Mark Steel: Still relaxed about the filthy rich?


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I'm not sure I've read it right, but is the Labour Party AGAINST bankers getting million-pound bonuses now? Maybe we all misunderstood their policy for 15 years. When Peter Mandelson said he was "intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich", he didn't mean it was all right for bankers like Stephen Hester to be offered a bonus of £963,000. He must have drawn the line at £962,000. That would be filthy rich, which is fine and relaxing, but £963,000 is taking the piss.

And when he spent weekends on the yacht of multi-billionaire Oleg Deripaska, he can't have had any idea Oleg was an obscenely wealthy businessman, and must have assumed he'd won the yacht as the star prize on Family Fortunes.

All those years when Labour leaders addressed banquets in the City with speeches that went "O beloved investment bankers, permit us to lay down meekly before your immeasurable wisdom and beg for a glimpse of the mighty hedge funds you so ably manipulate. Only those who swipe gargantuan bonuses for no discernible reason are truly men in the eyes of GOD. To suggest even for a second you should be regulated would be criminal, nay evil, a folly that would bring the apocalypse itself upon us, and we would deserve every locust that devoured us alive, for the bigger your bonus the more divine you are", that did not in any way imply that Labour was in favour of bankers earning a bonus of more than three or four pounds.

Throughout the years of Labour government, boardroom pay rose by 5,000 per cent, which was in line with the New Labour pledge to take every company director out of poverty by the year 2008. But now their pay is going up even more and that's unnecessary, so Ed Miliband has decided it's gone too far.

To see how the Labour Party despises people making themselves ridiculously rich at the expense of everyone else, you only have to look at Tony Blair's modest lifestyle, in which he's never used his status to make money for himself. Instead, he chugs along with seven houses and 45 million quid like a Franciscan bloody monk.

Luckily for the Labour Party, its sudden conversion to being appalled at banker bonuses appears to have happened the same week that the whole country announces its disgust, which I'm sure is just a coincidence and Labour is genuinely shocked and dismayed on principle.

Because how could the party have known bankers would interpret New Labour's calls to enrich themselves in a deregulated frenzy by enriching themselves in a deregulated frenzy? And how could New Labour know bankers were taking billions out of the economy every year? They didn't have time to read the papers, they were running the country.

But the Labour Party is getting there bit by bit. It's discovered Murdoch's no good, worked out bankers' bonuses aren't fair, next week it'll say, "Good Lord, have you seen what happened? Some idiot invaded Iraq."

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