The traders are primed to start pumping stocks, sales-traders are manning the barricades, I mean the phones, there’s a steady hum of stockbroking from the salesforce on the desk opposite but here am I, genuflecting before my desk, staring at the carpet beneath it (and thinking it could do with a good vacuuming) in a moving protest (rendered all the more poignant for its silence) against… against what exactly?
I am protesting the following: the era of Sharia compliance; the oppressive force of political correctness; the looming MiFID disaster; margin compression; drive-by orders from the buy-side; cheesy corporate cultures; sub-optimal lavatorial arrangements; institutional insincerity; online training modules; loss ratios; The Employers Who Have Done Me Wrong; over-regulation by the FCA; alleged culpability for causing the GFC and, while we’re at it, as a devout republican, I would never stand up for the national anthem or the Union Jack so you can throw that in for good measure too.
After decades of sport, my knees are not so flexible these days, and so rising from my protest position takes a few minutes, by which time I’ve missed the opening flurry of orders and everyone else has settled back into a recumbent position reading Mailonline and farting uselessly into their seats.
My show of dissent has failed to snowball into a genuine resistance movement, and gone unnoticed once again. Perhaps they think I was tying my shoelaces. (Actually, because it seemed a waste to bend over without doing anything constructive while I was down there, I did tie my laces). No one is bothered I’m disrespecting the business. No one cares about its reputation, that’s why. In the City, people only care about the money.
Since the world’s most powerful toddler took issue last week with sportsmen taking the knee as a distraction from his looming impeachment (inshallah) the gesture has suddenly become a hotly-disputed bone of contention, but I don’t see the fuss myself.
Not for Queen and country
I have refused to stand or sing God Save The Queen for several decades and suffered the opprobrium of every lickspittle or drunken sports fan as a consequence. Try sitting alone at Twickenham or with your arms folded while everyone belts out that tedious and self-abnegating dirge or rioting with fellow English hooligans in some poncy, Mitteleuropean café-fringed plaza and not chanting it aggressively at confused continentals with some Come-On-Then! hand gestures. Then shall ye know the meaning of courage.
Patriotism, of course, is everywhere inversely correlated to people having something to feel inherently patriotic about. North Korea is a topical case in point. The wretched subjects are eating grass and watching very low-quality television, yet they must clap and cheer whenever Kim Jowel-un and his notebook-toting, big-hatted retinue hove into view and when one of the Sung dynasty dies, they must rent their clothes and wail publicly as if their lives depend on it. Their lives do depend on it. They would applaud him if he imposed MiFID and suggested fund managers separate payment for research and execution.
Yes, the poorer and more put-upon the populace, the more passionately they whoop and holler as the flag runs up the pole. I feel no obligation to salute the monarch who reigns when I didn’t receive a bonus last year and I haven’t had an order worth acknowledging this week.
Look Queenie, there has to be a quid pro quo: don’t expect my fealty without at the very least guaranteeing me you will never allow Jeremy Corbyn to form your government. If that happens, Diane Abbott is only a heartbeat away from No.10 Downing Street and that will never do. All across the Square Mile there would be scenes akin to a North Korean dictator’s funeral but those emotions would be genuine.
Watching the leader of the opposition make his speech to the Labour conference this week, I found myself wanting Jeremy Corbyn to take a knee — in the crotch. It’s always a nervy afternoon for the stock market when the socialist manifesto has its moment in the spotlight and for an hour or so we must contemplate the ghastly prospect of these madcap schemes and wreckonomics becoming government policy one day.
Generally, the markets wobble but recover afterwards as the nightmare vision recedes but this year feels different. There can’t have been one capitalist on Wednesday night who didn’t shudder in his bed with the sound of Comrade Jezza rousing his supporters to prepare for government.
Comrade McDonnell, the most economically illiterate shadow chancellor I have ever seen and someone whose dystopian vision of Britain makes Enver Hoxha’s Albania seem appealing, told activists he had prepared for a run on the pound, capital flight and an "assault" by opponents in the City when Labour forms the next government.
I think he was speaking metaphorically about the latter but he should expect the real thing. I don’t have any capital to flee with but I shall be taking my mortgage and my huge overdraft and relocating somewhere with a sensible leadership and a real blueprint for the future; somewhere like Pyongyang.
I watched the whole Théâtre du Grand Guignol at my desk with the sound off, just reading the headlines on the newswires as one crackpot initiative after another scrolled down. People on the trading floor were watching the television screens, hands across their mouths, aghast, scarcely able to believe the subtitles could really be conveying what the dumb show mimed.
For the second time that day, I pushed my chair back, hitched my trousers up slightly, rested my elbow on my thigh, knelt with resignation and cradled my face with the palm of my hand.
Taking the knee: something tells me you’re going to be seeing a lot of it.