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Occupy LSX given marching orders and with it – its message?

City of London slaps Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters camping outside St Paul’s Cathedral with eviction notices

The protesters of Occupy London Stock Exchange – or more appropriately Occupy London or Occupy St Paul's, since they were disallowed to camp within Paternoster Square, where the London Stock Exchange (LSE) HQ is housed – were served eviction notices on Wednesday evening, only one day after US police cleared the Occupy Wall Street camp.


The encampment of around 200 tents, which is next to Euromoney offices, have resided in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral since October 15.


Initially drawing in 3,000 protesters on its first day, the Occupy London group now stands as a small sea of tents with posters and various other visual paraphernalia that looks more like a music festival.


On the Occupy London website, the group’s initial statement said: 



1. The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
2. We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities, disabilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
3. We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
4. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
5. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
6. We support the strike on November 30 and the student action on the November 9, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
7. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
8. We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.
9. This is what democracy looks like.


Initially, trying to camp in the privately owned Paternoster Square, protesters moved and housed themselves outside the cathedral to make their “message known and heard”.


Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the British equivalent, though, seems to fall flat, especially as its physical presence is not next to or outside any large banks or financial institutions. The bankers they are aiming for are safely behind their desks, mainly in Canary Wharf.


Like other journalists in the industry walking around the encampment and interviewing protesters – notably the FT’s Michael Skapinker – the messages have been mixed “and have no focus” compared to the Tea Party Movement, which called for lower taxes and less government. Moreover, a distinct lack of a solution or "idealistic form of direct democracy" has been given.


Despite the initial statement (above), the raft of messages of protest have moved on to protesting against the Conservative Party or the coalition in the UK, pension rights (in some specific cases for electricians in the public sector), job cuts, the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the degradation of the NHS and even the lack of recycling.

 

While Occupy London's perceived core message still seems to be a combination of "refusing to pay for banks' crisis", "regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate" and an increase in taxes for the rich – and that does seem reasonable enough – it is not as simple as that to resolve the UK's problems.


At face value, tighter regulation on banks will, of course, ensure better supervision of the financial sector, but this also runs the risk of damaging the chance of a recovery and therefore further job losses and another recession.


Only yesterday, the UK's Office of National Statistics revealed that: 



UK unemployment rate surged to a 15-year high (8.3%) for the three months to September, from 7.9% in the three months to June. Public sector cut jobs have been scaled back as the private sector was forced to scale back job creation, following a downturn in the economy.


The risk of tightening regulation for banks through independent regulatory proposals – such as the Vickers report (the Independent Commission on Banking), which includes raising equity ratios / capital requirements and ring-fencing retail arms to minimise risky exposure – raises some significant issues.


Less risky trading equals less profit and means banks will be less likely to lend. It does not just include lending to one another and large bank funding – it will also mean a stifled lending environment for small and medium enterprises.  The banks are already facing a funding hiatus.


Other issues include a massive number of costs – Euromoney reported that changes could cost £1 billion and a complete overhaul of retail banking could be required.


In September, an Institute of International Finance report titled The cumulative impact on the global economy of changes in the financial regulatory framework, said: 



Global financial regulatory reforms will prevent economic recovery until at least 2016 as bank lending rates rise and cost jobs, while long-term net debt funding for banks will increase to $1.5 trillion by 2020

[We estimate] that banks in the leading industrial economies will require additional capital of $1.3 trillion by 2015. This could push bank lending rates up by over 3.5 percentage points on average for the next five years.

The IIF study estimates all banks’ long-term net debt funding requirements will be $816 billion by 2016, rising to $1.5 trillion by 2020, of which about $670 billion is for banks in the eurozone.


Other risks, which we have seen in tighter tax regulations for the high earners, means that businesses – not just the rich individual – will look elsewhere to reside.


Regulatory arbitrage is a real concern for many market participants and has been continually highlighted by lawyers who have spoken to Euromoney.


While the problems in the UK and the global economy run much deeper than this, the message – if there is, indeed, a core one from Occupy London – is not being met because, most probably, there is no bullet-pointed solution as the Occupy London message suggests.


It is not simply that the group's message is being ignored – it could be that the message or solution is hard to find.


- Euromoney Skew Blog

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