Editor’s blog: The new Witchcraft

In The Guardian recently under the ominous headline, "Financial Management is the new Witchcraft. We need to break the spell" Hastings sounded off about the finance sector – source of the vast majority of the UK's serious wealth.

Incomprehension makes us the City's prisoners, notes Hastings. This fear and lack of understanding is similar to the power which witches held over medieval peasantry who toiled, like Baldrick, knee deep in ordure. And we all know what the public used to do to witches because as a profession they unnerved the populace so much – they were tossed onto the village bonfire.

It's all down to secrecy and clandestine operation. In Victorian times wealth creation was somehow all so much more simple. You built your dark Satanic mill below the Pennines, you drafted in hundreds of folk from the countryside to operate the machinery, (if you were of a mildly philanthropic bent then you even provided them with a roof over their head) you imported the cotton and you wove the cloth. And you made lots and lots of cash. You got a top hat and acquired a peerage. All very visibly.

The serious money is made these days in closed Mayfair rooms, according to arcane mathematical formulae that are often beyond the capability of the planet-brained Robert Peston to explain to an increasingly sceptical and bemused nation. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that – you'd be mad these days to try to get rich by setting up your plant in a Pennine Valley rather than the Pearl River Delta – but some explanation is necessary. Especially when things go pear-shaped.

We're coming back to the same issue that I highlighted in the last blog following my gloves off encounter with La Toynbee – a lack of openness. Where is anyone who works in the area of the money markets when we need to know what's gone wrong? Maybe even someone who might say, "sorry, we cocked up."

As Hastings says, "the challenge for the City of London is to convince the public that, even if its workers are extravagantly rewarded for their services, what they do benefits the rest of us; that their activities are not exclusively self-serving." If the finance industry won't stand up and explain itself then the risks are legion – not least an unwelcome return to the politics of envy.