Listening to Bob Diamond answering MPs' questions before the Treasury Select Committee yesterday made me think how different it all could have been. You see I once worked for Barclays. I left school as a fresh faced 18 year old, throwing up the offer of a university place to study law and following the alluring bank booklet enticing me to "Be our youngest manager". Anyone who knows me will appreciate that if faced with a challenge like that I will always throw myself fully at the task.
The booklet outlined the Bank's Management Development Programme aimed to fast track the brightest young employees and, with my four A'Levels, I certainly fell into that bracket (at least on paper). Before being considered for the MDP the employee needed to complete his or her banking examinations - typically four years. But by taking the exams in the spring and the next level in the autumn(which was aimed for re-sits) I managed it in under three and was able to wave the note stuck on the staff notice board and dated July 1972 "John Brassey today stated that he will waltz through his exams" in the face of the sarcastic colleague who stuck it there.
Fully qualified, I started pestering my superiors about being taken onto the Management Development Programme - the Holy Grail that had lured me into Barclays. I needed more experience so I was shunted all over the place and within five years had worked in no less than five branches before finally arriving in the hallowed halls of "Liverpool Head office" where a benign old director Patrick Rathbone took me under his wing and said to me "I like you. You've got brains. You're here on merit. I'm here because I went to the right school and had the right family connections". I loved that bloke. He seemed ancient to me but I suppose he was only in his sixties. On Paddy's say so I was off to London selected for the MDP interviews with his words ringing in my ears "You only get one shot at this and very few succeed".
At my debriefing a few weeks later I was given the great news. I had passed despite my psychometric tests saying that I was too keen to be liked (always a problem for me) and some derogatory comments on my dress sense. What was wrong with a light grey enormously checked flared suit, purple tie and platform heels? The guys with the three piece pinstripes didn't get through and at least I hadn't worn my white suit with a red carnation which had mysteriously seemed to upset several of my managers.
So there I was on the stairway to Barclays' greatness and, who knows, the sky was the limit. Had I been handed a further booklet at this stage titled "Be our youngest chairman", I would have gone for it in just the same way and instead of Bob Diamond answering all those questions yesterday, it could have been me and I can assure you that if I had ever become chairman we wouldn't be seeing those ridiculous bonuses. I think the most that I ever trousered was a profit share of about four hundred quid and anything over a hundred grand is surely just plain greedy. Who does Diamond think he is? Wayne bloody Rooney? I keep thinking back to the nurses who helped me through my recent operation. They aren't going to earn £8 million in their lifetimes (all of them, not just one). How can anybody be so unaware of their overinflated opinion of their own value? My politics are all mixed up at the moment. I support some Labour, some Lib Dem and some Tory policies but on these bonuses I will support anybody who taxes them to 90% and uses the funds to increase health workers pay or other more deserving causes. And if I still worked at Barclays I'd be doing an Alan Sugar and saying "Oi Diamond. Your'e fired".
Rant over. Feels better now that it's off my chest but smug gits like Bob really get my back up. You really need to listen to the committee interviews in full if you get the chance to realise what an ignorant t**t he is.
We went to see "The Kings Speech" yesterday and it lived up to all expectations. Colin Firth has been tipped for an Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of stammering King George VI but I feel that the acres of news and magazine pages, TV and radio coverage and web pages devoted to Firth have rendered Geoffrey Rush (above) something of an unsung hero. Unless you are familiar with his outstanding performance in "Shine" you might well ask "Geoffrey who?" but, as the King's therapist Lionel Logue, Rush puts in an exceptional and in my opinion show stealing performance which is equally deserving of an Oscar nomination. Marion and I sauntered up to Vue expecting very few customers at the 1pm screening but were amazed to find the cinema packed with fellow retirees and another very long queue waiting for the next showing as we came out. It's brilliant to see big audiences on a cold Tuesday afternoon and bodes well for our beloved film industry.
I've rambled on a bit today so I'll save the comments that I had planned on the BBC's ageism case for another day although I'd far rather watch Mary Portas (yes, I know) and Helen Mirren and plenty more middle aged women than some of the young presenters who fill our screens. Mary's got a new show out next week. Mary Portas Secret Shopper airs on Channel 4 on 19th at 9pm - can't wait.