UK Prime Minister David Cameron has ended his search for a new cabinet minister responsible for increasing British exports and attracting foreign investment. He will ennoble HSBC chair Stephen Green to ease his entry into government.
Green (who is not to be confused with Sir Philip Green, the billionaire retailer, recently appointed to oversee the Coalition’s upcoming spending review) is Cameron’s fifth choice. He failed to persuade Lord Davies to stay on. Davies, Gordon Brown’s ”favourite banker” filled the post during the final 18 months of Brown’s administration.
Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, Dick Oliver, chairman of BAE Systems, as well as retailer Sir Stuart Rose, outgoing chairman of Marks and Spencer also declined the role.
No doubt there have been all kinds of influences affecting the decisions of the individuals concerned, but the pressures of history have conspired to bypass even the fraudulent electoral process and place Green in the key government role pursuing the interests of capital.
Green is well-qualified for the job and has now become - without a shadow of doubt - the personification of global capital in the 21st century.
Add it all up : head of the second richest company in the world (measured by assets held), unelected member of the House of Lords, privately educated graduate of Exeter College, University of Oxford, ordained minister in the Church of England.
It is clearly Green’s “moral” status which makes him attractive to the Coalition. He has said there was a need for the banking sector to operate on a more ethical basis – i.e. a need to at least be seen to rein in the unadulterated greed of the City and the financial sector.
But just in case anyone still thinks Green is the wrong man for this exalted post, Lib-Demo business secretary Vince Cable was at hand to assure anyone worried about the unchecked influence of corporate banking on government policy. “He is one of the few to emerge with credit from the recent financial crisis, and somebody who has set out a powerful philosophy for ethical business,” Cable purred yesterday.
And sure enough, to cleanse his Christian conscience and guide a generation of newly emerging players in the global financial casino, Green some years ago penned a tract called titled Serving God Serving Mammon.
According to one reviewer, “he explored whether you can do the Lord’s work whilst also commuting to Canary Wharf every morning to do battle in the boardroom and kick ass on the trading floor.” Green’s reply to this question was: ‘Christians can serve God in the world of finance and commerce, but it is also possible to fall into the trap of serving Mammon there,’ he wrote. ‘Yet the kingdom of God can be found in the thick of the markets.’
Arguing that the financial markets are a place where temptation could be too much, it was important that Christians should be at hand to demonstrate that honesty and integrity can be seen to work. Why, he argued, should financial markets be left to non-Christians?
Karl Marx, who wrote the definitive book on the subject of Capital in the 19th century, coined the term ‘the personification of capital’, or ‘capital personified’ to characterise people occupying a certain social role. They became and are the owners of capital and represent its interests in the processes of production, distribution and exchange.
This is the true role that Green is being called upon to play – and his Christian morality will be at hand to provide a fig-leaf for the interests of British and global capital.