Bankers step back

ROYAL Bank of Scotland chief executive Simon Hester last week bowed to mounting public pressure and agreed not to accept the million pound bonus he was about to be awarded. He will be no means be hard up because of this — his pay deals since 2008 have amounted to over £11 million. But he expressed bewilderment at why the people of this country would begrudge him the extra million after he had “turned around” the fortunes of RBS after it was taken over by the government of Gordon Brown after the dismissal of Fred “the Shred” Goodwin.

Hester achieved this “turn around” by sacking 21,000 lower level banking workers, making their lives a misery of the sort he cannot understand and throwing most of them on the dole to become “benefit scroungers”. It is doubtful if taxpayers have benefited much, if at all, when all the sums are added up.

But it does mean that growing public pressure — even from Labour leader Ed Miliband — can have an impact, even though it is largely cosmetic. The pay of banking executives is very complex and very lucrative and what Hester loses from one pot is likely to reappear in another.

It is the mirror image of rewards and benefits for workers, where whatever is given with one hand is taken away with the other — only under the Con-Dem Coalition this has changed to the system taking with both hands simultaneously and giving nothing back in return.

The Tories are, apparently, even considering a few concessions on their welfare cuts Bill, after revolts from Lib-Dems and even some of their own senior figures in the Lords.

Cameron is, perhaps, starting to realise he is trying to cut too much, too fast and it is all starting to unravel. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has started accusing the British Medical Association of being “politically poisoned” because it opposes his Bill to accelerate the privatisation of the NHS. But his changes cannot work without the cooperation of doctors and other health staff.

When the Con-Dem Coalition came to power nearly two years ago Cameron and his cronies realised they might not have long in power and they needed to move fast. He knew his policies would provoke serious public opposition and behind the façade he is not sure he has judged it right.

The student riots of November and December 2010 shook him, so did the unorganised but angry riots of August 2011. Most of all the two-million strong, highly organised strike of public sector workers in defence of their pensions shook him. We need more of this, much more. The cosmetic concessions show the Coalition is wobbling; behind the scenes the difference between the Tories and Lib-Dems is growing. It may not take much more to push the whole thing over.

Economics and child discipline

THESE two topics may seem unrelated but there is a real link. It was raised by working class people in Tottenham telling their MP, David Lammy, that some of their children had joined rioters last August because they had been unable to discipline their children properly now that smacking is banned.

One woman said: “It’s all right for the upper classes; they can send their children to ballet school and riding and whatever and spend lots of time with them. We don’t have that choice; we have to spend all our time at work just to make ends meet.”

The answer of course is not to allow or encourage smacking but to recognise that working class children need access to a wide range youth activities just as rich children do and that they need a proper amount of time to be with their parents and to engage in leisure activities with them — like rich people do.

This needs higher wages, fewer working hours and more spent on leisure provision for working class children. And to achieve fewer working hours it needs the wiping out of workers’ personal debts. What we really need is socialism.