Friday, March 21, 2008


It was exactly the kind of rotten trick you would expect from City high fliers that they would try to make money by spreading rumours HBOS shares were heading south so that they could sell them at a high price and buy them back for next to nothing later in the day.
The truth is that beneath its veneer of respectability the City has always harboured elements of the casino and dishonesty. It’s just become more obvious since the bowler hat brigade from the Surrey stockbroker belt with their staid offices were replaced by the red braces boys from Essex with computers and mobiles.
For over twenty years now, ever since the Big Bang, they’ve been piling it high, sending London property prices soaring and scarring the countryside with their garish nouveau mansions - the equivalent American word, shoddy, sums them up so much better. Despite the banking crisis they will still get their lavish bonuses at the end of the month and celebrate by running up £50,000 lunch bills in the West End.
‘But we can’t trust each other any more,’ wail the banks as they head to the Bank of England with their begging bowls for money to stave off disappearing from High Street. ‘We don’t know what bad debts other banks may have.’
And it’s not just the investment banks which are in deep trouble. Yesterday the bosses of the big British retail banks joined them in trooping through the doors of Threadneedle Street in a desperate plea for more cash to be pumped into the system and a Northern Rock style safety net if the worst happens to them.
Can anyone really be surprised?
What happened was that the reckless, gambling streak in the City infected bank retail branches. Cautious, frugal bank managers who wanted to know a customer’s budget down to the last penny spent on food before agreeing to a loan were replaced by salesmen flogging a bank’s ‘products,’ which encouraged people who could not afford it to ‘live the dream.’
Just ask anyone on a £25,000 year salary who has been encouraged to sign an application claiming an income of at least £40,000 to get a 125% mortgage they have little hope of repaying on a property that’s way beyond their means.
The bankers must have known they were playing monopoly. But, hell, the volume of new business they were bringing in would look good on their CVs and on the bank’s books. Times and the world had changed and the consumer boom would last forever.
Except it wouldn’t and couldn’t and they must have known that too.
Credit cards will be the next to fall in the global banking house of cards. Like mortgages, credit cards have been handed out like sweeties or chocolate biscuits at a children’s party. People who can’t afford them have been inundated with junk mail inviting them to sign up for cards which would only tempt them to get into debt.
The entire crisis has been brought about by the irresponsibility, bad management and sheer avarice of the banks and the failure of the authorities who are supposed to regulate them to do so.
The most appalling aspect of the whole debacle is that the people at the top, who oversaw what was going on and actively encouraged it, will not be fired and rightly stripped of their fat cat pensions.
Their worst fate will be that after a few months they will be allowed to retire quietly with big pay offs to their mansions in the country or abroad with their inflation proof pensions intact while the little people they conned into ‘living the dream’ will most likely live the nightmare of being homeless, jobless and up to their eyes in debt as they face a very bleak future.
Though he may have said sorry for breaking at least four road laws when he thought the media cameras were not watching, Conservative leader David Cameron’s conduct on the streets of London is not just typical of the hypocrisy you expect from a politician but typical of the holier-than-thou cyclist road yobs who are a far bigger threat to pedestrian safety than four wheel drives.
When green lights signal it’s supposed to be safe to cross the street, no one can risk doing so without looking out for yobs like Cameron charging through the lights.
Cyclists should be required by law to have number plates and pass a road safety test. And, if he can’t respect the laws, Cameron should cut out the hypocrisy and be confined to the four wheel which follows him with his papers. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2008. All Rights Reserved

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