Banking gestures

Gordon Brown is considering legal measures to get back some of the £693,000 pension paid to former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin.

Strange to say, I hope he doesn’t, or is not able to. This is because my considerable dislike of smugly complacent overpaid not very good bank chiefs is still second to my dislike of politicians who move the goalposts because the headlines tell them to.

Freddie’s considered response to the idea that he should forego some of the pension as a “gesture” is available for public view. He’s agin it, though you’d think that on the salary he’s been paid recently he really should have put a penny or two aside for a rainy day. As he says:

“to voluntarily accept a reduction in a pension entitlement which has been built up over many years and in other employments in addition to RBS, is not warranted.”

Quite. I’m a one-law sort of guy. If someone has benefited because the law was in the wrong place, change the law, don’t come after the benefittee. Even if he is stinkingly rich. One law. If the government finds a legal way of taking some of his £693k off him, they will find a way of denting the monthly fiver I confidently expect to be claiming off them soon after my 85th birthday, or when old age forces me to retire, whichever is sooner. That would be a Bad Thing.

And anyway, who among us (apart from RBS account holders, but I’m not one) doesn’t actually find it screamingly funny? I can’t remember when I first heard the argument that “you’ve got to pay the right sort of salary to find the right sort of people”, but it was a long time ago, way before the present crisis and probably way before the last. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t now. Finally, finally it’s being exposed as the lie it is in such a way that even the politicians are having to accept it. The “right people” got us into this, you dolt. Freddie is the peak of a very large pyramid going all the way back to Thatcher and probably beyond. If this fiasco finally gets it into people’s heads that you pay people what they’re worth, and if they screw up then they’re screwed, then it will be worth every penny.

And will either Gordon Brown, who ravaged our pension accounts, or his illustrious predecessor who got us into an unjust, illegal and unwinnable war, and who between them spent every last penny of our spare cash such that there is none left anywhere, be foregoing the considerable benefits that accrue to an ex-prime minister?

Anyway, I have a solution. Stop me if I’m wrong – it’s possible – but is the basic idea of banking not:

  • you give the bank all your money for safe storage.
  • occasionally you draw some of this money out.
  • but not all of it.
  • so they get to play with the rest – invest, spend, whatever – just as long as any sum you wish to claim is always there on demand.

I’m going to hazard a guess that a large part of the £693k, or the monthly £57.5k, won’t actually be spent. So, if Freddie keeps it in a bog standard checking account at RBS, RBS will still have that money and he’ll still be quids in. Everyone’s a winner.

You’re welcome.

The needle returns to the start of the song

“A two-day auction of art by Damien Hirst has set a new record for a sale dedicated to one artist of £111m,” says the BBC.

“Are you telling us that Ankh-Morpork is bankrupt?” said Downey.

“Of course [said Vetinari]. While, at the same time, full of rich people.”
– Terry Pratchett, Jingo

Or as Del Amitri put it:

… and computer terminals report some gains
On the values of copper and tin
While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs
For the price of a hospital wing
– Del Amitri, “Nothing ever happens”

In fact that’s such a good song that I’ll play it now, to take my mind off the depressing conviction that something is horribly wrong.