Cyclists are dying and we need to act, and fast

A few years ago, I posted about the dangers of various forms of transport, cycling included. We’re in the midsts of a cycling meltdown, and in the interim, I’ve had an accident and broken my leg (though not as a result of another vehicle).

I’m about to get back on my bike, while everyone around me fears for my safety, and is trying to persuade me otherwise. Just as I’m about to do so, we have death after death, and I’ve decided I need to voice myself and my opinion. You’re not reading this because you thought I’d just say a few things and bugger off, did you?

Firstly, the deaths appear to have been (and I wasn’t there, so I can’t be certain) caused as a result of large vehicles and their blind spots. So lets dissect that a little, and see where we end up.

Should the lorries have seen the cyclists? Possibly, it’s hard to tell. That said, lorries should all (and I think most do now) have large additional blindspot mirrors. I certainly notice them riding around London on my scooter. I don’t see so many on busses, but I may be mistaken there too. That will dramatically reduce the likelihood, as long as the driver bothers to look, of there being a cyclist.

Of the cyclists; my friends are probably tired of me repeating ad infinitum that cyclists:

  1. shouldn’t jump red lights
  2. shouldn’t ride on the inside of vehicles, particularly large ones
  3. should pay more attention to the intentions of other road users

Some cyclists are great, whilst others are a menace, and that goes for all road users. I won’t turn a corner on my scooter without physically looking to the side I’m turning in case another vehicle has decided it’s safe to overtake me. I’m sure that not all road users are as diligent. On both sides of this particular argument, I might add.

How do we fix it? Once again, I think anyone taking a test in a motor vehicle should have to spend time on two wheels to physically demonstrate how vulnerable those people are. It makes a huge difference to the way you drive having been in the position of having vehicles turn in on you, cut you up and various other almost disastrous manoeuvres.

On the flip side, cyclists need better educating. I’m repeating again, but don’t jump red lights and don’t undertake large vehicles at junctions. I’m finding it really hard to find a single source of blame here, and I think the Mayor of London is right to expect that all road users abide by the rules of the road. It’s there for a reason, and if it wasn’t, imagine how many cars would have piled up at that very roundabout otherwise.

I’ve been cycling on the road now for 20 years, have a cycling proficiency under my belt since I started, and now have a UK car licence and motorcycle licence to add to that. I’m hopefully soon to have a UK private pilots licence too, so you might call me a licence whore, but I truly believe that they’re there for our own good and our own safety, and they should be repeated over time.

So to anyone thinking about blaming one side of this debate, don’t. It’s everyone’s fault. If you’re a cyclist reading this, and you jump red lights, then shame on you. Even if you’re one of my closest friends. I’d rather you didn’t, and I’d rather you stayed alive. If you’re a car, van, bus or lorry driver, I strongly suggest you spend a day on the roads on your bike. See how you feel afterwards about drivers that don’t indicate or look before turning or changing lanes. You’ll see exactly what I mean. If you’re too scared, good. You bloody well should be.

A nation divided and united by a single Lady, and the uneducated many

It is in the passing away of Baroness Thatcher that we are able to recall both the positives and negatives of her political career, both in parliament and as a direct influence on decisions made by leaders the world over. No one, not even those vehemently against her policies, can deny the strength of character of the first and to date only woman who has reached the very top of British Politics – that is to say both leader of her party and the position of Prime Minister.

It’s already been said a number of times across the media how much her policies changed not only the UK, but also the world at large. A force to be reckoned with, Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister is one of the few who will go down in world history. It’s slightly abhorrent to me then that so many people under 35 don’t even know who she is. What does that say of those people? Or does it say more of those responsible for teaching them? I wonder how many teachers are so disaffected by politics today as to not have a clue about the influence on today’s world  that Margaret Thatcher had.

