BIRMINGHAM (Reuters) - Shadow Chancellor George Osborne warned bankers on Monday that they will have to pay their share of any financial bailouts under a future Conservative government.
“I will not tax the family earning 20,000 pounds to carry on paying the bonuses of the banker earning 2 million pounds,” he told the Conservative conference in Birmingham.
His speech came shortly after the government announced it was nationalising mortgage bank Bradford and Bingley, the latest victim of the global credit crunch.
Osborne has been a consistent critic of the government’s rescue of Northern Rock in February, saying the taxpayer was paying too high a price for the errors of financiers.
He said there had been “terrible failures of regulation.”
In a message designed to assure voters that the Conservatives would not be soft on the City, Osborne said bankers who take risks must also bear the cost.
“If you pay yourself sums far beyond what anyone else in any other walk of life does, then be prepared to lose it when you make mistakes,” he said to applause.
The Conservatives’ once commanding lead over Labour has halved over recent days as Prime Minister Gordon Brown recovers some measure of voter support after Labour’s Manchester conference last week.
Osborne and party leader David Cameron are keen to shake off Brown’s accusation that they are “novices,” too inexperienced to handle the banking crisis.
Osborne tempered his criticism of the City by promising not to indulge in “knee-jerk attacks” on the financial industry, saying he recognised the prosperity it had brought.
“We know that the industry employs people not only in hedge funds in Mayfair, but bank branches in Mansfield and call centres in Manchester.”
On Sunday, Cameron and Osborne unveiled their plan to tackle the crisis, accusing Brown of presiding over a debt-fuelled boom that has turned to bust.
They said they would bind themselves to strict deficit reduction rules if they returned to power after 11 years and give the Bank of England greater powers to monitor debt.
Brown does not have to call an election until 2010.
Editing by Steve Addison