Publicans, Politicians and Bankers

By James Baer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bank

Publicans, Politicians and Bankers
In a 2012 survey of the least trusted professions, politicians came bottom with bankers not far behind, this is probably not a great surprise to any of us, but our democracy used to be a source of national pride and the bank manager a well respected figure in his local community. So what has gone wrong and what can these groups learn from the Great British Publican?

To a certain extent our industry is in the same boat as banking, at least as far as the politicians are concerned, in that we are both convenient scapegoats for some of the more challenging issues faced by government as well as being “milk” cows in terms of raising revenues.

Before readers think I am putting a hard working publican in the same boat as a rate fixing investment banker, I am not nor am I an apologist for the banking sector. Banks should be called to account for PPI, Libor, reckless lending etc.
Huge bonuses for short term profits at investment banks clearly distorted behaviour in an unacceptable manner. However banks are not the main reason we are in the fix we, as a nation find ourselves.

Scandinavian levels of welfare spending and US levels of tax are unsustainable, cuts or tax hikes are each a difficult sell for a politician so they duck, dive and spin their way to the bottom of the trust league.

An IPPR study in January last year put the value of a local pub to its community at up to £120,000 p.a. The home of responsible drinking, providing a valuable service to the communities they serve, yet our industry is attacked on a regular basis for the harm it causes.

Booze is a tiny part of “Broken Britain”, much larger contributors are a lack of discipline in schools, sink estates where several generations have never worked, a non-functioning justice system and so on.  These issues are all long term difficult and expensive for politicians to tackle, it is much easier to bash us and ride the duty escalator into the bargain.

So why have the banking and politics businesses lost the standing they once enjoyed? The key reason is unlike a publican who is embedded in his local community Politicians and Bankers have become detached from the people they serve.

Politicians inhabit the “Westminster Bubble” with their focus groups and special advisers, while “quants” the investment bankers’ equivalent of special advisors sit above the clouds in Canary Wharf looking at their computer screens and dreaming up ever riskier strategies to create theoretical profits.

A publican as detached from reality as these two groups wouldn’t last five minutes. Pasty tax, bigot gate and the EU all highlight this arrogance and lack of empathy with their communities. The Europhiles say there are compelling reasons not to have a referendum on EU membership and this may be the case, but clearly they think either the reasons aren’t that compelling or the electorate are too stupid to get them. No publican would treat his “electorate” with such disdain.

I recently read a piece that referred to old school banking, used to be based on the 3 – 5 – 3 model: Take deposits in at 3%, lend them to local businesses or home owners at 5% and be on the golf course by 3pm, the final 3 could just as easily be 5 and refer to the time to be in their local pub! The real issue here is that there was a clear transparent offer and the banker interacted with his local community, just as any good publican does day in day out.

Of course there are good MPs and bankers and we at Amber are fortunate to have a supportive and responsible relationship manager, and in our dealings with our local MP Paul Maynard we have found him to be interested, independently minded and looking to help.

As a class however our Masters of the Universe, both political and financial have become detached from and unresponsive to the needs of their electorates and customers and indeed their communities. So come on MPs and bankers, take a leaf from the book of the Great British Publican, be at the heart of your local community, and take pride in serving it with transparency, integrity and passion.

While you’re at it support pubs with your actions, tax our industry less, slash the red tape, through lending and indeed custom you can help to preserve a Great British institution and may even reconnect with the real world while you enjoy a pint.

PS. Amber Taverns has some brilliant ladies operating our pubs so any reference to he in connection with Publican should be read as he/she/they.

  • James Baer is managing director at multiple operator Amber Taverns

Related topics Legislation