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Bob is your uncle in British 'mate-ocracy'

world Updated: Jul 07, 2012 01:06 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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No one in Britain's political establishment knows quite how to deal with Bob Diamond, the American who quit as chief executive of Barclays over the rate-rigging scandal. He infuriated MPs this week at a parliamentary committee hearing on the scandal by constantly referring to them by their first names.

So it was Andrew (chairman), Michael, Mark, Stewart, Andrea, Pat, Andy, John, George, Jesse, Teresa, David and John again. But Bob is, after all, an American – and they're all informal aren't they? Well, not really. They may wear baseball caps to work, but at formal hearings it's always Senator so and so.

Incredulous radio stations on both sides of the pond have been playing Bob's soundbites: "John, we've been through this a number of times. Jesse, can I finish? It's a very, very pressurised situation, Michael. It's interesting, Teresa."

Did Bob want to give the impression that they are all mates? Proof of close ties between politicians and bankers is set to come tumbling out of the gilded closet in the coming weeks.

"A deliberate move on his part," tweeted furious committee member Jesse Norman, an ex-Barclays man, live from the hearing. "I haven't seen the man for 15 years, and barely then."

"I think they do it, one, to appear confident and to appear in control. And also, to sort of make other people who are listening seem to them as if we're all friends," said another member Teresa Pearce.

Surely they're not all friends? Like an angry couple, the Conservatives and opposition Labour parties accuse each other of having been in bed with bankers.

Barclays have released an email from 2008 hinting darkly that 'senior Whitehall figures' encouraged rate-rigging. It's all very sordid but at the end of the day's trading, Bob's your uncle, as they say here.

It means 'there you have it', and has its roots in a 19th century act of nepotism. In the 1880s Prime Minister Lord Robert Sainsbury appointed his undistinguished but favourite nephew Arthur Balfour to a series of prominent political posts.

In 1902 Balfour became PM. How? Bob's your uncle.

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