Mark Steel: How do executives get by on £3.7m?
They've done it again! According to the Financial Times, the average "remuneration" for directors of top companies has gone up 10 per cent to £3.7m, though to say it like that is grammatically incorrect.
When it's reported on the news, Robert Peston should have to use the formal English, and say "THREE POINT SEVEN MILLION S**TBAG B*****D POXY POUNDS EACH. That's EACH. AAAAARGH. Now, here's Tom with the weather."
And this comes after all the furore about executive pay, and warnings we should never allow such payments again. They must have thought, "There seems to be discontent that we award ourselves £3.3m each. They're obviously concerned we won't be able to manage, so we'd better put it up a bit."
What could they be short of last year that meant they needed a rise? Did they tell their shareholders, "It's such a struggle. I get home on a Friday, buy a couple of pandas and a snooker table, pay for Placido Domingo to sing while I'm in the bath, and half my week's money's gone already." You almost have to admire the front. As if the Spanish said, "Here, you know that bailout. We spent it on a Damien Hirst giraffe stuffed with diamonds. Can we have another one?"
Maybe they've all got an, as yet, unrecognised condition, and one day we'll wonder how we were so heartless to sufferers of Compulsive Bonus Acceleration Infinite Greed Syndrome, which compels victims to swipe 10 per cent more each year or they rock backwards and forwards violently in their boardroom banging their heads on a desk.
As usual, it's justified as essential for encouraging success, because who's going to bother making an effort for less than £3.7m? It's a good job nurses get that much or our healthcare would be in a dreadful state.
Any economic situation seems to demand increasing pay for executives. In a boom, it's considered churlish not to pay gigantic bonuses, then, in a slump, we can only get the economy moving by paying them gigantic bonuses. If a group was stranded on a desert island and one of them was an executive for Glaxo, he'd say, "The first thing we need to survive is to give me £3.7m, otherwise we'll never start to get a shelter built."
So Vince Cable has announced he's to "water down" the restrictions he was planning to make on such payments. These new measures would have made it simpler for shareholders to vote down the pay awards, so instead he'll probably allow shareholders to make a light humming sound while the director is speaking, which can be quite off-putting and might make him think again.
Cable had hailed his changes as a "Shareholder Spring", which suggests he's not entirely up to speed on the revolutions in the Middle East. He must think Egyptians occupied Tahrir Square to ask Mubarak if he wouldn't mind reducing his powers, unless he didn't fancy it in which case he could give himself 10 per cent more.