Opinion

Unlike Nigel Farage, millions of people really are financially excluded – that's who the system is rigged against

Nigel Farage's cronies say his bank has financially excluded him, but they'd do well to get a real understanding of what that means

Coutts

Coutts Bank, The Strand, London. Image: Jeffrey Blackler / Alamy Stock Photo

There was a question in Parliament, at PMQs. The question came from the former business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg. It was a question about that most important of national issues: Nigel Farage’s bank account.  

Farage’s account was recently shut by the high-end bank Coutts. He claims he has documents in which the bank says his views “do not align” with their values. Farage is raging. He’s claiming all manner of dark goings on. 

He has some well-placed allies. As well as Rees-Mogg taking up parliamentary time, in the midst of a period of financial turmoil for millions of people and a potentially catastrophic environmental change, to ask a question of the PM on behalf of a pal, there was also public support from Home Secretary Suella Braverman. She tweeted about ‘sinister’ forces.

Barely a heartbeat ago, Braverman insisted the “system is rigged” against the British people. That was when Appeals Court judges ruled the plan to deport people to Rwanda was unlawful. If Braverman keeps talking in this kind of hyperbolic language she runs the risk of not being taken seriously… 

The idea of the Coutts decision showing some sort of establishment bias against Farage is laughable.  

His vocal supporters are the establishment. He is the establishment. And it’s not as if Coutts, which until recently was always prefixed as the Queen’s bank, is for those who are not part of the wealthiest or most influential in society. Ultimately, as Coutts is a private organisation it’s free to make up its own mind according to its particular rules of membership and engagement. Isn’t that freedom to operate the sort of thing Nigel Farage likes anyway? 

If senior members of government are really serious about inclusion and exclusion within the financial system, they could sit up and make that bigger noise about the millions of people really impacted. 

There are an estimated 1.5 million unbanked, or underbanked, in the UK. That’s a significant number. That immediately leads to lack of access to pretty much everything, from ability to collect benefits, and up. While a small number may be there by choice, I suggest the greater number are in more need than Nigel Farage. 

That’s not where the story ends. The number rises to seven million when you include those who are financially excluded. That means, due to circumstances beyond their control, they fall out of normal credit scoring methods, which then leads to them needing either hugely expensive credit facilities, or loan sharks, leading to greater financial stress and deepening the mire. 

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

At Big Issue, we are acutely aware of this. The frontline team help bring many vulnerable and without bank accounts into a viable system each week, helping them get set up so they can then use card-reading machines to accept payments for The Big Issue. There is a lot of background work helping them get to that point. All of this allows them greater financial freedoms. So when you buy your Big Issue and pay by card, as you can increasingly with our vendors, that contactless moment is in actuality resonant and hugely important. 

And beyond the day to day, John Bird has been working to enact more just legislation since he entered the Lords. His Credit Worthiness Bill was designed to tackle financial vulnerability and help those who were not bad credit risks from having to fall foul of bad credit lenders. His work carries on, as does that of Big Issue Invest, helping those looking to make a more even financial field to grow. 

Frequently across Big Issue platforms we work with partners like Experian to offer ready and practical financial solutions. We’ve taken this all seriously for years. 

If Rees-Mogg needs help to take a proper look at what real financial exclusion means, and how to do something about it, we’re right here. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
How the life-affirming power of the chicken helped me understand grief and loss
Catherine Swire

How the life-affirming power of the chicken helped me understand grief and loss

From neurodivergent meltdown to lucid thinking: Understanding the mind of someone with ADHD
ADHD brain
Robin Ince

From neurodivergent meltdown to lucid thinking: Understanding the mind of someone with ADHD

Prison leavers are being neglected due to lack of digital skills. It's time for change
prison
Elizabeth Anderson

Prison leavers are being neglected due to lack of digital skills. It's time for change

I fled the Taliban and crossed the Channel in a small boat. People come to England as a last resort
Habib from Afghanistan explained that people are only crossing the Channel in small boats because they're desperate
Habib

I fled the Taliban and crossed the Channel in a small boat. People come to England as a last resort

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know