What planet are they on?

There are times when it seems that the City’s great and good inhabit a parallel universe.

This thought been prompted by an article, Bank of England bosses claim Charlotte Hogg’s resignation was ‘disproportionate’, in the Business section of this morning’s Telegraph, and, in particular, that

the outcome seemed to court members entirely disproportionate to the original offence,” said the directors of the Bank in a note recording topics discussed in a teleconference which took place on March 14, the day she resigned.

Any private sector boss making the same mistakes would not have had to quit, the board said.

To which one might respond, #Headinhands, “Up to a point Lord Copper.”

Most observers were surprised that Hogg took so long to resign.

There is no doubt that the Bank regretted her resignation. But ‘disproportionate’? Surely not.

A more considered view was that of the Treasury select committee, whose unanimous report concluded that Hogg’s “professional competence falls short of the very high standards required to fulfil the additional responsibilities of deputy governor for markets and banking” and whose chair Andrew Tyrie offered a much more considered view than it appears the Court held,

This is a regrettable business with no winners. Ms Hogg has acted in the best interest of the institution for which she has been working. This is welcome.

 

One way to pass an afternoon

In last Saturday’s FT, Christopher Caldwell, a Senior editor at the Weekly Standard, asks what cultural impact will Donald Trump have on America? The Trump Aesthetic is a good article (paywalled), even if somewhat depressing. But why should we be surprised?

I was struck by one sentence,

New presidencies have a ferocious cultural knock-on effect. They change how Washington talks, how provincial America sees itself, and what image the word “America” conjures up abroad.

It’s that last bit I have been thinking about. What image will we see?

Trump may hope it will be the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which Caldwell describes in the opening paragraph of his article.

I have a rather more dystopian image in mind – the Bates Motel.

And one correction.

In the article, Caldwell refers to Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes, in which, he says, she “deplored Trump’s alleged mockery of a New York Times reported with a withered hand, an accusation Trump denies.” And he points out that the problem with Streep’s comment, “Disrespect invites disrespect’, is that “this is precisely the criticism Trump’s supporters have always levelled at the elites for whom Streep speaks.”

I think Caldwell misses the point. The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that affects joint movement. Streep talked about Trump (not named in the speech) imitating the reporter (others used the word ‘mocked’) and what Streep was getting at was that by doing what he did, Trump legitimised bullying.

Watch ABC News’ report and draw your own conclusions.

Trumped

Am I enjoying the furore over the Trump dossier? Yes and no. It is extremely depressing seeing Trump live up (or is it down?) to his reputation, and yet at the same time such schadenfreude rarely happens.

But what I am impressed by is the skill of the Russians.

My take – and it is simply that – is that at very little cost they have managed to drive a considerable wedge between a US President and his intelligence agencies, even before he has been inaugurated.

Knowing Trump’s character and how he would react, all that was needed was to provide information through sources trusted by those intelligence agencies, and allow us to do the rest. In time we will learn that most of the dossier is false, but in among its lurid (and as yet unspecified) details there is likely to be sufficient truth to make everyone wonder what is and what isn’t true (and there is also a delicious irony in Trump being skewered by facts that aren’t but which might be). And those truths will have been enough to ensure that Western intelligence agencies couldn’t ignore the dossier.

The UK’s former Moscow ambassador, Sir Andrew Wood,  told the Guardian today that “the report’s key allegation – that Trump and Russia’s leadership were communicating via secret back channels during the presidential campaign – was eminently plausible.” But does that really matter?

For what the dossier has done is to destabilise the relationship between a US administration and its spooks. That is what should worry us.

 

Lessons still being learned

I wrote this to my son 12 months or so ago, at a time when he had just missed getting on a Grad Scheme he really wanted (and before he had been accepted on another). He reminded me of it last week. It was taken from a post I had drafted a little earlier but for some reason had never published.

12 months on  from that letter I am about to change jobs again. I have the same feelings of excitement and apprehension; and in my past two years as the Director of Marketing at a Top 100 law firm, I have had very much the same run of successes and disappointments – and so the learning goes on . . .

Looking back over some 36 years of corporate law, I am struck less by the successes – of which there were a number – as by the disappointments. To some extent it is the latter that have defined my working life as a lawyer. And yet they have also allowed me to develop, to adjust, to grow: and so, in a strange way, they have been responsible for the successes. They have shaped how I have seen things, and have informed the risks I have taken.
 
Disappointment, both professional and private, and how we deal with it, makes us the people we are. This is not about having a glass half full or a glass half empty. My glass has always been more than half full. Rather it is about how we learn. Life would certainly be more straightforward without disappointment – and there might be considerably less pain.
 
But it would not, in the long run, be half as much fun.

Some things don’t change

Reading Artemis Cooper’s biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor, I was struck by a quotation from a letter PLF wrote to Lawrence Durrell during the crisis over Cyprus,

I do wish the whole [Cyprus] thing was settled. It makes both the English and the Greeks conduct themselves like complete lunatics and grotesque caricatures of themselves.

Some might say very much the same thing about the English and the Argentinians over the Falkland Islands.

Whose tone is wrong?

Aidan  (“my tweet has been misunderstood“) Burley may have done his bit to discomfort David Cameron recently, but his foolish tweets about the Olympic Games opening ceremony are as nothing compared to what the employment minister Chris Grayling has apparently been up to. The story is all about a Ministry of Justice courts service information video that helps people appealing against decisions to remove their disability and sickness benefit.

According to a report in the Guardian,

Emails and letters between Grayling and MoJ civil servants, seen by the Guardian, appear to show Grayling wanted to remove parts of the educational video, produced by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, giving advice on how to be more successful in the appeals process. Emails from the minister’s account complain about the video’s “tone” and “negative comments” towards the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) even though the sections in dispute were agreed to be factually true.

In The Courts Service video, which remains offline, the Guardian reports that

senior appeals doctor Jane Parry tells viewers: “Whatever the outcome of your appeal, we hope that you find the appeals process clear, impartial and fair … we will do our very best to help you.”

They may want to, but it seems that the Government would prefer they didn’t.

Whose side are you on?

I am still reflecting on a great article Young people are rubbish by Suzanne Moore in Wednesday’s Guardian 

People my age should be embarrassed by this situation. Solidarity has to be cross-generational, not dismissed as some sort of youthful protest. We have to stop blaming young people for not voting. If there is no sense of a shared future – what we called civic society – and if people feel politicians are powerless in the face of “the markets”, they will not engage.

Looking at my children and the situation they all find themselves in, Suzanne Moore is spot on. Read it.

And yes, we are embarrassed.