Simon English: Don't be scared of overpaid bankers.If they threaten to leave, just let them
Thursday 02 February 2012
Outlook: Here's how we are supposed to think. When they gave Fred Goodwin a knighthood for services to banking, we were to be impressed. What a fine fellow he must be. Now they've taken it away, we are to disapprove of him more than we already did and praise MPs for taking bold action.
Here's how most people who have ever met him (trust me on this) actually think. That he was bad news before and that he still is, albeit with considerably reduced power for causing mischief.
For the Tory party, Goodwin remains a gift. Massively discredited and unlikely to ever get a serious job again, they can give the impression they are serious about reform by kicking the man who's already down.
If he serves as a distraction from an economy on the brink of recession, that's ok, too.
Cameron and co will miss him when he is gone.
Never mind the knighthood, a meaningful course of action would have been to have grabbed back at least some of Goodwin's fabulous pension as small punishment for the pain he's inflicted on the rest of us.
This would have taken some balls and there's no particular evidence that the government has any.
It might have involved a court case, one it could have lost, and it would have scared other business people.
Its attitude, like Labour's, has been one of fear of and relentless respect for top business folk. We don't really understand what they do, seems to be the stance, but we're terrified at getting on the wrong side of them.
At almost every stage, the government's dubious position on RBS has been that it has no power to intervene in contracts and deals arranged by the previous lot.
It would be terrible if the Prime Minister didn't actually run the country, but the good news is that he does. He can interfere almost wherever he sees fit, which is not the same as saying that he always should.
What Bob Diamond at Barclays gets paid this year isn't really David Cameron's business, and there's a very strong argument that it should not be. Nevertheless, if he were minded to denounce Barclays in the House it's highly likely there'd be movement.
Forget Fred, he's history. The problem with still-in-work bankers remains that they are absurdly overpaid. For the most part, they don't create wealth, they just shift it in their own direction.
Because of their political power and the nature of their business -- being that close to money makes it easier to grab some -- they have managed to secure entrepreneurial rewards for managerial jobs.
If Cameron wanted to chime with the public mood and secure his storming re-election, all he would have to do is to direct the next whining banker that threatens to leave the country to Heathrow and tell him good riddance. You're nothing like as valuable as you still laughably seem to imagine. Watch how we cope without you, he could say.
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