Business Sketch: No spin, but no answers on pay from tough guy Bob

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"This is the no spin zone," Bob Diamond declared, leaping around the stage that Barclays had constructed for him from which to present his first results as chief executive. Oh dear: Mr Diamond is a fan of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch's notoriously right-wing cable network. "The no spin zone," for the uninformed, is the slogan of choice for its top-rated blowhard, "culture warrior" Bill O'Reilly. If Mr Diamond didn't worry you beforehand, he should now, if O'Reilly is what he watches when he eventually gets home at night.

Mr Diamond presented a marked change in tone from previous years, when a panel of Barclays executives would sit and glower at Her Majesty's press corps from a table. He moved around the stage, jabbing his finger, and referring to slides. Oh, he played the tough guy: Barclays wants to shave £1bn from its costs and is set to swing the axe at underperforming businesses. But that's the sort of thing you might expect from any new chief executive. For the most part, though, he was upbeat, as well he might be, given that Barclays beat the City forecasts and looks in relatively rude health.

It was only towards the end that the now famous Diamond temper threatened to snap, when he was put on the spot about his earnings down the years and the bonus he will receive. Quick as a flash, his silky smooth chairman, Marcus Agius, moved in to head off a repeat of last year's tirade about how Brits should stop moaning abut pay and be properly grateful to have a bank like Barclays on their shores. "That's really a question for me and we won't be answering any questions on executive pay until we release our annual report next month," he said.

And with a debate over exactly how much Barclays paid to its investment bankers raging (their are all sorts of numbers you can pick and choose from, and they're not all good for Barclays), that's when we'll finally get the real no spin announcement about what everyone now wants to know: how much all Mr Diamond's energy is costing Barclays.