So now we have another banking scandal. I'm not really surprised. The activities of the banking community has been so uncontrolled, so egocentric, so full of selfish, careless bravura, that they have clearly thought themselves immune to the law, either that defined by Parliament or that moral one followed by most of the rest of us. It was only a matter of time before the rot led to the collapse of the structure, like a flashy seaside pier beset by rust. And too many people jumping on the roundabout.
Perhaps one more blatant crime is unimportant; no
one has a good word to say about bankers at the moment anyway. But
once, in the not too distant past, if you wanted to get a reliable
recommendation or a trustworthy signature, you asked your bank manager.
I don't suppose anyone would bother these days; it wouldn't give much
of an impression anyway. I even heard someone on the radio say that
they were now on a par with estate agents! Perhaps you can't trust
anyone these days. What a mess!
But I don't really care much if
bankers get a bad reputation. I haven't ever had much of a good
experience in banks. But what will be a much bigger problem for us is
the impact on the reputation of the banking industry in general and
London in particular.
There was a time when we let the bankers
get away with near murder and allowed them to draw annual salaries
approaching the GDP of a small country. The reason we allowed this
situation to go ahead was that we wanted the bankers to stay here. 'If
we don't cowtow to bankers, they'll all move to Paris', was the mantra.
It's very difficult now to see why that would be a problem. Keeping
these people in Britain has made a major contribution to our economy.
But at what cost?
I don't really care about what sort of inquiry
we now have into the banking industry. The politicians will continue to
argue about this for a while. But what none of them seems really to be
concerned about is that, whatever the inquiry discovers, the reputation
of London will be damaged worldwide and will require more than the
sticking plaster of an inquiry to heal. We already know that Barclays
have broken the law and that other banks are being investigated. It'll
take a major political and PR effort to overcome that. Why don't we let
Paris have them?