I am probably about to alienate a good proportion of i’s readers, old and new, but the two big stories this week about our so-called fatcat bankers have left me feeling more than a little uneasy.
I do not know Fred Goodwin or Stephen Hester, I don’t bank with RBS, I don’t hate bankers. I do feel they earn far too much for what appears often to be legitimised gambling; have a misplaced sense of importance, fund each other’s lives through non-executive directorships that ensure their club’s inflated rewards carousel keeps turning, benefit from a shameful lack of responsibility, and have too much influence over elected officials.
And yet... The lynch-mob baying for blood and subsequently rejoicing over both Hester declining his bonus and Goodwin being stripped of his knighthood leaves me distinctly uncomfortable on two fronts. I do not feel sorry for them. Money may not buy happiness, but it can buy a degree of privacy and security to help you through your dark days.
I am left far more uneasy by the baying pursuit of two men who have not done anything illegal, and also the triumphalistic manner in which both news stories were received. Both have now suffered a degree of embarrassment or financial penalty. So what? The stories do not show the Government acting on its promise to get tough with bankers. Nothing is solved. These are mere gestures. Hester doesn’t need the £963k, and Goodwin? We all surely know it’s just a silly title?
This is about the politics of envy and politicians getting easy hits in. These events do nothing to fix a system that is in dire need of overhaul. It’s just grand-standing, and we should not fall for it