Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Bankers make us swear, so make them swear too

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Mention banking and many people will utter an oath. It has become the only profession that makes journalism look respectable.

But moves are afoot to take the trade back onto the straight and narrow. One of these involves making bankers formally adhere to an ethical pledge like the Hippocratic oath sworn by medics ("I promise to keep terminally ill people in hideous pain alive and in agony for as long as I can").

The call comes from ResPublica, an independent cogitation-tank that thinks running two words together means it is down with the kids. Still, it's had a good crack at the problem, with its report Virtuous Banking: Placing Ethos and Purpose At The Heart Of Banking.

Ethos and purpose, eh? That's communist talk, mister. But Mr Phillip Blond, director of RP, makes a good point when he yodels that "virtue is distinctly absent from our banking institutions". Yes, I'd spotted that too.

He proposes an oath that will place bankers on the "road to absolution" – steady now – and make the evil Satanists work for a clearly defined social purpose.

The oath contains some revolutionary ideas: "I will do my utmost to behave in a manner that prioritises the needs of customers." That should see mass resignations for a start.

It goes on: "I will confront profligacy and impropriety wherever I encounter it, for the conduct of bankers can have dramatic consequences for society."

Good luck with confronting yon profligacy. I know someone who worked with distinctly improvident Fred 'the Shred' Goodwin of RBS and it sounded like a right reign of terror. Incidentally, Fred's house is just a stone's throw from my modest semi, though I should rephrase that as someone did put a rock through his window.

I think the oath is a good idea, along with public floggings. Another good idea proposed elsewhere is "boring banking", which wants small banks rooted in their communities. The organisation Common Weal believes it would be good if banks "presented no systematic threat to the economy". Hmm, never thought of that. Worth trying, surely.

The "boring" bit simply means making them safe, reliable and respectable, and losing the "casino" approach, wherein they played fast and loose with our cash. Making them more Captain Mainwaring than James Bond, so to speak.

One thing is for sure: something has to be done. With interest.

Wednesday: Newly wed Cheryl's no dummy despite makeover

Cheryl news: well, we haven't featured the engaging Geordie bird in this controversial current affairs column for a while.

Engaging? Hell's bells, it says here that Ms Cole – for it is she – recently got married. I must have missed the memo on that.

The latest news is that they're giving the born-again X Factor judge a makeover at Madame Tussauds.

If you're squeamish look away now, for they've only gone and swapped the short orange skirt and purple silk top of old for a chic look with tight leather trousers and metallic tunic top, plus killer heels. You can tell that I just copied out that, can't you? Furthermore, they gathered her hair at the nape of her neck. I see. Cheryl is about to "burst back onto our TV screens". Alas, I shall be washing my hair that night. But I will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Friday: They can all crawl off and die!

Like most people, I danced for joy around the room and into the streets on learning that the world's insect population had declined by 45%.

I, for one, have had enough of them. If it isn't clothes moths chewing on my duds, it's Hitlerite ants marching about the back garden.

Sure, I'm keen on butterflies and bees, and I don't even mind beetles, but all that proves is that I like insects beginning with 'b'.

Scientists say losing insects could be catastrophic as they're needed in the chain of evil that constitutes the world of nature.

But they can shut up.

Saturday: Don't marry... Just shack up and cash in

One of the worst things that can happen in life is a friend coming up to you and spluttering: "Brunhilda and I are getting married."

That's the last you'll see of him, particularly if they have sprogs and retreat into that most unsocial of institutions, the family.

There's also the threat of being invited to the wedding, which is somewhere down there with funerals as an event not to die for. Just quietly sign your papers with the state and move in together. No need to make a song and dance about it. Reports in the public prints suggest that, instead of extorting presents out of friends, engaged couples are now just asking for money.

Well, amen to that. Better than all that malarkey with toasters. However, they don't say where to send the loose change.

Sunday: Top stuff, my old muckers

It's arguably inadvisable to say at a party: "Hello, I'm a bog snorkeller."

But the controversial pursuit is now a regular feature in Northern Ireland's calendar.

Impressive squelching occurred at this year's Bog Snorkelling Championships in Co Tyrone. Two enthusiasts turned up from North Carolina. Mud in your eye, folks.

Monday: Holy smoke! All the cool kids are vaping

I have yet to vape, by which I mean smoke an electronic cigarette.

I've been tempted to try an electronic pipe to see if it would help with the philosophy, staring out the window, and affecting to be a man of peace.

But it's e-fags the young folk have been inhaling, and some experts think it's helping to keep them away from the hard stuff like Benson & Hedges.

New figures show young folk in Englandshire smoking less tobacco. The latter practice seems daft now.

But it remains essential to have something dangling from your lips if you want to appear cool.

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