Public anger over the financial crisis is wrong and must not lead Britain to “hang bankers at the end of the street,” Tony Blair says today.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the former prime minister launches a defence of the free market and liberal economic rules established by the Thatcher government.
The approach promoted by Baroness Thatcher’s government is not to blame for the recent financial and economic crisis, Mr Blair says, warning against taking vengeance on bankers and increasing State intervention in the private sector.
We must not start thinking that society will be better off “if we hang 20 bankers at the end of the street”, Mr Blair says.
Big international banks are still the focus of public and political attacks for what critics say was their role in causing the financial crisis.
Mr Blair cautions against letting that anger lead to regulations that could reverse Lady Thatcher’s work to reduce government involvement in free markets.
He says: “Don’t take 30 years of liberalisation, beginning under Mrs Thatcher, and say this is what caused the financial crisis.”
Senior figures from the main parties have suggested that the crisis and alleged wrongdoing of banks such as Barclays should lead to tougher controls on banks.
Mr Blair challenges those calls, and says: “We mustn’t go back to the State running everything.”
That remark may be seen as a warning to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, to avoid advocating Left-wing interventionist policies.
Instead of seeking to change laws and regulations, Mr Blair says that politicians must examine cultural norms. “We must regain the basic values of what society is about,” he says. “We’re not against wealth, but we are in favour of social responsibility.”
Mr Blair’s intervention is likely to prove controversial because of his commercial interests since leaving Downing Street five years ago. He is an adviser to JP Morgan, a US investment bank; Zurich, a Swiss financial firm; and has clients, including several governments, which are said to deliver an annual income of about £20 million.
In the interview, Mr Blair indicates that he is looking for a way to re-enter British public life and discusses his ambitions for taking an international political job.
“I’d like to find a form of intervening in debates,” Mr Blair says, adding that his experiences since quitting as prime minister have given him valuable insights.
Mr Blair will speak in a debate about the role of religion today.