Good words are worth much, and cost little

— George Herbert, Iacula Prudentum, and all the way from 1651.

Last Wednesday at PMQs we had a lot of words, and discovered the worth of some of them:

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): RBS is expected to ask the Government to approve bonuses of more than 100% on multi-million pound salaries. Does the Prime Minister think that that is acceptable?

The Prime Minister: What I can tell [1] the right hon. Gentleman is that we will continue with our plans for RBS that have seen bonuses come down by 85% and a bonus pool at one third the level it was under Labour [2]. I can confirm today that, just as we have had limits on cash bonuses [3] of £2,000 at RBS this year and last year, we will do the same next year as well.

Edward Miliband: We can all agree with the general sentiments that the right hon. Gentleman expresses about bonuses, but today I am asking him a very specific question. RBS is talking to parts of the Government about the proposal to pay over 100% bonuses. He is the Prime Minister, the taxpayer will foot the bill, so will he put a stop to it right now by telling RBS to drop this idea?

The Prime Minister: I will tell [4] the right hon. Gentleman exactly what we are saying to RBS: if there are any proposals to increase the overall pay [5] —that is, the pay and bonus bill—at RBS, at the investment bank, we will veto them. What a pity that the previous Government never took an approach like that. [6] [Interruption.]

[1] What can Cameron not tell? And why?

[2] Totally ignores that RBS is now substantially down-sized from 20o8. SkyNews reported [13 June 2013]: The latest slew of cuts will take total number of jobs lost at RBS since the 2008 crisis to nearly 40,000. 

'I can't give you a bonus, but there's a £2m reward for the person who finds my unmbrella'

‘I can’t give you a bonus, but there’s a £2m reward for the person who finds my umbrella’

[3] Note “cash bonuses”, yet the top brass are loath to receive their divvies in cash (which is taxed) and prefer it rendered in kind or shares. [see Matt’s pocket cartoon, from today’s Daily Telegraph]

[4] See [1] above.

[5] See [2] above.

[6] And what would Tories have said were the previous Labour government to have interfered with remuneration among bankers?

Clearly there were:

  • two completely different value-systems evidenced here (note how Cameron totally ignores “acceptable”),
  • two totally different mind-sets (Cameron talks “overall pay”, meaning the whole wage-bill, when Miliband was specific about bonuses),
  • different vocabularies, and,
  • inevitably, different interpretations.

Hmm … surely Burke said something appropriate. Must look it up.

Update:

No, what was lurking in the mind wasn’t Burke himself, but Matthew Arnold on Burke. And it’s good. And it’s almost pertinent to the present mess:

Burke is so great because, almost alone in England, he brings thought to bear upon politics, he saturates politics with thought… His greatness is that he lived in a world which neither English Liberalism nor English Toryism is apt to enter; — the world of ideas, not the world of catchwords and party habits.

When comes such another?

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Filed under David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Edmund Burke

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