Monday, March 04, 2013

Boris Johnson is a very dangerous man - Beware Classicists bearing gifts!


Boris Johnson is a very dangerous man. He is dangerous because he has ideas, and he is not scared of enunciating them. Up to now, I have had a sneaking regard for him, because I admire the fact that he is prepared to speak his mind on difficult issues, and he doesn't give a damn who disagrees with him. He says what he says because he believes it, and he is happy to express his point of view.

And I like and admire that in him.

But ever so slowly, Boris is becoming a tad more disingenuous. He is starting to behave more like the calculating politician, and ever so sneakily, he is beginning to set out his stall for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

He is doing this more than ever with his recent addiction to the cause of City bankers and their bonuses. His support for the interests of these already grotesquely overpaid spivs and organised criminals, is a convenient element in a wider campaign to be seen to be all things conventionally 'Tory' to a wider cross-section of a political party which has the feeling that it is currently like the lost tribes of Israel, wandering, lost in a political wilderness.

Their current leader doesn't appear to know whether he is pro or anti Europe, he is espousing dangerous neo-Liberal campaigns like wind turbines and gay marriage, and they feel worryingly exposed to being left out in the cold on the flank of British politics.

Boris on the other hand is coming out and stridently espousing the right for banker's bonuses to remain uncapped, and for these men and women, who have dragged this country to their financial knees, causing untold damage to our economic safety, to continue being paid salaries and bonuses beyond the dreams of avarice, and for doing what precisely?

Boris is laying out his markers to the City and the financial sector and impliedly telling them, 

'...When the time comes, boys, I'm the guy to back if you want to go on running the Tory party like you did before...'  He is letting them know in no uncertain terms that he's the man who can be relied on to give the City carte blanche to get on with all their dubious deals and dodgy business while he holds the keys to No.10 Downing Street. He is spraying every political tree and lamp-post with his scent, and the boys in the Square Mile are sniffing and they know it reads, 'Vote for me boys and it'll be business as usual, and there'll be none of this dweebly banker bashing while I am at the helm!  

He is doing this by dragging in all the anti-European rhetoric he can muster in his much vaunted support for the bankers' cause, and he is doing this by telling the 'Big Fib'.

Boris's 'Big Fib' is that the Europeans, are blaming the failure of the Euro and their economic difficulties on their jealousy of the City of London, and so have decided to take steps to damage the City of London's interests.

Boris refers to this as 'chucking a dead cat on the table, and he puts it like this.

".... Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table..."

That is exactly what Brussels has done with this recent gambit to cap bankers’ bonuses. Look around Europe and you can see the continuing catastrophe of the single currency, an ideological project that most Euro-parliamentarians and most of the EU establishment continues to support with vengeful fervour..."

Boris claims that the EU is seeking to cover up its internal problems in Portugal, Spain and elsewhere, by picking on the London bankers.

He opines;

"...Can Europe do anything to help the Spanish, as a generation is maimed on the Procrustean bed of the euro? Of course they can’t. They can’t admit that the whole concept of the single currency was flawed, or that it was always cruel and mad to expect the Mediterranean countries to share an exchange rate with Germany. That would be too much of a surrender. So they find a convenient distraction, and they bash the bankers in London..."

The connection between the problems with the Euro and London Bankers' greed is so tenuous, but hey, Boris is not a man to let the facts get in the way of a good fabrication!

He goes into a true Classicist's raptures about Greece.

"...Look at Greece, a country that should be holy to us all as the birthplace of European and Western culture, the home of freedom and democracy, where Phoebus rose and Delos sprung. It is utterly barbaric that Greece should continue to be starved of antibiotics, for heaven’s sake. So what do the MEPs do, when they behold the pain – the physical suffering – being endured by innocent Greeks? They chuck a dead cat on the table, and have a pop at the bankers in London..."

He waxes lyrical about Italy!

"...Look at Italy, where the biggest winner in last week’s chaotic elections appears to be a stand-up comedian who has lost no time in pointing out that the country’s debt is an unsustainable 127 per cent of GDP. What can they say when this idiot savant continues to blurt the truth about the euro and Italy’s inability to deal with its debt? There is nothing to say – nothing to do but to cause a diversion, and bash financial services in London..."

It is of course, all complete and utter bollocks.

What Boris is doing is telling the City that he is on their side, and when he comes to make his bid for the leadership of the Tory party, they could do a lot worse than make sure he is secure in their backing because he will make sure that they get the green light to carry on ripping and gouging and generally engaging in their organised criminal activities.

He tries to make a special case by saying how much money the City contributes to the national coffers. He uses the figure of £63 billion in tax revenues to the UK in 2011-12. I don't know where he gets his figures from, he doesn't say, and when you look at the bald figures, it does sound like a lot of money. But when you look at the real statistics produced by HMRC, you realise that the entire banking sector taken as a whole contributed just £1.3 billion in Corporation Tax, while Payroll Tax donated £17.6 billion in 2011-2012, and that doesn't sound anything like the same thing!

