A banker writes

No doubt by the time you read this I and my colleagues will be manning the barricades, creating makeshift shelters from upturned desks and filing cabinets in order to repel the rampaging hordes at our doors, at least if the combined wisdom of the media and the City of London police is to believed. As someone working in a bank in the City I have been subject to various dire warnings about the possible events of the next 48 hours and the various precautions we should take to protect ourselves from the inevitable mayhem.

Bankers are told to avoid wearing business clothes in order to be less conspicuous, presumably on the basis that the standard garb for anarchistic anti-capitalist protesters is polo shirts, chinos and loafers. Now even jeans and trainers are allowed, next they will be telling us to sport dreadlocks and have a dog on a piece of string. We are told to cancel routine business meetings, not to leave the building unless it is absolutely essential, people due to visit local clinics for medical appointments have had them cancelled.

Of course it is true that there have been previous demonstrations which have ended in violence, notably the May Day protests in 2000. But I also remember most of that day being entirely peaceful and good natured – I remember going out at lunchtime and there was a big party going on in Lower Thames Street with sound systems and people on unfeasibly tall stilts. It was good fun and not in the slightest threatening or intimidating. OK a few idiots spoiled things later on, but then there were also certain City types fanning the flames by hanging out of their windows waving £20 notes at the protesters.

But what really gets me is that we are essentially being braved to weather a descending hoard of alien beings, as if somehow those protesting and those of us who work in the City are different species altogether. OK, there are probably some amongst both groups who think this – protesters who see us as evil capitalists and colleagues who look down on them as the great unwashed, but I never believed this was really true before and I think this is even less so now. I expect a lot of the protesters will not be of the kind on previous demonstrations in the city – they will be “ordinary” (no disrespect meant to them or the others) people angry at the damage which has been done by certain people within our industry, and quite rightly so. And we are angry as well, our jobs are at risk or have already been lost, we have families to support and bills to pay and most of us are not earning huge salaries and getting mega bonuses. We also have friends and families who are suffering. This is certainly not a plea for sympathy, maybe some will see me as a hypocrite, but I just want to point out the absurdity of the idea of us being penned in our offices for our own “safety” from people who are no different from us who just want to vent their entirely reasonable anger and frustration at a system that has failed.

So I hope that as many people as possible turn up tomorrow, and hope and expect that it will be a peaceful (ok, noisy but non-violent) occasion. I hope the police will not be as ridiculously heavy handed as I fear they may be. And assuming I am not manacled to my desk for my own safety I will certainly pop out for a while to give my (possibly unwelcome) support.

Update (8am on 1st April): Just walked into the office to find it had been taken over by anarchists. Then I realised that it was just my normal colleagues but they were wearing jeans. Phew!

Mind your language

It seems that the right wing tabloids have found themselves a new hero, a brave “patriot” upholding British values in the manner of the infamous metric martyrs.

This time our hero is “patriotic postmaster” Deva Kumarasiri, who banned people who were unable to speak English from his Sneinton Boulevard post office in Nottingham.

Mr Kumarasiri, 40, introduced a ban on non-English speakers after claiming they ‘annoyed’ other customers by causing delays and made it difficult for him to do his job.

‘I told people to learn some English or come back with an interpreter,’ he said.

He said he banned only five people and most of the community had supported him. But members of the local mosque are said to have started a petition against him.

According to another report

His bold stand against nonintegration has sent a shudder of political correctness down whatever spine the post office has these days, and infuriated some local do-gooders who accused him of inciting division among the community.

Now I don’t doubt that it can be frustrating for Mr Kumarasiri to deal with customers who don’t speak English and also for his other customers who experience delays as a result. I also would agree that people who move to a foreign country should make an effort to learn the language, it is in their interest and that of the rest of us. But it is not Mr Kumarasiri’s place to be the arbiter of such things, he is there to provide a service to his customers, a service which for many people is a fairly essential one. By refusing to serve certain people he is not only doing a disservice to the community but also his employer who owns the shop and will no doubt see his profits suffer and to the post office itself which expects its postmasters top provide the service it is paying them for. This is nothing to do with political correctness, nor are those who complain “do-gooders”.

Anyway, Mr Kumarasiri has now been moved to another branch where he is not likely to encounter such problems (ie in a mainly white area) and so hopefully hat is the end of the matter. In fact I don’t actually have any great animosity towards him, I think he is wrong on this issue but he is not wicked or bigoted. What concerns me more is the way he is held up as a great patriotic hero by the right wing tabloids. It is not hard to see why this story appeals to them – it gives them the chance to indulge in a bit of immigrant bashing while at the same time deflecting accusations of bigotry by pointing out that the guy they are defending is an immigrant himself. But do immigrants really need to go to these lengths before they get the approval of the Daily Mail?

I won’t be beating my wife (well at least until 2012)

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt points out that Labour MP Tom Harris is compaining about the blogosphere not taking notice of the government’s decision to deny bailiffs the right to break into people’s homes and use force against them in order to recover debts.

Presumably it doesn’t occur to Harris that the reasons for this are
1. The people who proposed giving bailiffs these powers were his own government and since when should people get credit for deciding not to do things which are stupid and unprincipled? They deserve stick for proposing these measures in the first place not credit for changing their minds.
2. It is only postponed until 2012 when regulation of bailiffs will come in to force.

Still, I would like to inform Tom Harris that henceforth I will not be beating my wife (well at least until 2012) and I await his acclaim for my good character.

Barclays documents online

The Guardian may have lost in its attempt to lift the gagging order won by Barclays Bank preventing the publication of documents detailing its tax avoidence strategy, but the documents have now been published at Wikileaks. The reasons why these documents are significant can be seen here and it is estimated that the various scams have cost taxpayers over £1bn.

Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy is co-ordinating an attemt to get as many bloggers as possible to link to the documents, so if you want to see them click here.