There are moments when you listen to the BBC when the clouds suddenly part, the sun breaks through and the person being interviewed layeth a smackdown on the BBC interviewer. Such was the case this morning when RBS CEO Stephen Hester was interviewed here on Today by James Naughtie. What a cracking performance from Mr Hester. Naughtie pursued the usual dismal biased BBC narrative which seems to reduce to; 1/ The Banks were solely responsible for the financial crisis  2/ Bonus payments are wrong 3/Fairness should be the central nostrum for capitalism. Each time he tried to get Hester to agree, the RBS Chief effectively dismissed the proposition put forward. When Naughtie compared Hester to a Doctor, implying the latter did what he did without bonus payment, Hester compared Naughtie to a Nurse (!) and batted the point straight back. This was a seamless performance and even at the very end when Naughtie resorted to making a cheap point using Hester’s parents,  this too was dealt with. If you haven’t bought shares in RBS, you should. It’s a pity we are forced to buy into the BBC. Well done to Mr Hester.

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21 Responses to SMACKDOWN!

  1. Roland Deschain says:

    That was a great put down, which I was going to comment on but you’ve saved me the bother.  The BBC are always going on about high salaries whilst ignoring the plank in their own eye and I can never understand why more interviewees don’t do that.


  2. Barry says:

    Didn’t feel it was quite the put down that I was expecting.

    Although Stephen Hester gave a good account of himself, I think he dodged many of the questions quite effectively. And of course the BBC is hypocritical. However, I’m very suspicious of the “market forces” argument and I do wonder what is wrong with people who seem unable to give their best for less than £2m/year.

    Engineers are vital to the German economy but, as far as I’m aware, they don’t receive 6/7 figure bonuses to ensure retention.


  3. Biodegradable says:

    I’ve banked with RBS ever since it was called Williams & Glyn’s.


  4. Deborah says:

    Thanks David for the recommendation.  I switched off Radio 4 at 8.11 because I heard Hester’s gentle voice and thought he would be no match for Naughtie – having listened on i-player – how wrong.  But it was unpleasant to hear Naughtie’s increased heavy breathing every time he anticipated a ‘gotcha’ for Hester which disappeared every time he failed. 


    • My Site (click to edit) says:

      It was unpleasant to hear Naughtie’s increased heavy breathing every time he anticipated a ‘gotcha’ ‘

      More a change of speedos by a loyal studio slave.

      I was mistaken earlier in saying it was Humphrys; SKY ran an edit and didn’t credit the BBC bozo.

      I was simply struck how Mr. Hester calmly motored on over the endless attempted interruptions by his inept adversary.


  5. Umbongo says:

    Yes this was a good performance from Hester but the BBC Narrative was sustained.  In the end the message left with the audience was 1.  bankers and large company bosses are paid undeserved bonuses in general (although maybe Hester’s might have been justified); 2. the blame for the financial fiasco is down to the bankers (not – God forfend – politicians or the nomenklatura).

    So again we have the Chomskyan restriction of debate.  By concentrating on Hester (and including in the news an item on continuing public “fury” over bonuses: the usual “commercial” for a later item in Today masquerading as “news”) the wider causes of the financial debacle are left undiscussed.  Consequently, in the public’s apparent perception (encouraged by the BBC) the blame lies where the BBC (and, funnily enough Labour) wants it: at the foot of “capitalism” not the simulacrum of capitalism encouraged by Brown and the recent unlamented Labour administration.


  6. Nick Chambers says:

    Didn’t Naughtie once say ‘we’, instead of ‘Labour’, when interviewing Gordon Brown?


  7. hippiepooter says:

    I think the only thing that might have approached ‘smack down’ was the nurses comment.  As Umbungo so eloquently states, how far more interesting the questions would have been if they weren’t coming from a notorious Labour lackey.


