If you’re a radio talk show host, there’s only one thing better than a blowhard – and that’s a blowhard who used to be a banker.
Step forward Venetia Thompson.
Venetia, a banker (or inter-dealer broker, to give her full non-job title) who was fired after writing a tell-all column about excess in the City (well I never!), was a natural provocative choice for Jeremy Vine last week as he asked the question on his radio show – which social class was hit hardest by the Budget?
Venetia was perhaps the only person on the entire BBC contact list who was willing to publicly defend bankers and argue that George Osborne had hit the rich hardest by cutting corporation tax and going soft on capital gains.
Up against her was Daily Telegraph Whitehall editor Christopher Hope batting for the ‘middle classes’ (presumably as defined by the Barclay brothers), while the Socialist Party’s Hannah Sell argued that the poor were feeling the squeeze.
So how could Venetia argue that the rich had been hit hardest by a Budget that went soft on capital gains tax and cut corporation tax?
Simple – by going absolutely stark raving bonkers.
“I don’t think it actually was the bankers who got us into this mess,” spluttered Venetia. “It was originally a problem with fat lazy people sitting around not working hard enough. Fat lazy people who don’t want to go out and get jobs and who were living off benefits and the state.”
Presumably thin lazy people are wholly innocent – it was the overweight idle who were doling out high-risk subprime mortgages and took enormous gambles on toxic derivatives. Who’d have thought that collateralised debt obligations were invented by Wayne and Waynetta Slob?
Venetia’s suggestion? “We should start taxing fat people.”
Well that’s Anne Widdecombe done for.
It got better. “I don’t think in this day and age they are that rich on £151,000. I think the amount that it costs to survive in London is actually a heck of a lot more than that.”
Awww, those poor bankers, struggling to get by on £151k a year. Apparently it costs far more to “survive” in London – perhaps Unison should bear that in mind for their next London Weighting campaign.
But don’t these bankers deserve to get clobbered? “They have paid a huge penalty inasmuch as no-one’s getting bonuses anymore, we’ve tried to clobber them harder and harder, the culture has changed… some of them are getting bonuses, the vast majority aren’t.”
Oh, I see, Venetia – they aren’t getting bonuses for, um, doing their jobs. What is this world coming to?
Just to round off, Jeremy Vine asked Venetia – who had just insisted that high pay was a vital incentive to keep the rich from fleeing our shores – whether poverty was an incentive for the poor.
“I think poverty is an incentive…” was about as far as she got before Hannah Sell went ballistic.
You can listen to the whole thing (for the time being at least) here – http://bit.ly/dqM9pf – the fun starts at 0:09:20.
What is immediately striking is that anyone – even a socialist – could probably do a more credible job defending the rich than Venetia. The arrogance and ignorance was so naked as to draw fire even from Telegraph hack Christopher Hope (who otherwise barely got a word in edgeways). It was a PR disaster from start to finish.
Apparently Venetia now works as a journalist. Ah, The Spectator. That explains it.
But even if the likes of the British Bankers Association might have the smarts to show some remote public contrition over the credit crunch, it was Freudian Venetia who let the cat out of the bag as to how the City and the rich really feel. £151,000? How can we possibly survive? Tax fat people instead!
Hannah Sell battled her every step of the way, and pretty heroically at that – and I’m not just saying that because I used to be a party member. It’s more that she actually managed to remain coherent in the face of some quite stupendously absurd arguments. I would have been left utterly speechless. Which wouldn’t make for good radio.
Enough from bonkers bankers. Last word to Hannah Sell:
“The system’s broken. Capitalism is broken, that’s the problem in this country. It’s a capitalist crisis that got us into this mess. It wasn’t the public sector, it was big business and it was the banking system.”
There. Much better.