It’s silly season – especially for bankers

Posted on / Columnists / Philip Stephens - It’s too late to take the politics out of banking.

The storm may be raging about them, but bankers have been locked in a contest to say something truly silly.

Until a few days ago Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs looked certain to take the prize. Mr Blankfein, readers will recall, declared that we must not be too hard on bankers because they were doing “God’s work”.

Now Stephen Hester, chief executive of Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland, has mounted a late bid for the trophy. The politicians who rescued the financial services industry, Mr Hester remarked the other day, should now hand it all back to those who caused the mess.

Even the FT realises how absurd all this is. As is noted:

The banks say the result of political interference is likely to be a smaller financial sector, with many of the “best and brightest” leaving London for less interfering regulators and friendlier tax regimes. They may be right. But would the British economy really be the loser if some in the industry decide to migrate to tax-efficient obscurity?

Britain has learnt during the past year that an over-mighty and under-regulated financial services sector carries its own heavy costs. As the Bank of England said the other day, a smaller industry may be the price worth paying for a stable economy.

As for “interference”, the politicians, of course, have their own reputational troubles. But they are better trusted than the bankers.

Although I suspect George Osborne is planning to do something about that when he sets to and seeks to raise unemployment to 4 million plus.

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