Barclay’s decision on a new CEO is not exactly on-message.
US-born Bob Diamond was heralded as the new Barclays CEO yesterday. An experienced player in the merchant sector, Mr Diamond earns almost unimaginable sums as a successful gambler – for that’s what he really is – and is reputed to be pulling down some £45million per annum in his new role.
But Slog LibDem sources around Simon Hughes were furious last night. This may be purely because their hero Vince Cable made a long why-oh-why-oh-why phone call to Hughes yesterday on the subject of Diamond’s appointment (it flies in the face of Vinny’s desire to keep merchant and retail banking separate) but it seems that some of the Yellow Party see the Diamond appointment as an intended poke in the eye to them. If so, they overestimate their visibility on the Barclays radar…..but that this will cause further tensions inside the Coalition is a certainty.
“As long as they continue to be appeased, bankers will never learn to sniff the public mood,” said a backbench Labour MP yesterday afternoon, “and I’m afraid Osborne is by nature and background an appeaser of the City.”
An interesting remark given the unalloyed admiration Blair and Brown gave to the City for more than a decade, but the informant does have a point: the Slog understands that the Chancellor is stonewalling on the related subjects of both banking demergers in general, and systemic merchant bank abuses in particular. And of course Cable, as ever, is unhappy in the job and wants to spend more time with his Party.
Last week the Slog revealed that both Barclays and Lloyds had been found guilty (and heavily fined) by the US Justice Department for knowingly laundering Iranian terrorist money. If that doesn’t upset Osborne’s sensibilities then nothing will – but the Slog piece went almost totally unremarked in the corridors of the Treasury, where my popularity has waned somewhat in the light of Sir Humphrey bashing in recent weeks.
This morning, I note that the FT has Matthew Oakeshott, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, saying: “He’s a great gambler but he has no experience of retail banking. It’s an extraordinary decision by the Barclays board.”
Well Matt old love, extraordinary decisions are what bankers make. Barclays will get theirs when the Berlusconi loan goes up the pictures, but in the meantime Bod Diamond’s accession to the post of blue touch-paper igniter is a done deal. And another nail in the Coalition’s coffin.
This coffin has more people working on its construction than would be considered normal. And while rumours of the Coalition’s terminal illness may well be exaggerated, after Laws and Cable have come Cameron and now Hague as emerging targets for the pen of Ben Brogan et al on the Tory Right. Ed Balls too is spraying spittle around the Commons chamber, while Ed Miliband is writing SWALK letters to Vince and his pals.
Over the next two months, the first effects of austerity and natural output decline will be coming through…and D-Day with the EU on pre-Parliament Budget monitoring will arrive. All of this will produce great gnashings of teeth among the Fluffies, and rumblings of knee-jerk discontent out there in the electorate. The slightest sign of fudging on either of these issues – especially the latter – and David Cameron will be at best becalmed, and at worst sunk.