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Another banking scandal

Lord Green on Panorama, a man of principle

Lord Green on Panorama, a man of principle

They say even a broken clock is right twice a day. And so it was when the UK’s normally supine media broke the story this week of HSBC helping the wealthy to dodge paying tax.

It was a pleasure to read the Guardian‘s in depth expose, which named names and also highlighted how HM Revenue, scourge of the little people who are routinely fined £100 for late income tax returns, came to cosy deals with the super rich cheaters to pay back the millions owed after a whistleblower had revealed all.

It was even sweeter to see Stephen Green, HSBC’s former executive chairman when the scandal took place, scuttling away from a Panorama reporter attempting to question him. He had nothing to say, of course. Green, an ordained CofE priest who was made trade and industry ministry in the House of Lords after his stint at the bank, was no doubt rushing to the nearest metaphorical phone box to complain to the highest quarters about BBC bias.

So well done to those exposing yet another fraud even though we know no heads will roll. Also, as far as I know, there was no mention of HSBC laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels a while back, perhaps to avoid giving the impression that there is something truly rotten at the heart of the banking system.

One story the media couldn’t possibly ignore because of its enormity has been Syriza coming to power in Greece. But reporters are caught in a bind. While they acknowledge that Greeks have suffered from the extreme austerity programme imposed on them, they cannot see any alternative. Therefore, the thought of a government challenging the rationale of austerity measures threatens to plunge them into a crisis of existential proportions. Safer, then, to paint the Greeks as plucky but idealistic fools who are boxing themselves into a corner.

Whatever happens, the Syriza victory is proof that people can only take so much under a bail-out programme that serves no other purpose than to keep a country permanently impoverished, especially when the bankers are laughing all the way to the, well, bank. It’s a rarely spoken reality but one reinforced by Croatia’s decision to forgive the debts of 60,000 of its poorest citizens. That news came of the blue. It was picked up by the press as a quirky news story but not dwelt upon. Heaven forbid that a government has decided to help its citizens rather than bash them about all the time like over here.

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