Monday, February 09, 2009

British bulldog or British pussycat?

Which is more outrageous: the banks continuing with their multi-million bonuses or the British people's lack of interest?

"Fury over £4bn bonuses at the bailed-out banks", writes the Daily Mail. Fury? Where's the fury? Can you see any?

A quick look around and it's quite apparent that, fair dues, the Express is alone in giving the scandal due coverage. Its front page goes "SCANDAL OF £1BN BANKERS' BONUSES", reporting Vince Cable's view that "This is unbelievably crass and irresponsible behaviour by people who have learned absolutely nothing and appear to have no standards of honesty whatsoever".

After digging the black hole that swallowed £37billion of our money (with plenty more on its way), and after the government bought up stakes to part-nationalise them, the banks are continuing to award themselves bonuses and act like nothing had happened.

According to the Times, "some of the worst-performing banks - notably the Royal Bank of Scotland, which last year delivered the biggest loss in British corporate history - are set to pay out close to £1 billion in bonuses". And every single day Alistair Darling warns. He announces reviews, he calls for inquiries. "The very fact that he has ordered a review suggests he has no clear idea what to do", writes Philip Johnston in the Telegraph. Last October, Gordon Brown said: "The government is bringing and end to rewards for failure". We're still waiting.

But aside from the Express, the issue doesn't appear to be given the relevance it deserves. Yes, there are columnists and financial analyses. But we're nowhere near Baby P-standards of public outrage. Which is why talks of British spirit and British bulldog are even more pathetic nowadays than they ever were. British pussycat more like.

In the US, Barack Obama stepped in quickly and decisely to cap executive pay and what he calls the "shameful" culture of bonuses. In France, where people showed their sheer anger last week with mass demonstrations, Nicolas Sarkozy announced that "there would be no 2009 bonuses at banks that have received state aid", while today French banks and the financial watchdog have agreed to cap bonuses and link them to performance in order to curb "overly-risky conduct".

In Britain the most radical act is, at best, an overpaid celebrity cretin poking fun at the Prime Minister for being "one-eyed" or, at worst, rage completely mis-directed at foreign temporary workers. That's where the famous 'British spirit of the blitz' is today.

If I was a banker I wouldn't worry in the slightest. I'd look around and see The Sun busy talking about Peaches Geldof's marriage "WRECKED BY VIRGIN" and the Mirror's revelations about Jade Goody's family feud. Then I'd conclude that the BAFTAs, or Tony Adams sacked by Portsmouth, are getting more coverage than our latest bonus-related news. And then I'd wear a big fat grin.


Madam Miaow said...

First of all, I was hoping that the recent strikes would have been referring to these bonuses and thinking up some sort of militancy to stop further flagrant looting by them up top.

Secondly. But most importantly, and I find it hard to say this without SHOUTING!!!!! ... So I'll go quiet and menacing instead.

Are you telling me that our government handed over billions to banks who got us into this mess, who were little more than betting shops, without sewing up all the conditions in the public's favour first?

You mean to say that they didn't safeguard our dosh by making them cross every T and dot every I in order to protect public funds? When we take out a financial agreement we have to jump through hoops. Why did the government not apply the same rigorous controls with the bale outs?


Oh, did I mention the recent strikes?

John Davies said...

Madam Miaow is absolutely correct.

Can you imagine applying for a loan and not disclosing to the financial institution at least some basic intent for using those funds, if not a specific accounting for them? Of course not.

If you're a bank or other financial institution that has received funds from the ill-advised £37 billion-and-growing-daily bailout, however, it's a case of "do as I say, not as I do."

What nerve! After receiving billions in bailout from the British taxpayers, banks are now unable to answer questions about how the money has been spent so far and how they intend to use the rest of it.

And we just take it.

the patriot said...

You're making the mistake of linking the colossal loss of up to £8bn that stemmed from the crazy lending and investment decisions of perhaps 500 people - with staff in general.

More than 176,000 staff across the world who've worked hard and generated valuable profits.

They feel they've earned a bonus, because they identify with their own bits of the bank, not the entire gargantuan sprawling entity.

What's more, even in this time of nasty recession in the financial services industry, the best of RBS's staff could still move elsewhere.

So the fear of the bank's board is that if it were to pay no bonuses, tens of thousands of its employees would be demotivated and all its best bankers would quit to go to rivals.

claude said...

tens of thousands of its employees would be demotivated and all its best bankers would quit to go to rivals.

Are you sure? When their "rivals" are also in such a shitty situation???

Secondly. They want bonuses? With public money? With your money, 'patriot'?

Then have a proper massive windfall tax on them.