The Sketch: Bean counters must not count on the fact we understand their 'plight'

  • @SimonSketch

Bob Diamond, the banana who runs Barclays, must have promised himself to be as boring as possible in front of the Treasury Select Committee. He succeeded spectacularly with one lapse. His answer to all questions contained a mix and match of the following: resolution and recovery process with capital rules on the architectural changes of the integrated universal banking model going forward. It's a fridge magnet game and the winner gets £100m. Well done, Bob. All that good work went to nought with his observation that bankers should stop apologising for the crash. That met with a united response. Maybe he'll turn down his bonus.

Andrew Tyrie put the essential point: would bankers assess risk differently if they had to suffer the losses themselves? That's what makes capitalism work, after all: punishment. Loss. Fear of nakedness in the biting wind. He wondered whether it would be a useful idea to return to the older idea of unlimited liability. There is a culture of bonuses, as we know, but how that culture is shifted is, going forward, a mystery.

Afterwards, there was an Urgent Question. What was urgent about it? Alan Johnson couldn't work without knowing the answer, so he came to the House to ask the Chancellor how many beans made five. It was an economic question but the Chancellor gave a political answer. Osborne said the mess left behind by the outgoing government meant it was impossible to know how many beans five were. It was an obscenely excessive number on the one hand and offensively parsimonious on the other, depending. Depending on what? Whether you were in government or in opposition.

Bank bonuses bring out the hidden resources of Old Labour; Old Testament Labour, even.

"The scent of the Rose Garden has turned to the stench of broken promises," Alan Johnson claimed. They only use the word "stench" when the argument stinks. Dennis Skinner said the deficit was going to be repaid by students, homeless and the disabled, while the Tories drank champagne with their banking friends. Is that true? Or, better question: will people believe it?

George managed to sheet nearly every answer back to "the inherited mess". That's not as easy as it sounds. Mrs Osborne: "Do you like my new haircut?" George: "Much more than the net debt figures caused by reckless overspending and inadequate regulation of the previous government." I suppose it gets easier with practice.