2nd July 2012
A success? But is it playing the game? In cricketing terms, is Agius just an A.N.Other taking the bouncers for to protect the star batsman? And, changing the sporting metaphor, is the City of London to ape the England football team and become number eight in Europe?
For Agius, who three decades ago was the spinner to the serious Sunday papers of takeover stories for then employer investment bank Lazard, it could be the ultimate sacrifice. Just as he did in the 1980s, he took the heat from his boss.
It will not last. Dropping Agius as the shareholder meeting's master of ceremonies still leaves Diamond on the bridge as the star turn. And once the novelty of Agius falling on his sword (with details of any golden goodbye package) has passed – he was due to leave anyway in the next year or two having already served nearly six years in the chair – the focus will return to Diamond and to the wider Libor scandal.
There will be a desperate attempt to contain the Libor issue. Already, many banks beyond Barclays including HSBC and RBS are in the "too big to fail, too big to jail" category.
The first question is whether big finance has other skeletons to hide. It probably does but that will take time to emerge.
The second is how this will play overseas. And that will go far wider than Barclays or British banks. It could go straight to the heart of "dictum meum pactum" the City of London's appeal to the world built on the "my word is my bond" concept. If you cannot trust the financiers anymore, then the City of London must lose its role.
According to the Economic Times of India, it is "not cricket". Barclays has not kept a straight bat, the banks have been bowling googlies at the public, and, to compound matters, Diamond has not "walked" when caught out. Instead, he awaits TV replay after TV replay to contest where his foot was when he played the shot.
In a more in sorrow than in anger piece, the Indian paper says:
The whole system only worked assuming that the club would play cricket and, of course, nobody would dream of cheating. It's a system that harks back to a kinder, gentler era of gentleman banking, and like so many things, in England, the tradition carried on. It's the "that's how we've always done it since 1462" syndrome, the one where everyone assumes that just because a system always worked, it always will.