Beyond a joke
A journalist, a politician and a banker walk into a bar … sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it?
Feel free to submit a punchline: personally, I’m starting to think that it would be a very sour joke.
With banker-bashing now an established national pastime, the press having spectacularly fouled their own nest and politicians going to jail for feathering theirs, it is pretty horrible to contemplate that these are people at the very top of our national life.
Not everyone who works in a bank is a villain, or could even be described as a banker, come to that. I’ve met many politicians over the years who are people of great integrity; heroes some of them. And, honestly, there are more journalists who hate the grotesques of the national press than there are working in it.
Things have gone a little wrong, I suggest, when politicians want to make new laws to “control” the press, ignoring the fact that everything the press was doing was already illegal under existing laws – illegal phone tapping, bribery of public officials, libel and perjury are all still illegal, aren’t they?
Same goes for bankers. I’m as sure that the last few remaining tellers at my local bank were not fiddling the Libor contributions as I am that those elsewhere in the organisation who were are guilty of fraud, at least. (Despite what it may sound like sometimes, I even know some very nice barristers, and they like to use the phrase ‘conspiracy to defraud’, which gets you 10 years in the slammer.)
Nevertheless and notwithstanding, politicians plan to fix the broken banking system, which is fine and dandy – or it would be if they knew which bits are actually broken and how they might go about fixing them.
“People need a basic banking service,” they say. How true, but is there anything wrong with the Post Office? It has branches everywhere, even in rural areas, just about. There used to be a savings and investment arm too, and though that’s been hived off as National Savings & Investments. Post Offices are still where you probably go to start dealing with that side.
What about the payments system? That’s broken too. Must be, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said so in a recent speech to JP Morgan employees. Businesses have to wait too long –“days” – to receive payments, he said, so the payments system must be fixed.
Perhaps spending some money on publicising the Faster Payments service might be a good idea? Governments in Australia, Singapore and even France seem to think it’s a good idea.
I’m all in favour of improving the banking and payments systems – gives us something to write about, if nothing else.
What worries me is that I also have a cupboard full of clocks, radios, children’s toys and assorted domestic appliances that I’ve fixed to death over the years.