The Duke, The Bankers and let them eat cake..

There’s a line in Blackadder that sprang to mind today as I read the headlines on the BBC website:

“If a Cannibal opened your head he wouldn’t have enough brain to cover a water biscuit”

The headline was this – “Banker bonuses minute, says duke“, the Duke in question being Andrew, Duke of York.   My immediate comment to Twitter was ‘kind of like the Duke’s brain is minute in the scheme of things’, and certainly on the grounds of this comment at this time, not enough to cover that water biscuit. 

I’m rarely personally abusive about people in the public eye, but this was one of those public utterances that suggests a number of thoughts.

  1. That Andrew is very much the son of the Duke of Edinburgh; such an ability to put one’s foot in one’s mouth must surely be inherited.
  2. That people with a republican sentiment might just have something going for them.
  3. That people in the public eye should employ a good PR person.
  4. And that playboys who wander around the world playing golf for Britain should perhaps belt up about such things.

OK…rant over.  Maybe scope for a ‘Downfall Mashup’ later.  But for now, back on topic.   Let’s look at what Andrew did, in fact, say:

“I don’t want to demonise the banking and financial sector. Bonuses, in the scheme of things, are minute. They are easy to target.  A number will have abused their privilege of a bonus, so get rid of the excesses, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

According to this article, banker’s bonuses for 2009 will be around £6 billions – yes, billions – due to increased bank profits in 2009 to date.  This is up on 2008, when bonuses were a paltry £4 billions.

The word ‘minute’ clearly means different things to people in the commanding heights of the British establishment.  The average income for all households in the UK for 2009 is about £30,000.  That 6 billion could pay the household income for a year for 200,000 households in the UK.  Goldman Sachs have recently said they’re putting aside about 600,000,000 for bonuses for it’s near 30,000 staff.  This will result in average bonuses, assuming everyone got teh same, of £20,000.  Of course, what this really means is that some of the GS people will get humongous bonuses again.   Again, even with that average, ‘minute’ is not a word that I would apply to even a £20,000 bonus, when it’s two-thirds of the average income.

Vince Cable also makes this observation:

“The investment banks more than any other institutions created the culture of excessive leverage, excessive risk and excessive bonuses that led to the downfall of the financial system. Now they are cashing in and the same bonus culture has returned. The result must be that we are being pushed to the edge of another crash.”

Given that he’s been more on the nose than most politicians about recent financial crises, I’m getting worried.


Whether Andrew intended his comments to come over as a ‘let them eat cake’ sort of speech is a moot point.  That’s how it does come over.  And I for one am increasingly sick of being told by people at the top of the heap that things are OK, really, and the guys who broke our economy really do deserve these bonuses, and, hey, it’s great to spend all day gadding about…ah, what the Hell.

Andrew – and the rest of you out there with lots of money, safe sinecures and no other worries in the morning than whether to take the Rolls, the Bentley or the Helicopter – think before you speak. 

Think hard, listen to your advisers, look at what is happening in this country.  We’re figuratively dying out here. 

Where are the bloody tumbrils when you need them?

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