| 7.5°C Belfast

Diamond geezer shows he's no spiv or gambler

You could easily have lost count of the number of bank bosses who have settled down in a committee chair for a roasting by MPs -or MLAs, as the case may be.

The latest occupant of the hot seat was newly-minted Barclays boss Bob Diamond, fast becoming a lightning rod for ire over bankers' bonuses, the season for which will soon get under way with around £7bn due to circulate. Stephen Hester, chief executive of Ulster Bank parent Royal Bank of Scotland, is due to pocket a hefty bonus at the same time as the bank receives a record fine over how it deals with customer complaints.

Mr Diamond sparkled in his defiance yesterday as he told the Treasury Select Committee that banks should no longer be in the doghouse for the credit crunch. Were he prone to biblical flourishes like former First Minister Ian Paisley, he might have said that the time for sackcloth and ashes was over, and that bankers' penance had been done.

Mr Diamond vowed that no bank should ever have to be bailed out by the taxpayer, and that banks should be allowed to fail.

But things became heated when the institution of which he was boss for 14 years, Barclays Capital, was accused by MPs of "casino gambling" and "black jack".

"I resent the fact you refer to it as black jack," he retorted. "I think it is wrong. I think it is unfair. I think it is a poor choice of words. We have some fantastically strong financial institutions in this country and I think they deserve better. It is not appropriate to talk about casino banking in Barclays Capital."

Diamond waived his bonus over the last two years.

He said he and his family would sit down and talk about whether he should accept a bonus this year, estimated to be around £8m.

What an interesting conversation that should be.

As someone who is thought to have earned £21m in 2007, Mr Diamond personifies the unflattering view taken of bankers by their detractors, like Business Secretary Vince Cable who lamented the "spivs and gamblers" of the banking world in a rabble-rousing speech in September.

Mr Cable lamented the "murky world of capitalism" in his conference speech.

Events like yesterday, where we see bankers argue their corner in a public setting, certainly make that world a lot clearer.