To meet government targets in consensus building, the Sketch reports on the Treasury committee's examination of the Big Four bank chiefs in terms we can all agree with.
What a bunch of overpaid, rapacious, selfish, self-satisfied hounds interested only in their own appetites, advantage, advancement. Now we have to part company. You want to apply these terms to the bankers not the politicians.
It was supposed to be a show trial, dragging commercial wretches in to answer the charges of an outraged citizenry. Two quangos had denounced the Big Four with charges of excess profits and rip-off banking Britain.
There was a subtle Simpson's theme running through the morning. The smoothy-chops who runs Barclays gave us a line Montgomery Burns would have liked. Asked whether the banks were trying to attract younger customers said: "The net present value of a baby in the cradle is very attractive." E-e-e-xcellent!
George Mudie MP gave us his impression of Homeric stupidity and Kali Mountford played the part of the equally stupid woman who tells every public meeting: "But will somebody think of the children!" She's a natural – she doesn't have to act.
The bankers creamed them. Barclays' Matthew Barrett was asked about the £725m of excess profits they were accused of making. "I don't know what 'excessive profits' means," he said urbanely. You could feel Mudie and Mountford shiver, as if in the authentic presence of evil. He not only dared to think it, he dared to say it in public.
The bankers beat the charges without breaking a sweat. Both quangos had taken the banks' best three years to accuse them of excessive profits. The last 12 years in total halved their average profits. Their profits were normal by national and international standards. And, as Mr Barrett pointed out banks' price to earnings ratios were half the FTSE average.
The MPs had no answer for any of this. John McFall was reduced to saying: "You say we're talking a load of baloney." Er, yes? "I'd suggest you do have a problem with perception in society," he limped home.
Mr Mudie accused them of "excessive pride". "I've got a survey here which says they're not satisfied!" he expostulated.
"And I've got 50 which say they are!" Bill Dalton of HSBC said. It was hard not to believe him; it's their business, after all.
David Ruffley asked them what proportion of customers wanting to switch banks got their details transferred within the agreed five days. The answers ranged between 95 and 100 per cent. "I am astonished Mr Ruffley said, and fell silent.
Mr Mudie got into his stride. "You come here and..." was his stance. Come here and attack the Chancellor. Refuse to admit your guilt. Show complacency. Complain about the reports.
Royal Bank of Scotland's Fred Goodwin nearly got cross: "You asked us to come!" To that Mr Mudie muttered, in a voice no one more than three feet away could hear: "We ordered you to come!" That was a moment that would change your mind about politicians.
The Government has presided over a Post Office collapse and is closing three offices a day. They want to blame the banks for this and shame them into clearing up the mess. Their arguments were pitiful. The forensic abilities pathetic. Their power probably absolute.Reuse content