Shape Up

World Bank’s Robert Zoellick talks on a theme dear to this blogger’s heart – namely, that the political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic just are not performing and collectively are one of the main causes for the loss of confidence and market turmoil and economic malaise.

“What’s happened in the past couple of weeks is there is a convergence of some events in Europe and the United States that has led many market participants to lose confidence in economic leadership of some of the key countries,” he said.

So let’s see what happens at the summit between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel and whether they are able to lead and forge a way out of the Eurozone crisis. There is only one realistic alternative now: closer fiscal integration and a serious Eurobond system to bail out the weaker members. If that doesn’t happen, then the markets are going to starting testing with the targets again being Italy and Spain.


Pray For Rain In Absence Of Leadership

So it has taken three nights of riots and looting in London to prompt British Prime Minister David Cameron to interrupt his Tuscan vacation, get on a plane and return to a burning London. And not even the meltdown of the European stock markets, including the London Stock Exchange, has been able to encourage the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, to return to the UK from his LA summer holidays.

Economic crisis and riots have exposed the lack of leadership — a Prime Minister, a Deputy Prime Minister, a Chancellor, a Home Secretary and a London Mayor all away on vacation at the same time and determined to ensure their vacations are undisturbed. The government flacks have been eager to say that all have been in contact, that new technology means you don’t have to be on the spot. Of course, you can receive information and issues orders, but without being present you can’t really appreciate the gravity of the situation, or ensure your orders are carried out, or adapt quickly when circumstances change or be able to reassure the public that you are leading by your very presence.

The three nights of rioting in London certainly prompts the question: where are the parents? But then why should they be present and controlling their teenagers when the politicians show such disdain for their duty of care?

These London riots are reaping the whirlwind of a couple of decades of increasing amorality – from top to bottom, from bottom to top. The London rioters are not the European equivalent of Egyptian protesters or demonstrators in Tunisia or Bahrain or Yemen. This is not a “British Spring” or about democracy or risking your life for the right to dignity.

The London riots are thuggish in nature and purpose. The rioters aren’t calling for greater democracy and they are not expressing their opposition to cuts (which have not even taken effect yet). They are about selfishness and wanting a lark. They aren’t interested in democracy but grabbing for nothing a pair of trainers or a 42′ plasma TV.

And, of course, they are a subterranean expression of collective failure — failure in parenting, failure in community leadership, failure in political leadership going back years. Bankers, celebrities, football players (and their wives) have all led the way too, grabbing what they wanted without regard.

No doubt, some commentators and politicians will heap the blame on capitalism. But capitalism is about societal cooperation and discipline — it is not about lawlessness. What Britain has been living for years is just pure selfishness and the lack of discipline. And now its youngsters are just aping their parents.

Competence, too, has gone. What is the police strategy? And without leadership and effective policing all Londoners can do tonight is pray that rain comes and dampens the riots.