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‘New online comedy series about George Osborne,’ I said to two briefcase clutching gents as I handed them a flyer outside the Treasury. ‘Ha, yes, we need that at the moment,’ replied one. ‘Just watch parliament TV, that’s a comedy featuring George Osborne,’ said his friend ruefully as the pair hurried up the stone steps.
Quite. But perhaps these two civil servants took a little light relief in ‘The Real George Osborne’ (http://therealgeorgeosborne.com/). The series stars Rufus Jones, who recently played Monty Python’s Terry Jones in the BBC film Holy Flying Circus. Jones’s Chancellor takes street-dancing lessons, struggles with fad diets, and broadcasts Westminster secrets on his webcam after over indulging at the Bankers’ Ball.
With the help of his long-suffering adviser Vicki, George attempts to win popularity and usurp Boris Johnson as ‘the most recognised Tory’. He is torn between wanting to be seen by the public to ‘do good things’ such as regulating financial speculation on food prices, and wanting to appease his banker pal Nat (starring in today’s episode, played by Will Smith) by leaving the banks unregulated and free to carry on reaping billions of pounds from speculation.
The series, made by the World Development Movement and Hoot Comedy, draws attention to the role of investment banks and hedge funds in driving up global food prices through financial speculation. Our research shows how a dramatic rise in speculation in commodity markets has driven food prices up, and increased volatility, resulting in sharp spikes in the cost of staple foods like wheat and maize. In the last six months of 2010 alone, rising food prices pushed an extra 44 million people into extreme poverty.
Today’s episode, in which Nat threatens to withdraw his support for George’s political career unless the Chancellor abandons the idea of curbing food speculation, highlights the power of the financial lobby. The European Commission announced its proposals for regulation in October, and the coming months will see a series of debates, votes, and plenty of horse trading before the rules are put into force. But the UK Treasury, with its ear to the City of London’s lobbyists, has so far trenchantly opposed effective regulation.
The US has already moved to regulate food speculation through the Dodd Frank Act, passed last year – though Wall Street, like the City, is doing all it can to prevent the rules coming into effect. Strong regulation in Europe is essential to winning the battle on both sides of the Atlantic, since the absence of controls in Europe could see speculation simply shifting into the least regulated market.
Our campaign aims to put pressure on George Osborne to back regulation in the European Parliament to curb excessive speculation and prevent it from destabilising food prices.
It is not known whether the Chancellor has watched his alter-ego’s screen antics, and if so whether he has taken heed of The Real George’s public relations tips. But with 26,000 views so far, the series has certainly raised the profile of food speculation, and of Osborne’s role in allowing it to continue. George, we’re watching you.