Barclays Bob tried to smarm them, tried to tell them he was ‘shocked’. He even pulled the I-knew-nothing gambit. The Commons Treasury committee did not believe him. To put it in language this Yankie banker might understand, MPs did not ‘buy’ him.
They gave him a rumbling pummelling. Parliament exists to voice public opinion. Mr Diamond was confronted by a contained fury. Here was Parliament as the public square, giving vent to society’s dignified disgust.
Andrea Leadsom’s bosom heaved, her lips a bee-sting of indignation.
Some City boys pay good money to be mistreated by middle-aged blonde women. Mr Diamond got it free.
Mrs Leadsom (Con, S Northants), who used to work in finance, stared at the former Barclays chief executive with her eyes ablaze, her countenance beaky. He tried to meander. She kept slapping him – verbally – and wrenching him back to the topic. ‘Fraud and corruption were going on under your noses,’ she cried.
He tried to coat her with treacle, calling her ‘Andrea’. She called him ‘Mr Diamond’ right back, in snortingly English fashion, and said that at Barclays it had been a case of rich bankers ‘looking after number one’.
They had swapped favours for bottles of Bollinger.
Into Mr Diamond’s being bored those Leadsom headlights. I was sitting not far behind him and, catching some of her glare, felt my giblets shrivel.
Yikes! Mr Diamond pulled out a packet of Kleenex and blew his nose.
Security beforehand was tight. A sniffer dog checked the corridor, pausing when a colleague unwrapped a sandwich. Oooh, Scooby snack. Commons security bods were feverish. The coppers crunched their knuckles.
Mr Diamond arrived with a big-shouldered bloke about 6ft 5in high. A bodyguard? With Mrs Leadsom around, not a bad idea.
Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie (Con, Chichester) got things off to a donnish, disapproving start. He was unimpressed when Mr Diamond failed to follow him with sufficient attention. Mr Diamond kept whispering about how much he ‘loved’ Barclays.
Mr Tyrie, crisply: ‘Can we get to the point?’ Later: ‘I think we already knew that.’ When Mr Diamond came out for the umpteenth time with ‘I love Barclays’, Mr Tyrie choked: ‘We get that! We really do!’ By now the room was laughing at the £20milion (a year) man.
Quizzed by Jesse Norman (Con, Hereford), Mr Diamond came over all familiar, using his Christian name. It was the same with every following MP:
‘Michael,’ ‘David’, ‘Andy’, ‘Ja-hn’, ‘George’, etc. Each time, more people in the room shuddered. The matey American approach was horribly ill-advised. It made the MPs feel used. It made Mr Diamond sound fake.
Would he have tried such informality on Capitol Hill? No. Well, he won’t try it here again, I suspect.
David Ruffley (Con, Bury St Edmunds) scythed through the Diamond filibusters. Mr Ruffley had to shout and pull on his trouser waistband and suck in extra supplies of air to do so.