Possibly one of the most forceful politicians in recent times, including those presently in government in spite of the great task laid before them, she had the force of character to follow through with her decisions and ideas regardless. In my personal view you sometimes have to stick to your guns, even if you end up making the wrong choice – at least you are accountable to that decision. Present and past governments the world over would do well to learn that lesson. That said, true power comes from also knowing when to step back, a lesson the Iron Lady learnt a little too late having abolished free milk in schools. My own father wasn’t affected by the change, and neither was I, having been schooled either side of the event and not through it, but there are plenty of people who would have seen their milk taken from them, and their parents would have been opinionated in one way or another about the change. Her principles were simply that if something could be funded elsewhere, then it should be, and that government should not be responsible for individuals and their actions. To some extent, I agree with that mentality, though there are times when a hard-line approach is a little harsh.

What am I trying to get across? We’ve spent the last day both celebrating the life and death, as well as praising and vilifying a woman who, fundamentally, was doing the best she knew she could for the country whilst raising a family. We should see her as the mother the nation desperately needed at the time.

Politicians, listen up. Your time has come.

Last night, whilst at a performance by the Barefoot Doctor, and completely unrelated to it, though I was in a fairly open-minded mood, I had a bit of a revelation. And as my revelations go, this one’s a bit of a big one.

The problem is clear

Politicians, and by proxy, central Government, decides what they want to do and when they want to do it. Each political party has an agenda, and each one ends up doing and undoing things that have been done by those in power back through the ages. The problem with this is that we, as the electorate, have “democratically” elected a dictatorship for a government term. I’m not here to talk about any of the various voting structures. I’ve come to realise it’s not a party problem. It’s bigger than that, and it goes deeper into the fabric of what politics means in this country to the population at large.

Why no one has done anything about it is clear too – it’s such a big move, and it disassociates so much of central government in its current guise that it would mean a complete paradigm shift in the way politics is done in this country, and even possibly Europe and the World. I’m discounting that as a valid reason. Government, be it local or central, has a duty to us as citizens of this country to do right by us at all times, and to govern the country (I will come back to the specific terminology of the word ‘govern’ later) fairly. If it, or the people within it, are doing things to satisfy their own egos, agendas and for want of a better word, fantasies, then they are not fit for duty to serve us.

This leads me nicely to the electorate. If you look at voting stats every time there is a poll, or a local, by- or general election, what effectively amounts to a tiny proportion of the voting public cast a vote of any kind. Why? Any number of reasons, excuses, whatever you want to call them. Fundamentally these people are disaffected. They feel that whatever happens in Government will happen anyway, whether they vote or not, and they feel that most of what they’re told is a load of old cobblers. In truth, it usually is. Of course, there are more honest politicians and less honest ones, but as a whole, our Government is so tied up in lies it’s almost impossible to see out of the knotted maze.

In a knotted world, political solutions come with high prices

So this got me thinking. People don’t vote because they don’t think it matters and in truth it probably doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a say, and it doesn’t mean that the elected government has authority to act on our behalf without first consulting us, which they do on a regular basis. Let us boil this down to the basics needs:

  • I want to discuss things that affect me and those close to me
  • I want someone to explain to me why things I might not consider to affect me do, and what impact certain choices might have
  • I want people to be honest when they don’t know the outcome and to say so
  • I want decisions that affect me to reflect my actual needs, not those perceived by others

I can’t say I speak for everyone – I really don’t know if I do or not – but I do know that these particular truths I hold close to my chest. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Let’s see.

I do have a solution to how this can possibly happen, and it uses technology where technology is at its best – facilitating things we are doing or would like to do in a manner that makes it simple and straight forward to solve potentially big problems. We are a rather social population. We seem to love talking to our friends, colleagues and acquaintances. And for some reason we seem to like doing this on the Internet on sites like Facebook. There is our starting point. Allow people to socially discuss things that matter to them in a way that actually makes it up to the powers that be and get actioned on based on the discussion that happens. This will likely involve heated debate and people disagreeing, but if the premise is to impact on a particular issue at hand, I’m certain it will do better with widespread debate and be less fallible than if it were just debated in the Commons.

The bigger picture takes this a step further. Government should do just that – govern, not dictate. That means it should act as the checks and balances, and allow governance to happen on a much more local level. For instance, a change made in central government is going to affect people in large houses in leafy Surrey differently to those who have just lost their jobs in a mining town in the north. This debate would allow people to discuss local issues effectively, to understand the impact it might, or will, have on their surroundings and on what they know, and engage the population with what ultimately is their politics, again reverting to the truest sense of the word – a means by which decisions are made collectively.

