Going great guns for Gaddafi

Rosamund Urwin of the <em>London Evening Standard</em> on a week of whingeing bankers, trouble for t

Bankers love to moan. "We pay too much tax," they opine. "If anything changes, we'll quit the UK for the Far East," they threaten. When they get together, they probably whinge about how tough it is to decide whether their £50 notes are best used for snorting cocaine or for stuffing into lap dancers' thongs. So you might have thought that the Vickers report - the suggested reforms for the nation's biggest lenders in the light of the financial crisis - would be met with a banking brouhaha. Instead, the industry was remarkably quiet. On the stock market, banking shares fell - but the declines in London were less extreme than for Continental rivals and were caused by European sovereign debt worries, not John Vickers's pronouncements. One trader told me: "It could have been so much worse."

The truth is that the banks were let off lightly. Their ever-busy lobbyists have done an impressive job of portraying this as "bankmageddon": it is not. They have eight years to find the funding to implement the proposals or to fight for them to be made cushier. Naturally, the banks will complain about the cost, but the estimated annual hit of £7bn is dwarfed by the £28bn that the taxpayer is still out of pocket on the Royal Bank of Scotland alone. Who is likely to suffer? As with the recession, us mugginses, I suspect. Free banking for the debt-free? Kiss it goodbye.

Banks, like casinos, always seem to win. Earlier this year, I took four (brave) financiers to see Inside Job, the docu-horror about the financial crisis, and face an interrogation afterwards. The words of one - the Dutch trader Lex van Dam - rang in my ears on the day the Vickers report was published: "Nowhere is the average pay per IQ point higher than in the City. How is it possible that bankers get such enormous bonuses still? If you're not sure where the money comes from, then it probably comes from you."

Suffering a blow

As George Osborne discussed how to whip (sorry) the banks into shape, headline writers were having a dream day with the allegations hanging over the Chancellor's past. The lawyer of the former dominatrix Natalie Rowe alleges that Osborne may have helped Andy Coulson get his job with the Conservative Party in 2007 to repay him for a generous portrayal of Rowe's claims that Osborne had taken drugs. Osborne denies both claims. And even if a politician had a blow almost two decades ago, must it be career-destroying? A blemish-free past should not be a necessary trait of the politician. Honesty in office is a different matter.

The customer isn't always right

At the ExCel centre in east London, the biennial "Let's Give Guns to the Ethically Questionable" fair took place. The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, opened the Defence and Security Equipment (read: weapons) International exhibition on 13 September. Among the guests invited were those famed lovers of democracy and good governance, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

This doesn't quite chime with David Cam­eron's speech in February: "Our interests lie in upholding our values - in insisting on the right to peaceful protest, in freedom of speech and the internet, in freedom of assembly and the rule of law." When there is money to be made, perhaps that doesn't apply. On 11 September, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the UK government was pushing for the sale of sniper rifles to Muammar al-Gaddafi's regime mere weeks before his citizens took to the streets in protest. How swiftly we can go from selling guns to turning them on our customers.

You can't have it all

I Don't Know How She Does It - the mummy martyrdom movie based on Allison Pearson's book - is out in UK cinemas, reigniting the media debate about women attempting to "have it all". Like Rebecca Asher's book Shattered, the flop Uma Thurman flick Motherhood and half the forums on Mumsnet, the new film makes a convincing case for getting your tubes tied.

Even though pressure is routinely piled on young women to start using their ovaries early, popular culture simultaneously makes having a baby sound about as appealing as ingrown toenails. Do you want to spend your life guilt-ridden, trying to pass off shop-bought fruit pies as home-made and sobbing as you miss your child's parents' evening? I don't. I'm not sure when self-flagellation became so fashionable again but it certainly doesn't do it for me.

The problem is obvious. Most women still end up doing the bulk of the childcare and the domestic chores on top of working and they feel judged if they can't quite match up to the "superwoman" Nicola Horlick.

So, perhaps the sign that equality has been achieved will be a slew of films on fatherhood and books that complain about the perils of men attempting to "have it all". As that day seems a long way off, I am sure that many women of my generation will give motherhood a miss. I don't know how she does it? I don't know why she wants to, more like.

No laughing matter

David Walliams saw off "Thames tummy", angry swans and tough tides to swim 140 miles of the Weil's-disease-ridden river to raise over a million pounds for charity. The comedian even managed to rescue a dog along the way.

At just 40, Walliams seems to be closing in on national treasure territory and he has done his penance - a thousand times over - for the viewing horror that was his spoof airline documentary series, Come Fly With Me.

While applauding his success, however, I miss the days when comedians were a little more comedic. Walliams, married to a model (Lara Stone) and with the endurance of an Olympian, is almost too much of a Hollywood hero for the job. Given his elevation in the nation's affections, am I allowed to admit that I don't often find him funny?

Rosamund Urwin is a columnist for the London Evening Standard
Peter Wilby returns next week

This article first appeared in the 19 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Meet the next Prime Minister