B is for bored, for business, for banking and Big Brother.
Everyone is bored, business is up in the air, but banks and Big brother need a good looking at.
During the 2008 financial crisis, the UK government bailed out the banks to the tune of £500 billion. Now, in return, they have asked the banks to help out UK businesses and individuals.
Lloyds Bank currently has an ad running extensively on TV, with the comforting tagline; ‘Lloyds Bank. By your side; now more than ever.’ Excellent; sounds good, we are all in this together after all.
So how, exactly, is Lloyds by our side?
So far, apparently, they have agreed to only one in ten business loans that have been applied for. That’s not so good; they must be concentrating their efforts on helping individuals instead.
The banks, it was widely reported, are offering interest-free overdrafts to everyone.
They are not. If you have an existing overdraft with Lloyds, or sister bank, Halifax, the first £500 will be interest free. Anything else will be charged at a punitive 40%.
If you do not have an overdraft, they will not give you one, unless you meet their previous criteria. which you won’t. The government has asked them to help people who are potentially going to suffer hardship due Covid-19, and they, most definitely are not.
This is apparently the same for all banks.
Well, if banks won’t offer a direct financial lifeline, perhaps people can look for help from their bank-owned credit cards.
Here, we have been told, we will get a three-month payment holiday. That sounds good. I’ll have some of that please. Well, in fact, this just means that you can stop paying your credit card bills for three months, but interest will still be added, at the same rate. Then, after three months you have to pay the whole lot, or start paying extra, compound interest. You have always had the option to do this.
So, in short, all banks have done for us, in these financially harrowing times, is to increase our contactless payment limit from from £30 to £45. Well played sirs.
Well, what do we expect from banks?
At least they don’t spy on us. Do they?
In the UK there are about six million security cameras, one for every 11 people, making us one of the most spied-on nations in the world.
David Cameron’s idea for a national ID card was scrapped a decade ago, but the current government says it is developing a phone app that lets people record their symptoms and then receive alerts if others they have been in contact with have fallen ill.
This will presumably be voluntary, but it means giving all details of our movements and friends to the government, tech firms and their friends, and anyone else who wants to buy it.
In China, people with a green code for low infection risk, can leave their home, but a yellow or red code, meaning contact with, or being, an infected person, means restrictions. Meaning political dissidents, for example, could be kept indefinitely under house arrest.
Of course, that couldn’t happen here, in a free democracy, where the police are operating with a light touch, such as following citizens out for a walk in Snowdonia with a drone, or kicking over a couple’s barbeque on an otherwise empty beach.
If you don’t sign up to the scheme, life might become difficult; employers could insist you install the app, landlords could evict those without it and insurance would become even more of a nightmare. Even an airline industry, desperate for customers, might start banning passengers from flying.
The worry is that electronic tracking would continue unchecked and incrementally after the pandemic and we all become prisoners on day release from prison, at all times.
These questions need looking at carefully; TV hosts are already being lambasted for arguing in favour of free speech. But that starts with F and hopefully we will all be free by then.
B is also for Brexit, which is about to get entangled in this whole pandemic shenanigans, making for one hell of an unholy alliance. B is also, of course, for absolute bollocks.