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Monday 2 July 2012
Letters: Banking and bankers
Bankers close ranks as real people suffer
Charming Diamond Bob, with his winning, rakish grin, demonstrates his mastery of the British Way with the words "the firestorm will fade" ("Barclays chairman quits in bid to stop the bleeding", 2 July).
Ranks close, backs are watched, Old Boys stir themselves. The nods and winks spread the word: we're all in this together. Hold your nerve. It'll pass. A few scapegoat juniors are tipped into the void. A token dispensable senior is persuaded to fall on his sword.
Politicians huff and puff. They will do, we are assured, what is "right and proper". Committees will be set up. Investigations will be carried out. The long grass beckons.
What is conspicuously lacking from the public debate on the crimes of bankers is a sufficient exposure of the resulting suffering of real people: bankrupt businesses, overpayment for loans, houses repossessed, lives ruined.
Joseph Stiglitz has the answer: prosecute and jail the criminals.
Will someone with legal knowledge explain to me how it is that the manipulators of the Libor rate have not obtained a pecuniary advantage by deception? This was a chargeable offence until 2007, when the law was reformed to include this offence in the category of fraud. The change of law was to eliminate technical loopholes under which culprits might escape, but now we are told that this manipulation of Libor was not covered by the law. So much for the elimination of loopholes.
Stretford, Greater Manchester
The pillory was the traditional punishment for City misdeeds, and although it now has a slightly comic reputation it was actually a very severe punishment and sometimes fatal – stones and broken bottles were used as missiles, as well as the fabled rotten fruit and veg. Any thoughts of where to put it? None needed as to who to set up in it first.
R S Foster
Those in senior positions responsible for fraudulent action by banks should not be given the dignity of resigning; they should be dismissed as they have shown a total lack of integrity. A junior member of staff would have been so treated. Business needs honest leadership.
Woodford Green, Essex
Ministers, the Governor of the Bank of England and many others are now attacking the greedy banks. One feature often commented upon is how the banks are "too big to be allowed to fail".
Once there was a major political party that recognised the importance of the "commanding heights of the economy" and how those heights needed to be under proper state control – once known as "nationalisation". Is it not time to bite that bullet?
An inquiry may be set up to look into interbank lending. This will take a while. In the meantime, can anyone advise me of the best place to put any savings, so that they do not get into the hands of these traders and become more chips in the roulette game?
John Le Quesne
I haven't seen comments on a recent BBC Radio 4 interview with Tracey McDermott, head of enforcement at the FSA, in which she said: "There was a lot of press commentary in around 2008 commenting on the way Libor figures were fluctuating in the market and whether or not they really reflected the true cost of interbank borrowing, and that was what really piqued the interest of the FSA and indeed other regulators."
So much for "light touch" regulation. If the FSA was a competent regulator it would not wait for its interest to be "piqued" by press comment, it would be examining the banks' systems and regulating them.
Recent events have shown the irony of David Cameron making a fuss at last December's EU summit about the need "to protect the City", reportedly the reason why the UK opted out of the proposed European banking reform.
It's the people of the UK that need protecting from the immoral cesspool that is the City, not the other way round!
Martyn P Jackson
Today I received the annual accounts from my building society, the West Bromwich. The chief executive gets £488,000 a year. Does society believe that such a salary is appropriate for a fairly low-risk enterprise? A mid-ranking officer in Afghanistan receives about one-tenth of that.
David Cameron was right when he said we had a broken society. After the revelations of the behaviour of banks we all know now who broke it.
Stratford upon Avon
The euro won't be allowed to collapse easily
Dominic Lawson (Opinion, 26 June) does not appear to appreciate the determination of the political class in Europe to support the "European idea" and the European Union, whatever the difficulties may be. As the collapse of the euro would quite likely lead to the collapse of the EU they would seem likely, in the end, to do whatever is necessary to preserve both.
Further, while I agree that many of the people of Europe are almost as attached to their national identity as the British (or, at any rate, English), they are also very attached to the euro and will not vote to give it up easily. They may well, in the end, be willing to give up economic sovereignty in order to preserve this.
I could be wrong, but the collapse of the euro and EU would very likely bring to power the likes of Marine Le Pen in France and even more unpleasant people elsewhere. Is that what Dominic Lawson wants, because it is that to which his views would undoubtedly lead. Already I have read in a French regional newspaper an article which lays the blame for the present eurozone crisis on "Anglo-Saxon financial manipulations"!
I know that everything that is decided by the European Union is evil – even though a British minister is party to each decision – but at least we know it is happening. Along with a referendum on membership of the European Union, there should also be one on membership of the United States of America, which is occurring by stealth.
At a motorway service station last week I was horrified to see iced doughnut (or was it "donut"?) dispensers, and to read the accompanying notice: "Buy a box of 20 and share it with a friend." No wonder so many Brits look like Homer Simpson. Give me Europe any day.
Spain and Italy might try putting the same effort into their economies as their football.
How the RAF fought back
The long-awaited memorial to the crews of Bomber Command has started again the questioning about the morality of our bombing raids in the Second World War.
I was an eight-year-old boy in London when the Blitz started. Our windows were blown in, my headmaster was killed, and a neighbour was found sitting at her table with no head. Houses were demolished all around. The night sky was lit up by the fires in the East End. After a quieter evening we heard that "Coventry got it last night". We expected an invasion, and feared being occupied.
When, at last, we watched the evening sky full of our aeroplanes setting off on the thousand-bomber raids, we rejoiced that now the Germans were getting some of their own back. Those raids were not "terror". They were the start of the fight back. As well as demoralising our enemy they took the war to his defences and were the first steps to victory. Those crews really were heroes – a term used so often now that it has become degraded.
War turns ordinary people into destroyers, so I am very glad now that the daughter of a French friend has married a German, and that they communicate in English, flavoured with the occasional word of German and French. It only saddens me that after all that we seem set to become just an off-shore island of the European Union.
Sadly and remarkably, there has been little or no recognition of the vital role played by thousands of Commonwealth airmen who came to help save a country few had ever seen. A great opportunity to recognise their sacrifice and our debt to them, has been lost,
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
The language of music
Further to recent correspondence on learning languages, as a sometime "roadie" with symphony orchestras I recall a tour with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Turin. We didn't speak Italian and the local staff didn't speak English, but they were extremely enthusiastic about helping load the instrument truck after the concert.
The celeste, a small keyboard instrument in a heavy wheeled case, had to be positioned at the very back of the truck, but every time we turned round the locals were hauling it deep into the van, and it had to be unloaded again.
After the third time it dawned on me that the language of music is Italian, so pointing to the celeste I said firmly, "Finale!" They responded with "Ah, si. Finale" and big smiles, and the rest of the loading went like a dream. Afterwards we joined them at the bar for a piccolo birra.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
I hope the participants at the Geneva conference on Syria held on Saturday were aware of their surroundings. The discussions were carried out in the main debating chamber of the ill-fated League of Nations. It was the League of Nations which upheld the patchwork mandates created after the First World War in the Middle East, where disparate tribes were thrown together and told to behave like a nation.
Oh dear! Banks revealed to be less than honest, politicians with no thought-through ideas, the police under fire for alleged corruption and less than thorough investigations, journalists guilty of criminal acts and still under suspicion, weather that can hardly be described as "summer-like". Hopefully, team GB can do us proud at the Olympics, and lift the nation.
Theresa May wants to teach traditional history to immigrants while removing from her revised citizenship test questions on claiming social-ecurity benefits and borrowing money. So, is the Big Society about new British subjects memorising the National Anthem and knowing the plays of Shakespeare while living in a cardboard box? The "Nasty Party" returns.
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