The Tories are accused of synthetic anger over Fred's pension. I don't see anger, artificial or otherwise. They say, "It's obscene" in the same tone as they might say, "It's orange". Weary cynicism is a rational response – and perhaps the only dignified one.
Lord Myners had something to do with the Royal Bank of Scotland deal. He is the Minister for Thinking About Liaising with an Enabling Supervisory Banking Framework Gateway Committee [City minister]. In the Lords yesterday he presented a defence that no one could penetrate. Fred's pension was nothing to do with him, he said, it was a decision of the old RBS's board. "It was a matter for the directors of the bank." That firebrand Harriet repeated it in the Commons (her flame has been dowsed). You can't get past this defence, it isn't worth trying.
We know that the size of the pension was well publicised in the media before the RBS deal, we know that there were several options available, that the pension could have been halved, that the decision to let Fred have the lot was taken by one or two directors, not by the whole board.
But Myners said "not a single institutional shareholder had questioned" the decision. That rings true. Not a word against it from anyone. They're all in it together. They don't need to be dishonest. Remuneration directors remunerate. The wealthy are not whipped away from their moneypots.
Those who put their faith in regulation should see that our slippery, hand-washing regulators are useless disciplinarians. Light touch regulation works only when those who transgress are ruined. That's the deal. To let bankers run riot in good times and bail them out in bad is the worst of both worlds. But these people are of the same class. Politics, finance, administrative overlords, they are one great, self-sufficient enterprise, all equally "detached from reality" as Myners said of his banking counterparts.
In the Commons, Julian Lewis read out a story about himself from the country's "sleaziest tabloids". He was accused of something to do with his amendment, which suppresses MPs' addresses from the ballot paper. Dr Lewis was a little whiney, I fear. His amendment was nodded through without a vote. Now, thanks to Dr Lewis, MPs will be able to claim their London uncle's garage is their "main residence" and claim £22,000 a year without fear of discovery. If they are discovered they'll doubtless have their pensions doubled. Edward Leigh, his fellow Tory, spoke against it at Business Questions. But only in sorrow. Anger is pointless, for the time being.