May, 2009

May 09

Such sweet sorrows

It is a time for goodbyes

Bye bye Michael Martin, Speaker of the Houses of Parliament.  He failed to recognise the seriousness of the MPs expenses scandal and antagonised the public with his lack of penitence, at a time when sackcloth, ashes and self-flagellation are de rigeur among politicians.

The Sir Fred Goodwin of politics, one could call him, in memory of the ousted Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) boss, also rather lacking in the breast-beating department.

Bye bye Sir Victor Blank, the chairman who is being pushed out of Lloyds Banking Group following what is perceived as a disastrous takeover of HBOS by Lloyds. The lack of proper due diligence failed to reveal the full extent of the former’s ghastly balance sheet – although CEO Eric Daniels personally took the blame.


May 09

Green shoots come down to earth

On a sunny Sunday in the Sussex countryside, with eight-year-old boys playing cricket on a lawn and adults desultorily chatting on a terrace, it is impossible to believe in rain and snow and cold, let alone conflict and recession.

Human beings have a tendency towards optimism and group think. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the moment, where green shoots are being focused on with much more absorption than the signs of a continuing slump. In just such unconscious happiness we all gloried in the boom.

Doom and gloom don’t fit that well with spring. I interviewed FSA boss Hector Sants in early April (for full interview  It may not have been very warm but he was imbued with optimism that he was going to keep his job.

May 09

Coffee and countercyclical provisions

To Caffe Nero on the Fulham Road, corner of Gilston Road, for my morning espresso macchiato. How do they ensure loyalty? Their  proposition includes allowing dogs in, resulting in a bit of anarchy in our PC world; the friendliest staff who know your name and comment (always favourably) on your appearance; regulars ranging from set of professional photographers who have been meeting there for years, to a body builder with a chihuahua and a set of seriously yummy mummies.

Plus, this being Chelsea, unemployed investment bankers, who are just getting into the swing of their new lives.

Unlike the neighbouring Starbucks, at Caffe Nero they don’t overwhelm you with tasteless, monstrously sized coffees.

May 09

Real Madrid and Santander’s strategy

To Madrid to watch the Real Madrid football team train. These glorious athletes, paid in the millions, made the ball fly in unimaginable ways, rather like asset prices and credit used to.

My eight-year-old son hung around outside the dressing rooms to capture autographs and photos with his favourite players. So did a number of middle-aged men. Have they nothing better to do, I wondered, from the perspective of a woman uninterested in football. But perhaps they were unemployed bankers and former regulators – scratch that, regulators seem to have kept their jobs.

On a more serious note, Spanish unemployment looks set to hit 20 per cent. People gasp at that statistic and at the fact that GDP is due to fall by 3.5 per cent this year.