And for a bonus point, this question…


Posted by in March's Magazine

I was playing ‘shops’ with my daughter the other day when it became apparent she was destined for greatness. Well I say greatness, but perhaps attaining a senior position in global finance is more accurate – not that I equate such supposedly lofty standing with achievement or success as such.

Anyway, back to the novelty sleeping bag, plastic chair and collection of trinkets on her bedroom floor/shop. She’d just charged me £87 for a small hair clip. I feigned outrage. But she was having none of it. In fact, she immediately jacked the price up to £204 – presumably as a punishment for my attempt to do down her quite blatant retail racketeering. And ‘pour discourager les autres’.

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At that point it struck me that you could barely slip a mini-statement between her whimsical self-regarding rewards culture and the near-feral avaricious narcissism that passes for banking talent in this glorious isle’s corporate realm.

In other words, the self-regarding financial elite has much in common with a four-year old girl with a seemingly fantastical understanding of ‘the market’ and how that corresponds to personal gain. I didn’t give it much thought after that because, to be honest, I’d be a shit dad if I ruined a good game of shops with a lecture about the mendacity of the central contentions of the Chicago School.

I was to re-heat the observation later, as I was scraping up the remains of my jaw after the Stephen Hester bonus was announced. The unruly mandibles were just about back in place when they yo-yoed again as some apologist for City spivvery came on and wheeled out the preposterous dessert trolley of an argument that is ‘the going rate’. I think it was Tory MP Mark Field. A.K.A a patronising toss.

I despise the going rate argument because it’s no better than my daughter’s arbitrary decision to charge me £204 for some gewgaw from a Christmas cracker. “But we need talent like him to generate value for the taxpayer, so we have to offer them an attractive compensation package,” bleat the usual suspects.

Bollocks. The taxpayer needs nurses, firemen, teachers, road-sweepers, policemen, ambulance drivers…oh, a whole bunch of people. But we don’t have to pay them telephone numbers. And besides, if restoring the bank to a position of financial stability involves slashing jobs why not bring in a – very ‘andy wiv a Stanley knife – hooligan?

On the subject of slashing, I can already hear the massed ranks of Tory trolls and amateur economists sharpening their knives to turn my leftist rant into idealistic ribbons. Carry on. If you wish to apply a convoluted logic to defend obscene inequality founded on nothing more than corrupt self-governance, go ahead. For anyone else up for an alternative, here’s my best shot at it so far – in 3 easy steps.

1. Sever the City’s ties with the UK. In every sense
Ever since the massive trump and follow-through that was the 2008 crash and subsequent credit crunch, I’ve heard The City defended as a wealth generator. But increasingly the activities of the anointed square mile appear to bear little relation to anyone else in the UK. After all, that wealth hasn’t really filtered down to say, Toxteth or Haringey or The Murray in East Kilbride (home to the Robert Owen centre – Robert Owen, now there was someone with vision.).

Even true blue MP Jessie Norman has been heard singing the praise of Edmund Burke and muttering that not all activity that generates profit is good activity in the interests of the collective whole – so we shouldn’t countenance it. Time for tough love. I suggest we uproot The City, float it off into the Channel and replace it with something better like the whole of Mull – or a giant bouncy castle. Only when it resolves to start pulling its weight will we let it return. Maybe.

2. Replace George Osborne with 2 monkeys and a Casio scientific calculator
The old adage has it that if you crammed enough monkeys and enough typewriters into a room, you’d get the works of Shakespeare. Or was it the works of Cannon and Ball? No matter. I want to refresh the experiment to challenge the chancellor’s claims to economic competence. But given his track record so far – high on smarm and finger pointing, low on objective fact and honesty – I reckon we could get away with fewer monkeys. A couple of Diana monkeys (beautiful tails, always flicking through The Wealth of Nations) and a cheap Japanese calculator should cover it. Actually maybe just the monkeys with an abacus would suffice.

3. Open the world’s first ‘hollow argument mine’ and corner the market
Forget diamonds, gold, coal, oil, copper and all the rest of that old hat (although I hear the trilby mines of Liechtenstein are going great guns). The only global commodity worth a damn these days is empty waffle. Eton play-actor Cameron is a genius at it. So instead of ruining our economy for a generation, he could use his powers for good and help Blighty corner the market in meaningless tosh. I suggest they start digging at Westminster. There’s waffle in them thar houses! ν

Colin Montgomery
Banker illustration by Philippa at philipparandles.blogspot.com 

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