If you know me or you read my blog regularly you would expect me to say that RBS boss Stephen Hester was a bit of a greedy bastard in his reluctance to part with his £1 million bonus. Although the thought of a bonus of such an unjustifiable size is anathema to me, he would not have been offered it if it was not in the terms of the package he agreed when he took over the job. I used to employ almost forty people and it was customary to present them all with an outline of the terms and conditions when they were taken on.
Hester works in a world where big salaries are the norm. I imagine when he got home from the RBS interview his conversation with his partner went something like this.
'So how did the interview go dear?'
'Very well. I think I'm in with a good chance.'
'What are they offering you?'
'Well its only £X million salary - a bit less than I might have got at Y PLC. But and it's a big but, if I hit the targets that they set I'll be in line for a million quid bonus in a couple of years.'
'That sounds good. Are you going to take it?'
'Well I think the targets are realistic so I'll give it a go if they offer it.'
Now Hester finds himself being pilloried by the whole country for presumably hitting the targets that he was set in order to trigger this obscene sum and having to forego the payout to assuage politicians and every Tom, Dick and Harry who has jumped on the bandwagon. I'm not going to shed any tears for Hester's loss but surely the fault lies in those who came up with his remuneration package and not in him for accepting it. When footballers score the requisite number of goals to trigger their equally obscene bonuses does the whole country jump up and down and demand that they pay it back? Until bonuses are outlawed, capped or punitively taxed, employees are entitled to take whatever they are offered and, if they don't like it and think they can do better, they can go somewhere else. Hester has given a couple of years of his life working towards a goal in which the posts have been shifted and he has good cause to be angry about it.
I mentioned football. There are still seats on the Kop at Anfield in my name and my son's name but we won't be sitting on them any time in the foreseeable future. I was disappointed to hear Kenny Dalglish refer to a huge proportion of the Anfield crowd's incessant booing of Patrice Evra during Saturday's cup tie as "banter". My dictionary defines "banter" as 'Good humoured playful conversation or the exchange of mildly teasing remarks'. When screaming profanities is deemed good humour, playful or mildly teasing, I know that I was right to give up my fortnightly pilgrimages throughout the season to a ground that has changed beyond recognition since I first set foot there in 1967. The place hasn't changed but the atmosphere has. Where you once genuinely did have "banter" there is now total hatred. When the United fans chanted at the weekend 'It's never your fault' they made a extremely valid point. Anfield has become a place where everyone from the manager downwards believes themselves to be victims. It's time to do some soul searching. If Dalglish had stepped onto the pitch the minute that the booing started and signalled to the crowd to tone it down, he and the club could have gone up immeasurably in everyone's estimation.
Perhaps footballers and bankers might learn a lesson from sitting down together and seeing how the other half live (kindly emailed to me by a reader).
Above and Below from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.