New Year's moan

January and February are the cruellest months, as far as Stephen Hester and Fred Goodwin are concerned. 

Yes, I am kicking off my New Year with a rant, so I can bring recent macro events regarding bank bonuses and a lost honour into the microcosm of our world.

And I do know that recent events regarding Stephen Hester's bonus and the removal of Fred Goodwin's title might sound like yesterday's news but they are not. Therefore, ignore this article at your peril!

To make my position clear from the outset, I utterly abhor the political shenanigans that resulted in the RBS chief surrendering his bonus and am just as appalled at Fred Goodwin having his Knighthood annulled.

Beginning with Stephen Hester, last year he received a bonus of just over £2 million. So what has changed?

Even taking into account the eternal confusion amongst Britons between fairness and justice, his position became untenable because of measly-minded know-it-alls that curried popular support by ignoring the facts.

Facts, such as the legally-binding terms of Mr Hester's remuneration package, and the endorsement of that package by UK Financial Instruments, which represents the taxpayer's interest in the bailed out banks.

Then, there is the intention of the Government to return a honed-down RBS to private ownership, with as much value created for shareholders (including the taxpayer with an 83% stake) along the way.

Some would say that being at the helm of RBS through this period is one of the worst jobs in the country and Mr Hester's performance is, apparently, satisfactory.

But let's go ahead and bash the banker anyway in the full knowledge that his bonus, taken or untaken, makes no material difference to the UK's poor and low-paid and that political interference can only worsen the prospects of creating an RBS fit for full private ownership.

We could take a different tack - split RBS into a good and bad bank Northern Rock style and appoint someone on a sensible salary of around £250,000 a year to run the good bank.

This could then be sold off on the cheap to one of today's White Knights, Richard Branson, for example, while the taxpayer keeps all the crap.

Turning to Fred Goodwin, it would appear that he has been relegated to the position of "traitor", having joined Anthony Blunt in the loss of a Knighthood.

The comparison is ridiculous and worse still, Goodwin's public humiliation has the whiff of a New Puritanism about it, with the darker corridors of power taking a lead from Oliver Cromwell and the appointment of a Witchfinder General.

In reality, Fred Goodwin is a failed businessman who got caught up in his own ego and the euphoria of growth by acquisition.

Barclay's had the ABN Amro deal on its desk at the same time as RBS but couldn't raise the cash, leaving Goodwin to make his final and fatal acquisition.

The action was taken with the support of shareholders of the then wholly privately-owned RBS, with even corporate shareholders and pension funds waving it through.

What I find so alarming about the annulment of Goodwin's honour is that we have a retrospective puritanism at work here, headed by those who want righteousness instilled in actions and events that belong in another age.

That being so, I had better proceed with my message to the broker community, before free speech is cancelled.

Can we sleep easy in our beds? The answer is no because we should all be wondering who next will come to the attention of the measly-minded know-it-alls and retrospective puritans. If you want your mattress to remain well-sprung, you had better take whatever opportunities come to hand to oppose both.

Remember, they are accompanied by a new model of regulation that has its fingers in your pie and may start to take an interest in your salary and your fees, once the Goodwins and Hesters have been purged, and all in the name of sound corporate governance.

A final plea to get the message out: politicians and other high-minded individuals need to stick with extolling the virtues of the City becoming a trading hub for the Chinese Renminbi, rather than making the UK an international laughing stock over Stephen Hester's bonus and Fred Goodwin's dishonour.

If you agree with this article, stand up for what you believe in and write to your MP - join the thinking persons' club, or form a club of your own, and protest loudly.

In the words of one wise woman: “If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination.” - Mary McLeod Bethune, American Educator 1875 to 1955.