Danny Rogers: The City must wise up to gritty reality

The 'bonus culture' story over the past week has followed its time-trodden course.

It begins with revelations that Porsche-driving, Chelsea-dwelling bankers will be drawing huge bonuses. Hard-working, cash-strapped families on average salaries understandably show their resentment.

Centrist politicians murmur the usual platitudes about this being 'unacceptable'. The City establishment hits back through various spokesmen and sympathetic financial journalists and commentators. Bugger all is done about it.

Yet one senses that this time it could be different. The political right has always derided the left for pursuing what it describes as 'the politics of envy'. But such an analysis is too reductionist to address the tumultuous events of the past 12 months.

Those in the financial community can no longer rely on the hoary old defence that bankers on huge salaries 'create wealth for all' or that the City needs to pay stratospheric salaries to attract the best talent. This is not to say these arguments hold zero truth, but they fail to grasp the reality for most people in this country.

It can be easy to forget how much pain is felt by working-class families during a deep recession. It is unwise to talk about the 'wealth' that bankers have supposedly created to a family struggling on less than a hundred pounds a week, or, even worse, to a worker who has just lost her job.

And unlike previous recessions, this one is at least partly the result of cavalier lending policies by manifold banking executives.

Several commentators in the City & Corporate section of this week's issue suggest that the financial community must better explain and justify its role. I would agree that this is essential if its brands are to regain commercial credibility.

But a more fundamental rethink is required. The financial community must step out of its bubble and regain some humility - indeed, regain a grip on today's gritty reality.

Without this, any reputation-building process is ultimately cliched and futile.

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