Peter Sharkey: It’s time to stop bashing the bankers
During the past three to four years, a significant rump of influential politicians and media types have successfully constructed a wholly disparaging image of a group of people previously considered virtually untouchable.
Ordinarily in PC-crazed Britain, it would be a jailable offence to consistently insult and abuse one small cluster of folks with such sustained venom.
Nevertheless, 'rich bankers' has become an overused moniker, invariably delivered in derogatory fashion, often supplemented with a mouthful of expletives. Together with 'financiers', money-lenders and a host of other constituent parts of a phantom plutocracy, 'rich bankers' have been lampooned and blamed for all of our ills.
Admittedly, an alarming number of executives at too many financial institutions made a succession of decisions that could be charitably called stupid in the extreme, but surely this repetitive mistake syndrome proves that none of them could be considered a 'Master of the Universe'. Few, in fact, are masters of their own living rooms.
Yet the image of braying, over-paid, cocaine-snorting financial heavyweights frequenting many of London's most iconic venues, laughing aloud as the country falls to pieces, has been successfully embedded in the nation's consciousness. These are the demonised rich bankers.
I suspect that the number of powerful, lottery-rich bankers resident in the UK numbers less than 1,000.
Frankly, they could work anywhere, but while the City remains an important financial centre, they'll stay here, even though their industry is vilified on an almost daily basis. I would suggest that this vilification should come to an end as soon as possible; indeed, following Mr Cameron's decisive 'No' to Europe last week, there are excellent commercial reasons why it should too.
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According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the UK's financial services industry is the largest contributor to government finances.
The Treasury rakes in more than �53bn from the sector, an amount equal to around 11pc of our total tax revenue. Last week's proposals by France's President Sarkozy and Germany's Chancellor Merkel to introduce a financial transactions tax (FTT) would have drained �26bn in tax from one of the UK's most important sectors.
In other words, had the Prime Minister not uttered the word 'No' to an astonished gathering of leaders in Brussels last week, British-based businesses would have also become the largest single contributor to the eurozone bailout.
As we're not a eurozone member, this would have been a tad iniquitous. There's no need for the UK to pay for the eurozone's failure to put its house in order.
Has the UK banking sector in particular been guilty of excess, of stupidity and of appearing out of touch? The answer to all three questions is a resounding 'yes', but Mr Cameron saved them and the rest of the financial services sector billions last week. It's to be hoped they repay him in spades, otherwise the vilification will only gather momentum.