(If you want to check this for yourself have a look at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/banking/paye-ct-receipts.pdf)

Not willing to be distracted from his desire to demonstrate his classical education at Eton and Oxford, Boris is quoted as saying of the EU proposal;

 "This is possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman Empire." He added: "People will wonder why we stay in the EU if it persists in such transparently self-defeating policies."

Again, you catch the whiff of strident anti-EU rhetoric, the sort of thing to be attractive to all his Old Etonian and Oxford friends in the banking sector, and guarantee that they will want to put their money on Boris as their boy when the move to oust Cameron takes place.

The real irony in all this is that the real purpose behind this new initiative is intended to make sure that European banks have sufficient capital adequacy to be able to withstand future financial shocks if the markets turn rogue again. The aim of this change is intended to try and mitigate the unnecessary risks involved in casino banking. That's why the capping of bankers' bonuses is a mere sideshow, but is being done because of the well-recognised risks involved in encouraging short-termism and the unnecessary risks that bankers and traders engage in when too much emphasis is placed on paying enormous bonuses.

Othmar Karas, the Austrian lawmaker who helped negotiate a deal, said: "The essence is that from 2014, European banks will have to set aside more money to be more stable and concentrate on their core business, namely financing the real economy, that of small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs."

When all is said and done, the greedy banksters are still able to double their salaries under the present scheme, I mean how much money does one person need before it becomes enough?

But Boris is not alone in his street furniture splashing, others are willing to anoint the same lamposts. The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) has called for the Council of Ministers to challenge the new rules rather than giving their approval, which is normally a formality, by using the same dubious arguments about jealousy of the City.

Robin Chater, Secretary General of the FedEE, said “Many EU states have long coveted the City of London’s success as an international financial centre and regarded high bonus payments as its Achilles’ heel. This measure is therefore no more than an attempt to exploit the current vulnerability of the City by riding on the back of the collective jealousy of bankers’ pay in public opinion and the recent downgrading of the UK’s international credit rating.”

Boris couldn't resist using the other shibboleth which was that bankers would be forced to leave London to find other jurisdictions from which to work, thus denuding London of this source of dubious, so-called 'talent'.

Well, the Swiss have already announced their intentions to cap banker's pay, so that's one jurisdiction that will not be a convenient bolt-hole for Boris's buddies. 

New York? You know I kind'a doubt that any of these norm-evasive criminogenics are going to want to go and work in a City where even though not as tough as it used to be, is still a damn-sight better regulated than the London market will ever be.

 Singapore is a young man's playground where you cut your teeth and make your bones before coming back to London. You may hack it when you are 22 and on the make, but when you are married, and the wife wants the golf-club subscription and the Range Rover in the Home Counties and the kids at a decent prep school, there isn't a lot to be said for Singapore, unless all you want to do is live in a high-rise apartment block, melt in the humidity and drink at the various so-called country clubs. I personally enjoy Singapore, in fact I think it is a wonderful place and I love going there, but it ain't a place to make a marriage work when you have shed-loads of money, and your family would rather be back in London, so I don't think there are too many banksters queuing up to move out of the Square Mile right now Boris.

Boris Johnson is a brilliant polemicist, he is witty, clever, and a very astute power player. He is also a buffoon and a bit of a chancer and someone who cannot resist a band wagon without wanting to jump on board. None of this makes him a bad person, and I still rather like him for his openness and his free thinking.

But I can see the signs of ambition, and I can hear the sounds of the dubious rhetoric. Boris thinks he has found the way to get the City of London to throw their weight and more importantly, their money behind him when he comes to take on David Cameron, and he is developing some frankly disingenuous tactics in trying to attract the support of men whose antics have already caused more trouble than they are worth with empty promises that if they support him, they can have even more!

Such men are dangerous, beware of classicists bearing gifts!




4 comments:

Nicholas Shaxson said...

Ever so slowly? Boris of the Bankers is in the City's pockets, and has been for ages. He is utterly captured. He is extremely charming and funny and likeable on a personal level - which is precisely what makes him so dangerous. I think that his weakness is that he may play well in London, but out in the provinces he has rather less lustre.

Rowan Bosworth-Davies said...

Of course you are right, Nick, I was just trying to be a bit inventive in my satire!

The Fatsnacker said...

Whistle-blowing protections and incentives should be part of any civilized democracy.

We should have something similar as a starting point.

http://taf.org/blog/lincoln-law-150-years-old-and-thriving

The Fatsnacker said...

Rowan:

Any chance you could write an article on the 'Odious Debt' principle?