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Thursday, June 28, 2012 

From scandal to scandal.

The parallels between News International and Barclays are obvious. Both were/are arrogant, strutting companies, ran by arrogant, strutting individuals who believed that they were above the law. Both believed that they could either deride or injunct their critics, protected as they were by their connections with the most powerful in society. Both believed that they could obfuscate their way through a period of trouble, whether it was countless NI execs and editors claiming their problems were all the fault of one rogue reporter, or Bob Diamond saying first that the time for apologies was over, before thinking better of it and declaring how he was determined to make Barclays a "good citizen" (and therefore failing the simple test that if you think corporations should have the same rights as people then you deserve to be slapped with a fish), at the same time as it was continuing to attempt to avoid paying tax.

If it hadn't been for the Guardian, it's unlikely that News Corporation would have today announced the splitting of the publishing side of the business from that of broadcasting, with Keith himself stepping down as CEO of the new company. If he is indeed now going to concentrate on the US, then good riddance doesn't really quite cover it; the man most responsible for the coarsening of culture in this country, for the rise of the celebrity non-entity and unending, underhand attacks on those who opposed his politics has finally received his long overdue comeuppance.

It can only be hoped the same happens to those responsible at Barclays. The chief executive at the time of the fixing of the Libor rates, John Varley, was incredibly being spoken of as the next governor of the Bank of England. Bob Diamond, the current CEO, was the head of Barclays Capital when those underneath him were swapping emails talking of opening bottles of Bollinger in return for favours in manipulating the rates. Barclays, it should be remembered, only avoided being directly bailed out by the taxpayer due to it raising funds from the Qataris, although it still depended on guarantees from the British state at the same time.

The fine from the Financial Services Authority of £59.5m, despite being the largest ever imposed by a regulator pales when compared with the £170m levied in the US. The irony of the home of capitalism red in tooth and claw being far tougher on corporate crime than this supposed more social democratic nation is no longer amusing, just outrageous. George Osborne can blame Labour all he likes, but he was the one complaining back in 2006 that regulation was increasing and threatened London remaining the financial capital of the world. The case for the splitting up of the retail and investment parts of the banks is now unanswerable, and if Osborne wants to remembered for something other than creating a double dip recession, bringing the City to heal would be it.

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