Ann Pettifor

Protesting wildebeest, flamingo bankers and parents falling-out

Huffington Post by Ann Pettifor. 1st April 2009

President Obama and his wife Michele arrived in London on a sunny, but tense ‘financial fools day’. They’re staying just across the road from my apartment – at Winfield House, the Ambassador’s home in Regent’s Park. Built for heiress Barbara Hutton, it ‘oozes English country-house charm as seen through the eyes of a Hollywood set designer’ according to those snooty types at the Guardian.

My regular morning – and always peaceful – constitutional through London’s verdant greenery is now disrupted by blockaded footpaths, machine-gun-toting policemen, and buzzing helicopters. But I am not grumbling. Indeed it gives me, and millions of Londoners, a thrill to bask in the glow cast by this glamorous couple.

In the City this morning the police blocked roads, stopped any passers-by with a backpack, and clogged up side-streets with van-loads of crouching policemen. Financiers obeyed management instructions and ‘dressed down’. Gucci jeans, pink open-neck shirts and patent leather shoes made bankers as conspicuous as flamingos in a crowd of protesting wildebeest. Some were defiant. At UBS bank they plotted to photocopy 50 pound notes and shower them on demonstrators, while others were determined to drive past protesters in their shiny red Ferraris.

The police were in costume too. Darth Vader suits. Similar to those that terrorized me as I walked the peaceful streets of Seattle in November, 1999.

Later a more cheerful crowd descended on the European Climate Exchange, blocked the street and within minutes had assembled hundreds of colourful tents, and a huge banner: ‘Nature doesn’t do Bail-outs’.


And just as in Seattle, a small group of trouble makers smashed four windows at a RBS bank – just opposite the Bank of England – and newspaper headlines screamed ‘Riots rock City of London’.

But while the protesters are more or less united, G20 leaders are squabbling like parents fighting over how to constrain their petulant teenagers.

“You’re letting them spend too much” says Mummy (Merkel/Sarkozy), to indulgent Daddy (Brown/Obama).

“And anyway’ says Mummy tearfully ‘It’s all your fault. You’ve always indulged them. Spared the rod and spoiled the child. Now they’ve wrecked the house, and you’re letting them get away with murder. We have to regulate them much more tightly’.

‘No’, says Daddy, trying to sound calm, and masterful. ‘They’re doing fine. Let’s just get back to the way things were before. And if we want them to be creative and get jobs, we have to back them up with more pocket money.’

‘That’ll ruin them’ screams Mummy Merkel. ‘You never listen to me.’

‘But I do. Why do you think I am here? I have come to listen’ says Daddy Obama, softening his tone.

‘I am not fooled by your soft-soaping’ says Mummy Sarkozy. ‘Don’t touch me! You have no respect for my opinions. I am sick of you and your liberal ideas. I am walking out’.

Like children pretending they can’t hear, Londoners plug in their Ipods, snuggle deeper down into bed, and haul the covers over their heads……..


2 thoughts on “Protesting wildebeest, flamingo bankers and parents falling-out”

  1. Ann ,

    I am a fan.

    I have two of your books. I wish I had discovered them 5 years ago.

    Without the 2008 crisis ,

    I would never have discovered you and your books. This crisis seperated the adults from the children. Couldn’t tell who really knew their stuff .

    Too much noise in the economics sphere before 2008.

    Anyway, I just want to

    I met Robert Shiller in San Francisco during the AEA

    conference back in January 2009 and told him about you and your books. I hope he took my advice and check out your books.

    Anyway , I would

    like to recommend to you an expert on Japan’s crisis — Richard Koo and his book

    It is the best macroeconomic

    book I have come across so far.

    I think your expert on Japan —- Graham Turner — sounds like a fan of conspiracies.

  2. Dr L Brownstein

    In comparing Germany, France, the UK,and the US, in respect of fiscal stimuli, we may not be comparing like with like. There are a

    number of subtleties that are being glossed over in a lot of the commentary. For example, what may be an adequate additional welfare stimulus in

    Germany may be totally inadequate in the US. What I would like to see is more sophisticated reporting on news channels like Channel 4. while it is

    doing a quite creditable job, it must do better, as the situation we are in demands it.

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