7 Reasons That The Westbourne Bank Protest Was Stupid
In Britain, it’s often said that we’re not very good at protesting, and we’re always compared unfavourably with the French in that regard. But now, public protest in the UK has reached an all-time low because, last weekend, several men in Dorset bricked up the door of their local bank in what they claimed was a, “…protest against the reluctance of banks to lend money to small firms”. Here are seven reasons that their protest was stupid.
1. They Went To The Wrong Bank. The protesters wanted to brick up the door of the Westbourne branch of Natwest Bank because it had refused the group’s ringleader, Cameron Hope, a business loan. But, when they arrived at the Natwest, the police were nearby, so the group decided to brick up the door of a different bank instead. Barclays. Now, if I do something that irritates my wife involving…ooh…I don’t know…umm…a bicycle, for example, and I’m not there when she finds out about it – or I’m standing near the police – I wouldn’t expect her to go and yell at a different man. Because that would be crazy. And irrational. And yes, it would be much better if she did that, but that’s not the point. Bricking up the door of a bank that they didn’t have a legitimate grievance with is just mad. And counter-productive.
2. Prudence. Okay, so the bank turned down Cameron Hope’s loan application. What should he do? Scrimp and save, perhaps. Look at alternate ways of raising capital, or go to a different bank. I’m not a businessman, but I wouldn’t choose to demonstrate my financial acumen and creditworthiness to another bank by frittering my money away on costly building materials and then use them to construct a monument to my own profligacy on their doorstep. Because that’s not going to help. And it’s a lot of effort. He could have achieved the same effect by setting fire to twenty pound notes in front of the bank manager instead. Far less trouble.
3. Put Simply. The more money the bank has, the more they’ll lend, making it more likely that you’ll get a loan. Conversely: The less money the bank has, the less they’ll lend, making it less likely that you’ll get a loan. So if you brick the door of the bank up, customers can’t take their money to the bank, and then the bank can’t lend it to you. I realise that this is a highly simplistic, microeconomic description of banking, but I’m addressing it thus, to the protesters because of…
4. The Quote. The quote tells us that the protesters don’t understand how banking works at all, because one of the group stated to journalists, “You go into a bank and there’s nothing there, the bank’s open but the safe is shut.” This is his summary of his grievance with the banking system; and it doesn’t really bear much scrutiny. Because of course there’s nothing there. What does this man expect to find in a bank? Displays of money? Shelf upon shelf of alluringly-arrayed notes and enticing floor-displays brimming over with a boundless abundance of shimmering coins? And of course the safe is shut. It’s a safe. That’s its job. If the bloody things weren’t meant to be shut they’d be called something different. They’d be called unsafes. Or vulnerables.
5. Helping The Bank. The protesters bricked up the door of the bank on a Sunday: A day when all banks are closed. So this had no effect on the bank’s ability to trade. In fact, one of the major obsessions and expenses of any bank is security, and by bricking up the door – and thereby making it more difficult for robbers to enter the premises – the protesters actually helped the bank. Not to mention that their protest also brought the police along to stand outside in hi-vis jackets, which probably made the bank as safe as it’s ever been. And all at no extra cost to the bank. What are the protesters going to do next, try to bring down the Conservative party by voting for them?
6. Consequences. Though the protest didn’t have any serious consequences, it could well have done. The protesters could have endangered the nation’s economy. By bricking up the door of the bank, they made it likely that employees would have to enter and exit the premises via the windows. And, as history teaches us, bankers jumping out of windows is one of the worst economic indicators that there is. Worse even than Alistair Darling’s eyebrows. It’s the sort of thing that, if the media get hold of the footage, can shatter fragile economic confidence.
7. Achievement. As a protest against banking it doesn’t appear to have accomplished anything. I was in the centre of a city yesterday, and banking appeared to be going on pretty much unhindered by the protest. People in polyester uniforms were sitting around near potted plants in waist-high partitioned areas looking depressed, as usual. The cash machine outside was covered in the remnants of a McDonald’s milkshake, as usual. I wanted to thump over 90% of the people in the queue, as usual; even myself. So the protest has had no discernible effect on banking. Obviously, the protest brought an awful lot of free publicity for the property developer behind it, but that wasn’t the point. Because this was a protest against banking, right? And not some sort of tawdry self-serving publicity stunt?