As a truly democratic nation, the important things to the electorate, not the elected, are the things that should be dealt with. Should we have bailed out the banks rather than let them crumble and fail as we would other businesses? Personally I think no, but that’s my opinion, and I’d love to have a debate on it at a national and local level to come up with a solution that probably hasn’t been thought of yet. Technology is today allowing us to converse with our friends and even those we don’t know extremely easily. We can harness that connectivity and it can allow us to yank back power, kicking and screaming, from those who call politics a black art.

Who’s with me? This is going to be painful. It’s going to take a while. But if we put the building blocks in place, we can change not only the face of politics, but the mesh that holds it together too.

Gaddafi dead. The Euro nearly dead. Will any of it matter to each of us individually?

It’s been an interesting few months. We’ve killed some tyrants, some terrorists, and we’ve discovered that some of the “stronger” members of our esteemed single European Currency aren’t as strong as they first appeared. What does it all mean though? Will it affect you or me? Will your money be worthless soon? Simple answer, probably not a lot to the individual, and not much in the short term. The longer term is interesting, and a rather awkward looking place though.

So first the politics, followed by a bit of economic opinion. The tyrants, terrorists, or whatever you want to call those people who we have deemed to cause atrocities to humanity either at home or abroad, have in some part been removed. I do question what right we had to go in and hunt down Gaddafi. Equally, did we need to spend 11 years hunting down a man by wrecking the country in which we believed him to be along with a bunch of others in its vicinity? Or could we have actually used the technology we’ve developed, and the skill that we have in our “allied” armed forces (I use the term “ally” loosely – allies in my opinion are like the best of friends; you share everything that you know). Overseas, the fall of Gaddafi will have a profound impact on North Africa, especially since it has happened whilst the region as a whole has been engaged in rebellion. It will be seen as the start of a new era, but it will take some years for the effects to ripple down to the poorest and most affected by the outgoing regime. It will become a democracy, because we in the West dictate (ironically) that it should do so. Most importantly, things will improve for people in the region, as things have reportedly started to improve in both Afghanistan and Iraq – I don’t speak from experience as I’ve not been, and can only rely on what I read across a breadth of media outlets. If you’re reading from the region and you think differently, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next comes our relationship with the Euro. And why does it affect us? It doesn’t, directly. We’re not a Euro zone member, though we are part of the greater European Community. The reason the UK is affected is through existing money plied in to the effort to stem the tide of inflation, and to increase flow of money from banks to business – we have a large amount invested in the Irish recovery, and the Irish are part of the Euro zone. That means that we now have a vested interest in keeping the Euro afloat. It certainly won’t be easy. Greece lied about it’s financial stability when it joined the Euro. Italy is (or was, but the aftermath is a long and winding road) corrupt to the point its economic status was completely falsified. Supposedly as strong as Germany, we have recently found that to be somewhat less realistic than even the worst case scenario we’d previously envisaged. So what happens if the Euro doesn’t collapse, and what happens if it does, and what does that actually mean for us?

We’ve historically seen individual economies collapse under the strain of their own currency. Italy itself, with the old Lira, Germany and Turkey in the past, as well as the Yugoslav Dinar have all seen hyperinflation and subsequent collapse. That’s just in Europe, and Chile, Zimbabwe, Argentina amongst others have seen similar collapse outside. In my opinion, a single currency across such a diverse set of economies was never going to work without somehow first bringing incoming economies to similar levels of stability. Currency only works when there is something to compare it to, or we’re back to bartering (which might be a better option). It’ll be years before the likes of you or I see the ripple effect of the eventual demise of the Euro. Governments will first feel the strain as each one tries to minimise the effect on its populace, and each will in some way fail. Greece and Italy are unfortunate, but they’re almost collateral in the bid to resolve the problem. They’ll found new economies and will either become strong or not. Germany is one of the strongest economies in Europe, and has previously seen two world wars demolish it along with a complete failure of its currency.

