City workers might not seem like the most revolutionary lot but all this talk of bonus curbs has got the cry of “Liberté, fidélité, fraternité!” ringing through the square mile.
In Gordon Brown’s latest voter-prodding move, following FSA chairman Adair Turner’s roundtable interview in this month’s Prospect, he announced to the Financial Times that he supports calls for a debate “about caps on bonuses and everything else.”
Leaving “everything else” aside for the moment, the ripples from his comments have already been lapping at the doors of financiers who, only a matter of months ago, were clinging to their desks in the midst of the financial storm. It was, for many, like the great flood washing away the weak and the culpable and leaving only the strong and (relatively) untarnished to yield the benefit.
“I knew,” says one chap, who holds a role at one of the more resilient bastions still standing in the financial landscape, “that it wouldn’t be business as usual, but does it have to be so counterintuitive?”
What with the criticism already leveled at Mr Brown—that greater regulation threatens to “choke off a recovery” and “stamp out embryonic growth”—one might be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled upon a macabre modern-day adaptation of Medea. But such is the concern over the possibility of the loss of their yearly bounty that many in the city seem fully prepared to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
“Well if the RMT can demand 5 per cent pay rises in the middle of a crisis, I don’t see what’s so unreasonable about the notion of a bankers’ strike,” said the fellow after our third pint of London Pride.
With his popularity in the doldrums and the election season approaching, the PM may well look to confront misbehaving financiers as his rallying cry to the public and backbenchers alike. In doing so, however, he will be pitting himself against erstwhile allies who he championed as chancellor. So flags are being raised all over the city, with the watchdogs already snarling in the press over the incursion of politics and politicians into the rarefied atmosphere of global banking. And under the dimmed lights of the Crown the mutters of “Brutus” can just be distinguished over the clinking of…