speech entitled Socially Useful Banking, he said the protesters had helped bring about a “reformation” in financial services and the way they are regulated.
Partly because of the protests, he suggested, both bank executives and policymakers were persuaded that banks must behave in a more moral way, and take greater account of inequality in wider society.
“Occupy’s voice has been both loud and persuasive and policymakers have listened and are acting,” he said. “In fact, I want to argue that we are in the early stages of a reformation of finance, a reformation which Occupy has helped stir.”
The protesters had been right about bankers’ behaviour and the consequences of extremely high salaries and bonuses in the financial sector and other industries, he said.
“I do not just mean right in a moral sense,” he added.
“It is the analytical, every bit as much as the moral, ground that Occupy has taken. For the hard-headed facts suggest that, at the heart of the global financial crisis, were — and are — problems of deep and rising inequality.”
Mr Haldane concluded by telling the activists that they had helped bring about nothing less than a new financial order.
“If I am right and a new leaf is being turned, then Occupy will have played a key role in this fledgling financial reformation,” he said.
“You have put the arguments. You have helped win the debate.”
In the text of his speech distributed by the Bank last night, Mr Haldane made no reference to the techniques employed by the Occupy protesters.
The occupation of St Paul’s last year was controversial, and led to claims that the protesters were despoiling the cathedral’s grounds.
The protest ended after the Corporation of London won a legal order allowing the activists to be evicted.
Earlier this month, members of the group marked the first anniversary of the St Paul’s protest by entering the cathedral during a service and chaining themselves to the pulpit.