The media often portray a picture that few of us understand in a way that makes us think that the world is about to end. It isn’t. We’ll bounce back. We have before, we will again, and the fallout will undoubtedly serve to teach lessons the world over. In trying to emulate the USA and the Dollar, Europe has failed, but it has failed because it started from a complex economic structure in the first place. America founded the dollar very early in its constitutional history and has become a force to be reckoned with. Britain has been shot across its bows, and while mildly burnt, people here won’t feel the pain anywhere near as much as those within the zone. Likewise with the political side – it won’t affect any one of us directly. The greater good has supposedly been achieved, but we’ll see what that really means in time to come.

The whole General Election 2010 shambles

People being stopped from voting because it was once decreed that a vote could not take place after 10pm? What is that all about? Polling stations not having enough ballot papers despite knowing precisely how many polling cards were sent out in their constituencies. Paper lists that hadn’t been updated?

Something tells me we’re doing something wrong. Something also tells me we should scrap the results from this election and have another vote next week, allowing all those people who couldn’t vote the chance to have their say. After all, how democratic is it to disallow a large segment of the voting public from their right to vote?

Regarding doing something wrong: in this digital age, where we have all kinds of technology available to confirm the identity of an individual, and the Internet being prevalent everywhere we go, why are we still using paper ballots? Why are we not using a computerised system that can give us the vote as soon as everyone has voted?

You have a staff problem – not enough of them and they don’t really want to be there. You have a logistics problem – what happens if you get a deluge of people flooding in as happened last night. What if they all decide to do it after work? It happened 30 years ago, and our servants (yes, that’s what you are – nothing but, and damned well remember it!) have become complacent with the low voting turnouts that Labour seems to have encouraged since.

Frankly, I’m a bit fed up of all of this. Quite apart from the fact that the voting system is entirely rigged to a two party system, and the Tories and Labour are entirely happy with this arrangement, it feels like we’re just on a downward spiral. Do politicians really care about what we’re asking for – do they even listen when we speak? Or do they, as I believe, just have their own agenda to satisfy (Gordon Brown and “being Prime Minister” anyone?) and more fool anyone who gets in their way.

At some time, we as the general public have to take stock of the situation, and then act on it. If we don’t do something now, we’ll end up with a complete mess of a government for the next [pick a number between 1 and 100] terms. The people who are there to serve our best interests have done nothing but serve their own for far too long and it’s time for it to stop. Who’s with me?

Update: I’ve been thinking a bit more about how we could make some change happen. Rather than just call another election, which could turn out to be a bit pointless, we need to reform the voting process to use proportional representation and then call another election later this year based on this.

Most people can’t drive, so why let them?

All road users hate all other types of road users, for a whole variety of reasons, and all culminating in one vociferous one: X or Y type of road user doesn’t know how to drive/ride.

I’m a cyclist, a motorcyclist and a car driver, though I have so far refrained from doing all three simultaneously. I’ve been cycling on public roads since the age of 10, following a cycling proficiency test, and cars and motorbikes from the age of 17. I’m now 26. You might disagree, but I think that gives me a somewhat unique perspective, and therefore opinion, on the way the roads work. Not entirely unique, I admit, but the group of people who drive a car, ride a motorbike (both for pleasure and on the daily commute) and ride a push bike (road racing, mountain biking and commuting) is a small one.

So when our somewhat vocal TV chef James Martin decided to slate cyclists into the ground, I was pretty pleased that Olympic winner Brad Wiggins stepped in to spearhead his demise. However, and this is a big one, there are some cyclists who really annoy me. There are some motorcyclists and car drivers that do too. And as ever, I have a solution. Of course, it’s never going to actually happen because our cushy Government are far too up their own arses to notice anything is awry.

OK, I’m going to start with cyclists; DON’T JUMP RED LIGHTS. It’s as simple as that. Traffic lights are there for a reason, and you’ll be far more likely to be involved in an RTA, let alone be killed doing it. It annoys the hell out of me, especially given that on my pushbike I’ll catch up to you with minimal effort within 30 seconds of the lights going green. So I’ve lost nothing. I’ve obeyed the highway code, and the law, and I’ve still arrived before you. You lose. For you, I prescribe a compulsory eye test, followed by a requirement to have a cycling proficiency certificate – a licence of sorts – before you get on the road as a bare minimum. Riders who aren’t confident on the bike are also a bit of a nuisance, but you can ride round them and everyone will be OK. You’ll find that after a few sessions doing cycling proficiency, those riders will be much more confident and ride in a straight line anyway.

