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The Labour party would have found an ally in Attwood

December 27, 2017

Dr Geoffrey Ingham recently wrote in the Financial Times (Letters):

“The early 19th century member of parliament, proto-Keynesian and pro-industry Birmingham banker Thomas Attwood must be cheering from his grave at the Labour party’s proposal to move most of the Bank of England to Birmingham “to shake up more than three centuries of association between the Old Lady and the City of London”.

“In the 1820s, Attwood railed against the City and the Bank in parliament and print: “Half the circulation of the kingdom is determined in stagnant masses into what is called the money market, in order to gorge the moneyed interest.” Rather, he advocated that “the use of credit should be expanded until the demand for labour, in all the great departments of industry, becomes permanently greater than its supply”.

“The prime minister, Lord Melbourne, summarily dismissed his impudence: “Birmingham is not England.”

“If Labour’s fantasy is to be pursued perhaps they might also look at the part played by the Treasury in the fate of the Wilson-Brown industrial strategy in the 1960s. Attwood was again prescient:

“The Bank of England is a grand political engine . . . by means of which the Treasury may pinch and grind the country as they please.”

“In Yes, Prime Minister, the PM Jim Hacker sent shivers through Sir Humphrey Appleby with his plan to relocate the Treasury “somewhere up North”. Needless to say, Sir Humphrey prevailed.”

In an email message Geoffrey Ingham said that he came across Thomas Attwood when he was writing his book Capitalism Divided? (1984) on the deleterious effects of the City and its close links with the Bank and Treasury, on the British economy.

He added that Attwood has been very much overlooked in academic economics and history and that he broadly agrees with Attwood’s aims.

 

 

 

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