James Forsyth

The bankers should learn from Profumo

The bankers should learn from Profumo
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Watching the bankers’ appearance before the Treasury Select Committee today, it struck me that it is going to take more than an apology that is rapidly hedged as the proceedings go on to assuage public anger. These bankers have become fantastically rich from doing their jobs in a way that led to their banks being dashed against the rocks when the current storm blew in and people who earn far less money than them now find their taxes being used to bailout and prop up the institutions that these men were so handsomely rewarded for running. Sir Fred Goodwin may protest that he has personally lost £5 million, but his own standard of living remains far higher than that of the vast majority of taxpayers, born and unborn, who are going to be paying to clear up the mess he has helped create.

Another cause of anger is, as John McFall said in a rare moment of lucidness, that so many bankers treated everyone who asked them during the boom years how they were generating their money and whether the methods being used were sustainable as an idiot. After being told not to worry your pretty little head about something, it is particularly infuriating to find out that you concerns were more than justified.

If the bankers summoned to the Commons today, who are undoubtedly intelligent if flawed men, really want to show the public that they are sorry for the harm they have caused they will, like John Profumo after the Profumo affair, dedicate their lives to good works. It would demonstrate that they understand that they have taken out more than they have put in—either in taxes paid or wealth generated—and should now attempt to give something back.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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