Now that the cyclists aren’t annoying anyone, what about the car and other more-than-two-wheel-vehicle drivers? Oh now I really have something to rant about. I’ve been in a couple of accidents involving people claiming they didn’t see me coming down the road, and one overtaking me and turning left with less than 10 feet to spare (I was doing 27mph on a pushbike at the time). Why are these people even on the road if they can’t see me? Are they blind? Or just stupid? Maybe a bit of both to be perfectly frank. My view on the matter is that they shouldn’t.

The way to kill the problem in one go is to force all drivers of all vehicles that use the public roads to retake their test and regain their licence every 10 years. That includes any theory and practical tests needed to get a licence for whatever vehicle you happen to be driving. Some vehicle licences require that anyway. Let’s bring it in for all of them. “No way” you say? Would that, per chance, be because you’d fail? I thought so. Get back in your box. Additionally to this are the drivers who have taken multiple attempts to pass, and fail until one day someone lets them off with a licence. Three strikes and you’re out. If you fail three times, that’s it. You are clearly not supposed to be on the road, so I’m not prepared to give you a licence. One final thing for this lot of people driving cars, vans and so on: you also need to do a minimum of a CBT, the minimum requirement to getting a scooter or a motorbike. No more of this 50cc on your car licence crap either. The CBT for car drivers is to make them painfully aware of everything around them. Those metal boxes on wheels hurt other people, you know. Don’t forget there is a world outside the windows of your box. I think that if we all had to do a CBT in order to pass a car test, we’d be more likely to indicate when turning and look for other road users before doing U-turns in the middle of the road, killing the oncoming motorcyclist who you didn’t see and had no inclination that you were about to do what you just did.

Motorcyclists and scooter riders: don’t think I’m letting you get off lightly either. Tests every 10 years, 3 strike system, it all applies to you too. Additionally, when you do your CBT and your instructor tells you about lane discipline, please for the sake of all things that are good in the world, LISTEN! Don’t ride where the car in front can’t see you, or weave all over the place so he never knows where you’re going to be next. Overtake on the outside, not down the cycle lane. And to the pizza delivery boy who rode down the inside of me whilst sitting in my blind spot for half a mile, you’ll get yourself killed and you’re an idiot.

The beauty of this whole plan is that it sorts out a whole bunch of issues all in one go. Britain has a requirement to reduce emissions over the coming years by an amount that isn’t in the slightest achievable. Without this, at least. We know that a ton of people won’t pass their tests under the 3 strike rule, so that immediately reduces the number of idiots on the road, as well as the emission count. Oh, and congestion. We also know that people will fail their 10-yearly tests in their droves (just because you have an old licence, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt). That removes people that can’t see because of old age, idiots, and people who just have no idea how big their cars are. Less congestion, less emissions, and less idiots. We all win! It also, as a side effect, gives public transport an opportunity to actually get where it’s going on time because there is no traffic on the roads.

So why won’t the government put into place a 3 strike system, let alone a retest every 10 years? Taxes. It’s that simple. The amount of money that the Government rakes in from sales of vehicles, road tax, insurance, road tax, speeding fines, MOTs, other fixed penalties… the list goes on… is incredulous. They’ll never put this into place, however sensible it might be, because they stand to lose billions. So instead they’ve decided along with the EU to implement a rule where every car will have to have a GPS and a phone built into every car that calls the emergency services with a location if the car has an accident. Apparently, this will cost €40bn and will save 2500 lives across Europe each year. If you consider that within 10 years GPS will no longer be active because too many of its satellites will have fallen into the atmosphere and burnt up, and that the US can’t afford to replace them, it will have cost the taxpayer £1,600,000 per person saved over 10 years. Because that makes sense, doesn’t it?! It’s OK though, because the governments of Europe aren’t paying for this. WE ARE! They have nothing to lose with this plan. I reckon it would cost next to nothing in comparison to the €40bn to implement my solution, and will save thousands more lives, if not even greater numbers, in this country alone. Roll that out across Europe and you can officially put in the record books that more people were saved through common sense than ever before…

There are some additional benefits to the casual member of the public to all this: cleaner air, less likelihood of being run over, greater levels of fitness (because those people too lazy to walk now have to, at least to the bus stop), and so on and so forth.

