Jake Wallis Simons Jake Wallis Simons

The Coutts scandal shows the trouble with going cashless

Credit: Getty images

The outrage over the cancelling of Nigel Farage’s bank account has uncovered the lengths to which elements of the British establishment will go to mould society in their ideological image. Those who speak out publicly in support of unfashionable causes – whether Brexit, gender self-identification, Israel or abortion – now face being cancelled not just on social media but on an institutional level as well. 

It is eerily evocative of China’s notorious ‘social credit system’, a state-sponsored credit rating and blacklist that awards greater freedoms to those citizens and businesses who behave themselves and fall in line with their rulers. There but for the grace of God?

The total digitisation of transactions means that every citizen can be tracked via their spending patterns

Questions remain, however, over just how far the banks would go to deprive their ideological opponents of their liberty. Just imagine Farage’s disenfranchisement if Coutts had been backed up by the other big financial institutions.

This all brings us on to the matter of cash. The creeping digitisation of currency accelerated during the Covid pandemic and has continued unabated, with many business now running ‘cashless’ operations. 

I no longer carry banknotes in my wallet, and on the few occasions I have paid with cash in shops, I have been greeted with bemusement. At one restaurant, the waiter needed to disappear into the back offices for 20 minutes before he emerged brandishing a saucer of change like some relic.

Given how far cash has fallen out of use, and the growing demands for it to be mothballed altogether, the Farage affair is even more concerning. The total digitisation of every transaction means that every citizen can effectively be tracked via their spending patterns. It would be impossible to leave the banks’ radar, and consequently that of government.

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