People gamble to become wealthy

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it used to be estate agents and car salesmen.

Occasionally it has been journalists and politicians.

But now it’s bankers.

And those at the Royal Bank of Scotland are particularly vilified this week.

First it was the turn of current chief executive Stephen Hester, who eventually announced that he will not be taking his bonus of shares worth almost £1million.

Not surprising when you consider how much these blokes are on to begin with.

But what was a surprise was that former chief executive Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood.

(As an aside, it was former Sheffield City Council chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake who made the reportedly brief but to the point phone call to Sir Fred, telling him that he would henceforth be simply Mr Goodwin).

It is a very rare thing indeed for someone to be stripped of an honour.

Since 1995, the Forfeiture Committee which oversees these things has only recommended 34 times that people be stripped of their titles.

And when you consider that this puts Fred Goodwin in the company of Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe, disgraced boxer Prince Naseem Hamed and tax cheat jockey Lester Piggott, you see just how far he’s fallen.

Now there is an outcry - almost exclusively from those with a vested interest in the prestige of life at the top.

One, Lord Digby Jones, former CBI director, protested: “There is the whiff of the village green lynch mob about this. Where does it stop?

“I am concerned that a bright young guy in Bangalore who is thinking of coming to the UK to make his way, create jobs and generate tax will think, ‘no way – look what they do to you when you get it wrong’.”

Muddled thinking or what?

Is he telling me that the reason business folk take huge gambles and work long hours is because they have their sights set on a gong?

Rubbish.

They do it because they want to be rich. Wealthier beyond their wildest dreams.

That is what has driven people through the ages, from emperors to entrepreneurs: the insatiable hunger to possess more money than they could possibly spend.

So why do we give them a knighthood in the first place?

After all, they are just doing their jobs – and in most cases being massively rewarded in the process.

I heard a pundit say these people are showered with honours because they created jobs. That’s a good ’un.

They created jobs because they wanted to help the poor and needy? Don’t believe it.

They created jobs because they couldn’t do all the work themselves - and certainly didn’t want to do the dirty work themselves.

That was handed down to the workers. Hoi polloi, and as few of those as possible. Don’t want to eat into the profits, boys.

Meanwhile, the bosses at the top got fatter and wealthier and more distant when they stuck the word Sir in front of their name.

It is right to strip Goodwin of his knighthood because it was unnecessary to give him one in the first place.

They argue that their fat pay cheques and mouthwatering bonus cheques are just reward. That should be enough.

It would be for me!