Good idea? I think so. Now your turn.

Update (09 Oct 2009): by sheer coincidence the BBC have just published an article in their magazine on nervous cyclists. Have a read. It goes into detail on some of the points I’ve highlighted in this article.

The UK-US “Special Relationship”

I might upset some people with my somewhat unpatriotic view of the Special Relationship that our Government says we have with America.

We seem to think that because Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Major and all who came before him, right back to Winston Churchill in 1946, have bleated on about it, that it actually means anything at all.

Lets face it. China and Israel both have a “special relationship” with the US in the same vein as ours, but for different public reasons. In actual fact, America and France have a special relationship but they don’t go on about it. France is America’s very first ally, when England was the enemy during the War of Independence. Germany has a special relationship for other reasons.

Essentially, America forges what it calls a special relationship with just about any country that can make it look bigger and better than it is without doing the hard work itself. Britain is known for its intelligence service, economic prowess and innovation. America wants in on the action because quite frankly, and as we’ve seen recently, they’re downright poor on all of these fronts.

OK, they invented the Internet – well, the ARPANet actually, the precursor to what the Internet is today. But it was a Brit, Sir Tim Berners-Lee who came up with the concept of the World Wide Web. That’s not to say some real innovation hasn’t come out of our good friends across the pond, but the big things have either been British and recognised, or from elsewhere and stolen. Yes, stolen. Alexander Graham Bell did not invent the telephone. He was the first to patent the idea, true, but there was plenty of prior art. Something the US Patent Office still hasn’t quite understood even to this day. The eletric lightbulb? A Brit named Humphrey Davy, not Thomas Edison… and so the list goes on.

On this basis, why is our Government so proud of having a Special Relationship with the USA? What benefit does it really bring to the table for us Brits? Not much really. Some dead soldiers, a war based on zero credible evidence, and McDonalds, which makes everyone fat.

So a request please of the media, and the Government of the UK: Please can you stop going on about this stupid Special Relationship. It is only harmful to us Brits, and only favours our chums a few thousand miles away. Oh, and if they ask you to go to war, it’s because they need a scape goat, not because they really want to give us credit for anything.

A Solution to the Banking Problem

A couple of weeks ago I was watching TV. It doesn’t happen all that often…honest. What prevailed was the usual 3 minutes of advertisements, and one of them was a Natwest ad. You know, the one with the little 8 year old girl who says she puts money in her piggy bank, followed by the Natwest representative telling her she should put it in the bank. For some reason, and I have no idea why, it got me thinking about the problems we’ve got ourselves into recently. By recently, I mean in the last 20 years, and by “we’ve got ourselves into”, I mean exactly that.

We’re all far too happy to accuse one person or another for the problems that face us. Is it really someone elses fault, or should we be taking some responsibility for it? I should say so. After all, it’s our money, and our decision as to where to put it. Why is that someone elses fault? Is it someone elses fault that you put all your money into Corporation X at 31p a share, and it’s now gone bankrupt and your shares are worthless? Is it someone elses fault that you backed “Riding Sunshine” in the 3.30 at Sandown at 20:1 and it fell at the last? Something tells me you’d be prepared to put that down to calculated (or not as the case may be) risk, and losing out because it’s a risky business, this gambling lark.

OK, scene set, and I think some of you will know (others will wonder) where I’m going with this. I have a solution to the problem. It’s a long shot, and is predicated on a couple of somewhat idealistic circumstances, neither of which we are currently availed of. First, that we trust the Government and second that we hadn’t already spent £400bn on bailing the banks out. So with those in mind, and thinking of this as an ideal situation, here we go:

Educating the masses

I actually had an interesting discussion with my dad at the same time as I came up with the name for this blog, telling him about this solution. The interesting thing was his disagreement with me about a key point of my argument. Unfortunately for him, he was wrong. And so are a great many other people. There are two camps: those who know what banks are and how they operate (not the deep down detail, but a good enough understanding), and those that think they do.

