In the Cowardly New World we all inhabit these days, crooked folks no longer go to jail, they set aside. I see this phrase so often now, I’m beginning to think of banks as fields: poor bastards, they’ve had to set aside again….how are they ever going to feed their families?
After RBS set aside a squillion quid last week, this week it’s Barclays first of all setting aside £850m this morning, and then according to later results this afternoon close to a billion. Maybe they bought some more fields over lunch, and then got told to set them aside too. Those investment bankers, they’ll never make farmers. Tch tch.
This sort of near-obscene euphemism is yet another bright, clean mirror reflection of the utter destruction of equality before the law in Western cultures. Last year, Barclay’s Libor-Combine Harvester Bob Diamond set aside an entire bonus in his eagerness to avoid some of the more painful downsides of the slammer. Before that, Baron Green even gave up his job in recognition of some regrettable forgetfulness on the subject of south American kid-killing drugs….and to then really demonstrate total contrition, took a post working for David Cameron as the Minister for Trade. We may have given up the death penalty forty-six years ago, but that was a fate worse than death.
I once bought (and still have) the original of a very funny cartoon showing a travelling salesman at the door. He’s saying to the startled householder, “Good afternoon, I’m from the Jehovah’s Witness BCCI Double Glazing Company”. That kind of job was never going to make a chap rich, but the absolutely cast-iron way to stay free from the clutches of justice in Britain in 2013 is to be a paedophile former civil servant money-laundering adviser to Lazards Bank. You could walk down Threadneedle Street clad in only a placard proclaiming ‘Infant Orifice, Pension & Treasury Abuser’ and not attract so much as an admiring glance from anyone: not a cop, not an MI6 officer, certainly not a judge, and probably not a legislator….unless his name was Tom Watson, and he knew you were a large donor to the Tory Party.
But do not despair, because brick by brick this Berlin Wall of Hadrian China keeping us from justice is being chiselled away. I refer of course to the swift verdict meted out to Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne, whose defence bollocks lasted a year until he finally confessed to what millions of people had known for some time: that he perverted the course of justice and blamed a speeding offence on his spouse. Greater love hath no man than he lay down his wife for his career, but such is the multi-layered nature of Huhne’s awfulness, he was shagging another at the time…the Mrs found out, and the rest is history – if not yet justice.
An especially tragic part of this episode concerns the very clear failure of Mr Huhne over the years to bond with his son, a young man who brings a whole new meaning to the word countryside. In July 2010, Huhne junior texted Pater thus: ‘You are the most ghastly man I have ever known. Does it give you pleasure that you have lost most of your friends?’ On Christmas Day that year, Chris texts the fruit of his loins, ‘Happy Christmas. Love you, Dad’, and the seasonal goodwill consists of ‘Well I hate you, so f*ck off’. Where’s a Haringey social worker when you need one, eh?
Chris Huhne has now set aside his Parliamentary seat, but do not be fooled into believing there might be some evidence of redemption involved here: as a Parliamentarian, he is forced so to do, or face the ignominy of being expelled by his peers. Not that this means being expelled by the Liberal Democrats of course, because to be expelled from that eclectically advanced college of self-destruction, nothing less than having a loaded shotgun transplant in both feet will do.
Anyway, let us all now set aside any prejudiced expectation we have, and await the judge’s sentence of three minutes jury service.