The London Paper – 15 May 2009
I’ve had some truly bizarre experiences in my time but trying not to make a total knob of myself during a ten minute interview using only my piss-poor A level French in Paris the other week has to be up there with the best of them. I’d like to fool myself that they wanted me on one of their biggest chat shows because of my erudite wit and fascinating stories but the reality was somewhat more sinister.
I was in Paris promoting the publication of my book ‘Cityboy’ in French when this peculiar incident occurred and I’ll be doing the same in Germany next week. The simple fact is that our European cousins are not fascinated in my story because of its innate hilarity but rather because I represent everything that they see as wrong with ‘Anglo-Saxon capitalism’ e.g. the unregulated, Thatcherite model that is blamed for our current woes.
As I stuttered and stumbled my way through the interview trying and failing to pretend everything was cool and the gang it soon became crystal clear from the questions asked that what they really wanted to know was why idiots like me were ever allowed to run the financial capital of Europe. I was not being interviewed as the author of a whistle-blower book but rather as a symptom of all that went wrong.
As I sat on my uncomfortable raised chair, a bright light burning into my bloodshot retinas I struggled to answer the questions delivered by the snarly French man who seemed unnaturally smug about the credit crunch not having been caused by the French. My Parisian interrogator clearly relished the fact that the chickens had finally come to roost for British jokers like me and thoroughly enjoyed making me squirm despite my desperate attempts to present myself as ‘the good guy’.
The reality is that our Continental brothers have been enviously eyeing the success of The City for over a decade and wondering why Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid have fallen by the wayside in their puny attempts to rival the Square Mile. Our success can be partly attributed to Gordon Brown’s ‘light-touch’ regulation, which attracted hedge funds, investment banks and dodgy companies alike.
Unfortunately for the world, it’s this same unregulated approach that led to the City becoming a house of cards that created the seeds of its own destruction. After the Credit Crunch that the yanks and we Brits created, our cousins on the Continent can finally sit back smugly and shout about how no such crisis would have occurred with their more conservative, regulated approach. Their self-satisfaction is made all the more unbearable because Obama and the G20 posse quite rightly now accept that tighter regulation is indeed required.
I came back from Paris feeling like I’d done twelve rounds with Mike Tyson and expect nothing less from my time in Germany. Frankly, it’s nothing I don’t deserve … and if it sells a few books who gives a monkeys!