Bash back against the bashers

In: Uncategorized

9 Aug 2010

This is my latest comment from Fund Strategy.

Anyone who wants to whip up cheap moral indignation has an easy way to do it. Just start screaming about the alleged iniquities of greedy bankers.

With that in mind, Martin Deeson, the editor of Square Mile, clearly has an eye for publicity. By playing to the stereotype he attracted national media attention to his magazine’s summer party in the City.

No doubt the fire-breathing dancers, burlesque performers and free champagne helped, as did the timing of the event to coincide with the bank reporting season.

Deeson milked the theme further in an interview with London’s Evening Standard newspaper: “The City has been a public hate figure, so it’s nice to give them something back. While everyone else is bashing bankers, we’re throwing a big bash for them”.

Any public relations firm with any sense would offer him a job immediately.

The predictable media indignation was based on more flimsy evidence than ever. Sky News showed revellers talking about their Porsches and Maseratis but they could easily have been joking. The interviewees were certainly laughing, caught up in the event and probably at least tipsy.

No doubt a small minority of investment bankers do earn a huge amount of money. But that is certainly not the lot of most of those who work in finance.

It is hard to get exact figures but the number of staff working in banking in Britain must run into hundreds of thousands. According to official figures, over one million people work in financial and insurance activities.

No doubt many are low paid. For example, according to media reports in 2009 the 40,000 or so junior staff at Lloyds Bank earned about £17,000 a year. On top of this amount they received a bonus of about £1,000 – just about enough to buy a 1998 Ford Focus.

In any case, the hysteria about greedy bankers is not, in reality, aimed specifically at the ultra-rich or even the financial sector in general. It should be seen as an attempt to popularise a morality of restraint by focusing attention on supposed symbols of greed and avarice. It is a way of sending a message that we should all make sacrifices and learn to live with less.

Under such circumstances, anything that counters the stifling puritanism promoted by the likes of Vince Cable, the Business Minister and Bank Basher In Chief, is welcome.

Throwing even more lavish parties would be a fitting response to a government that wants to impose austerity and puritan values on the rest of us.