I wonder what made Stephen Hestor finally give up on his million pound bonus? We can only speculate but I wouldn't be surprised if he received a blunt phone call from someone in the Treasury, telling him that he might have to choose between the bonus and his job.
That bonus had become politically toxic. It outraged Britain. RBS is owned by the taxpayer, and the idea that an employee of the state-owned enterprise could walk away with so much cash was incomprehensible to the vast majority of Britons.
Hestor's bonus was only a drop in the cesspool of RBS remuneration. The bank is poised to pay out this year over £1.5 billion of bonuses. Remember, this is a bank that is for practical purposes bankrupt. It could not have survoived without the massive cash injection from taxpayers, nor the indirect support through low interest rates from the nation's central bank. Still, the bankers get paid.
What, I wonder, is the true significance of the RBS bonus rip off? This is the one issue that unites everyone. In a country whose economy was wrecked by arrogant and selfish bankers, these bonuses are offensive. There is no business case from them, since the institutions paying them would die without state support. It took enormous political effort to claw back just one million quid from one banker. The effort exhausted the government. As for the rest of the cash grab by RBS bankers? That will continue as planned.
This, I fear, is the true corrosive significance of bonuses. It exposes the lie that parliament and government matters. It deflates our belief in democracy. Nothing can be done, because RBS, like all the banks are out of control.