WE WILL fight them on the bonuses, we will fight them
on the share options, we shall never surrender.
The British and American governments are standing
four square against France and Germany,
who want to cap banker's remuneration.
How dare this continental anti-capitalist axis
meddle with our bonus system.
Bankers must be allowed to pay themselves
whatever they can get away with
or the entire system will collapse.
Really, this is beyond satire.
What happened to all those promises to end
the risk culture in the City?
To ensure that failure is not rewarded and that
greed should no longer dominate economic life?
At yesterday's G20 summit of finance ministers
in London, a Labour chancellor joined
with Barack Obama's people to block
a modest proposal on bonus reform from
conservative governments in Germany and France.
Yes, that's right.
The supposedly right-wing governments
of Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel
are proposing curbs on bankers' pay that
our own Labour government and
the great liberal Obama are trying to block.
A face-saving compromise was agreed
at the summit under which bankers will have
to declare what they earn but there will be
no cap on the amounts they can pay themselves.
The fat cats can rest easy - thanks
to Britain and America,
the bonus culture lives on.
How can Barack Obama be supporting this?
Only last January he said that bonuses
were "shameful" and had to be curbed.
He was elected by millions of Americans
who were disgusted with the greed
and irresponsibility of Wall Street titans
such as Dick Fuld of now-defunct Lehman Brothers,
who paid themselves colossal salaries
while destroying not only their own companies
but also the jobs of millions of Americans.
The French finance minister, Christine Legarde,
claims that bonuses were a major cause
of the financial crisis and that it is necessary
to limit remuneration if history isn't to repeat itself.
She is absolutely right, and is only echoing
what the Financial Services Authority has been
saying in this country - and what the prime minister,
Gordon Brown, promised in April.
It is obscene for the bosses of institutions
such as Royal Bank of Scotland to be paying
themselves multi-million pound bonuses
when they have been rescued by hundreds
of billions of taxpayers' money.
Yet, as BBC's Newsnight revealed, RBS has
been handing £2m win-or-lose bonuses to new staff
and its chief executive, Stephen Hester,
is paying himself £9.7m.
All the banks are paying colossal bonuses
again as they coin it in from government subsidies.
It's fine for high-rolling hedge fund chiefs
to award themselves huge salaries - when
they cock up, they go out of business.
But it is moral and economical madness
for largely state-owned retail banks,
who are only in existence because
of public funds, to be playing the same game.
Alistair Darling's argument that it is not worth
trying to cap bonuses because bankers
will get round them is a cop-out - it's like
saying that there is no point in levying
income tax because people will evade it.
So is the argument that we may lost the
"brightest and the best" in the City because
they will move to countries where bonuses
are still paid.
But not if there is concerted international
action they won't - yet it is precisely such action
that the British and American governments
are trying to block.
Anyway, if they want to up sticks and move
to the Cayman Islands, let them - they've
done enough damage already.
Every serious commentator on the
financial crisis, from the FSA chairman,
Lord Turner, to the Financial Times columnist
Martin Wolf, agrees that the paying of excessive
short-term bonuses encouraged excessive risk-taking.
When bankers are engaging in deals that could
make them independently wealthy within
a couple of years they are hardly going
to be bothered about the long-term health
of the financial institution they are working for,
let alone the wider economy.
They take the money and run.
Like Sir Fred Goodwin, who destroyed his bank,
handed the losses to the government
and then walked away with a pension pot of £13m.
But where is the outrage?
It seems only yesterday that the Sun was
attacking "scumbag millionaires"; the Treasury
Select Committee has called for an end
to the bonus culture and even
George Osborne, the shadow chancellor,
called last month for an end to bonuses
in state subsidised banks.
Every opinion poll on the subject has shown
that the voters are disgusted by the bonus culture.
(This has nothing to do with the politics of envy,
let alone Marxism.
What the bankers are doing has nothing
whatsoever to do with private enterprise.
If the free market had been allowed to function,
all of them would be out of a job.)
The bankers have simply become too powerful.
They are deaf to public opinion, beyond
political control, dismissive of regulation
and seemingly immune to any kind
of moral constraint.
There must be outrage - if we allow them
to get away with this, we will only be laying
the ground for the next financial crisis.
It is time for the public's voice to be heard.
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