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I’ve lived a pretty comfortable life materially. It’s difficult to say that I earned it. I worked at the top in worthy industries, but not in creative or productive roles. I now have a good pension. So this rant is bordering on rank hypocrisy.
It’s just that walking round the streets of our very bourgeois area on the outskirts of the London bubble, I see many burly guys from all parts of the world working hard on knocking down and rebuilding houses that were very pleasant to begin with. These guys could be building new start-up homes for the young or sheltered accommodation for the old. The owners of these palaces are usually making mega-money in the zero sum game that is the City, or advising those that are. It’s a negative sum game actually, once those involved have been paid their exorbitant fees. As a former CFO of a top company, I can’t think of a single derivative instrument that I really needed to buy, and yet trillions are traded in them. As a former Chairman of smaller companies, I can’t think of any bank finance offer that wasn’t close to certain to lead to a default.
Walk round the City or Canary Wharf and all that’s being built are office blocks to house such traders, not hospitals or nursing homes, or high-tech factories. Railway lines are being built, it’s true, mainly to allow more City workers to get into their offices.
Yet outside this bubble, the towns, the old county boroughs, are having nothing spent on their infrastructure. They’ve lost their spirit as they’ve lost their reason for being where they are. As an ageing country with a population that is perhaps 20 million greater than we can feed or keep warm with indigenous food and energy, we need to live on our wits and sell things the rest of the world wants. That used to be manufactured goods: now it’s financial services. But how soon before the world wises up to the fact that they’re paying out massive fees for precious little? I stood at Bankside, looking at the cranes across the river and I couldn’t see the future.