Simon English: It's about time we called the bankers' bluff

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The Independent Online

Outlook You don't have to agree with any aspect of The Spectator's politics to find it an entertaining read.

It's funny, forthright, and sparkily written.

But when it comes to banking, unless the author is the estimable Martin Vander Weyer, you can bet it will make a hash of it.

The lead editorial in last week's issue (headed Bank withdrawals) is pretty typical.

The approach is the usual one: to assume banking is an entrepreneurial field and that being anti-bank is the same as being anti-business.

Banking is not business. It's just banking. It is perfectly possible to revere one and find the other dysfunctional.

A man that starts a business from scratch, deals with the endless frustrations that follow and turns his venture into a company that he sells for £100m is to be admired.

There is no correlation between this man and a bank chief executive.

Worrying far too much, the magazine reports: "Executives at the very top of Barclays are beginning to wonder whether any bank should base itself in Britain." They are not. It is a game they play, a bluff we should start calling. They all do it.

Deutsche Bank sometimes threatens to leave Germany. JPMorgan hints it might decamp from America. Where do these guys imagine they are heading? Do they pass each other at the airport with a confused look on their faces? Where the hell are you going? Can I have your parking space?

Few places are friendlier to bankers than London. And if you think moving house is a pain, try moving a bank for a marginal tax benefit. Banks don't move jurisdiction very often, especially since they tend to need a government bailout every once in a while. And there are many many good reasons for being based in London aside from the prevailing tax rate, not least that everyone else is.

s.english@independent.co.uk

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