The banks are private or publicly listed businesses. They are there to make their owners or shareholders money. Those shareholders have invested money into their respective banks. They expect a return, though there is always a risk that they won’t get it, if the bank goes under or loses money because of decisions made by the board of directors for instance. Just as with those shareholders, when we as individuals put money into those banks, we are effectively investing in them. By putting money in to their reserves, which is what happens, they are able to loan more money based on the amount of money they have in their reserves. They then use this money to make more money, or not as the case may be. It’s a risky business. Why then are we up in arms about the fact that some of these banks have gone under? Any sensible investor doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket, but spreads his or her risk. The issue here is that those of us who have come into money rather than made it are not usually savvy investors, but mere mortals with some funds that need to be put away for a rainy day.

There is an education that’s needed. It starts on the first day of school, and continues until everyone in the country understands how the financial system works in a way that is relevant. I’m not talking about teaching a 5 year old the ins and outs of investing in securities. I’m talking about basic knowledge that is needed to make informed decisions about what to do with your money. At 5 years old, this will amount to “Do I buy the sweets or save for the toy I always wanted?”, getting more complex with age. By adulthood, we should be taking an interest in where our money is going – will the bank I put my money in be investing in securities with a high risk factor, or some other form of investment with a low risk factor. I may well then decide to invest some of my money in the more secure option, and some in the more risky option, with the benefit of higher returns. That’s my call, but I can’t complain if it doesn’t work and I lose that investment.

Like no one else can complain when the banks go under because they got greedy. They’re businesses at the end of the day. Some win, some lose. The Government sure as hell wouldn’t be bailing my business out if it was struggling, so why the banks? Because they’re intrinsic to our society. We need them to have a working economic system. That doesn’t mean I agree with them being bailed out. I fervently disagree.

Shoring up the banking system

Like I said earlier, this relies on trusting the Government. We don’t, but do we trust the banks with our money more? First and foremost, remove the Government guarantee for £50,000. Why is the Government getting involved in our investments? The responsibility for that investment lies with you, the reader and the rest of the public. If you lose it, tough. Your bad. My bad if it was my investment.

That’s not to say we don’t need some form of secure and safe banking. And that’s where the Government can provide. It’d cost a lot less than £400bn too. They already provide gilts that are guaranteed as a long term savings option. This is fine, and works well. What I’m proposing is a “current” banking system. Two choices here:

  1. A bank where the money is guaranteed, a Government run co-operative, if you like. Some small level of interest given based on the banks return on investment.
  2. A bank where the money is not only guaranteed, but it is never touched by anyone but the account holder. 0% interest, but incredibly secure.

The latter option is clearly the safest, as it doesn’t allow the Government to spend your money. This banking system would be used for day to day transactional type banking, as we do every day with our current accounts.

By creating this safety net, the Government is effectively guaranteeing only what is put into their specially created bank, rather than the money invested into the public and private banks. Now, given that most people are greedy themselves, it stands to reason that the majority of us will end up using the existing banks because they provide a much higher level of interest. However, armed with an understanding, this alleviates the need for the Government to step in and bail businesses out, and means that the existing banks will be forced to shore up and secure their investments – if they don’t, then people will just put their money in the safe option the Government provides. Force all existing banks and post offices to accept credits and debits from and to the Government bank and the Government doesn’t even need to set up a bank network, just an administrative team.

Of course, in having a secure store for your money, there is a downside. Because there is no interest paid, though your money is guaranteed, there is no protection from inflation. However, this is mitigated by having a banking structure that is far more secure than it has been in the past. The regulations should certainly be put back into place that stop banks being able to sell loans of loans, and that would further shore the banks up.

It’s all a moot point really. The Government has already spent £400bn of our money, and doing any of this now is a bit pointless. But it’s an idea. Maybe the next time it happens we can look back and see a different solution to the problem. Just how do you secure the banking system so that normal people can use it, safe in the knowledge that their money is not going to disappear any time soon. In my eyes, education, and a slight change to the way we bank now. Remember, you’ve invested in the bank the instant you put money in it. You really should know what the bank is investing that money in before you do. If you don’t, and you lose it, don’t come running.