Will they be queuing round the block in Gateshead and Heckmondwike? (Personally, I think not)

It’ll be very interesting to see where this Northern Rock story goes in the next few days – most of all, of course, to see whether there’s any sign of a run on the bank, with anxious north-eastern savers waiting in line to get their money out.

In these distrustful times, you wouldn’t bet against it.  On the radio this morning, there were so many reassuring voices that you couldn’t help thinking that the situation must be far worse than anyone has admitted.  And you also couldn’t help thinking that if Northern Rock, with its very-largely-prime mortgage book, is having such problems then there must be a load of sub-prime lenders who are in the direst of dire straits.

Still, as things stand, I calculate that there are still limits to consumers’ distrust.  Actually, it may not be a question of “still.”  In a world where we calibrate our distrust much more carefully than we used to, I think most will figure that no government with the faintest interest in being re-elected could let a couple of million customers – sorry, voters – lose their shirts in a credit crunch. 

I’d be surprised to see our cloth-capped Mackem and Geordie friends clutching their passbooks and waiting patiently outside Northern Rock branches today.   But I don’t think the reasons for that are particularly reassuring:  it just means that people’s cynicism about politicians and their motives is greater than their distrust of the financial services industry.     

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