  8. cjhartnett says:

    How come nobody does an impression of James Naughtie?
    His questions are rambling, self schmoozing and inept…anybody would love to get Naughtie to interview them because his questions are inevitably longer than any possible answer.
    One huge bag of old wind…reminds me of the pastel tartan you might find on a discarded bagpipe…as peed on by Alistair Campbell.
    Naughtie is the embodiment of Beeb self-absorption.
    Hester should have blown him out of the water-we know how much Hester now gets…so why didn`t he get Naughtie to reveal how much we pay the Paisley Poltroon?


  9. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Once again I didn’t even have to listen to this to know that it was off-message and the Today producers weren’t happy with the impression with which the audience was left. The very lengthy blurb is always the giveaway.

    Poor Hester, running up against the Labour Theory of Value. Marxist ideology being openly presented as the proper will of the people. Your license fee hard at work.


  10. London Calling says:

    Overly long “setting the scene” by Naughty, setting up the loaded playing field. His questions were lengthy rambling speeches topped off with a pithy question. Hester’s line about income disparities was clever “that’s for politicians to decide, we are mere bankers” – clever, but not the right answer, which is “That is for my employer to decide”

    The doctor/nurse analogy was a crock. If a nurse thinks they can run a bank and so improve their lot, they are free to apply. The doctor does get a “bonus”. It’s called tripling your NHS income through private practice.

    Naughty was playing the Labour “politics of envy” card throughout. In these times of austerity, why doesn’t Naughty decline his salary and work for minimum wage. Then he can come back and claim the moral high ground. He won’t, of course.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Naughtie was also implying that only special people can be surgeons, but any old fool can be a banker, and so Hester’s job had less value (according to the Marxist theory he was espousing). I bet if you got 100 random people off the street, far more of them would make competent BBC presenters than bank CEOs.


      • Barry says:

        I thought he was just asking why a top surgeon can get by without a bonus.

        I’m no fan of Naughtie but it’s a reasonable enough question.


        • London Calling says:

          A fair question but the wrong example. People are in awe of “top surgeons”? The weazel word is “top” surgeon. What’s a “top” one?  99% of sugery is little different from carpentry or plumbing, the quality doesn’t depend on performance incentives. The incentive to get it right is that they get struck off if they get it wrong. Some lines of work the outcome benefits from performance incentives, other don’t. That’s life.  
          The correct interpretation of a bonus is that it it is part of your salary that is forfeited if you don’t perform against the target you are employed to achieve. But that doesn’t make as good a soundbite.


        • David Preiser (USA) says:

          No, Naughtie very clearly made a distinction between the value of doctors’ work versus bankers’.

          Beginning @ 6:05:

          “Why does a banker, exercising his or her skills, need more money to do it well, where a doctor performing…you know…fantastically complicated operations – which really can’t be done, in most cases, by anybody else, or by very few people – not need a constant tip-up of bonus after bonus…”

          So many ideological tells there, really. This came after Naughtie disingenuously complimented Hester by saying that he was performing a very complicated task in saving RBS. It’s a very obvious attempt to valuate labor. He’s also making a vast distinction between a surgeon’s skills and those of a bank CEO. As if a surgeon’s skill is some sort of special, unique gift and not the product of years of training, whereas running a large bank, well, anyone can do it, dime a dozen.

          And Naughtie’s choice of “constant tip-up” is blatant derogation, not at all an honest portrayal of reality. If doctors could work in a corporate environment, they’d get bonuses just like everyone else. What Naughtie’s done here is take the entire world of corporate pay structure and turn it into something only bankers do out of pure greed.


  11. ian says:

    As an Auggust ryoter oo went too the rong skool bicoz of raysizm, I dimand too be givven James Naughtie’s job. az well az Stephen Hester’s. Iff eye don’tt gett themm I wil soo for raysizm. Fink eye kan be fobbbed offf wiv a plazma tee vee?


  12. LJ says:

    It is all a lie – there was no ‘public outcry’ about Hester’s bonus. There was an outcry by the BBC and Guardian that was taken up by the other media sheep. The government needs to limit local government, NHS Trust, BBC, and quango salaries. That is what the taxpayers and voters want, but we will NEVER hear that on the BBC!