The Cityboy Column - Death Of The Toff Is Exaggerated

Here's the latest from Cityboy.

'There was a time when the City was the sole preserve of chinless wonders. Ex-Etonians would cavort around the Square Mile in pin-stripe suits and bowler hats meeting chaps they’d once fagged for, and chatting about cricket.

The average working day would begin at 9.30, involve a three hour boozy lunch at ‘the club’, and end at around 4.30pm. It was a tight-knit club of clipped vowels and polite manners, where a gentlemen’s word was his bond. Earlier this month, yet another nail was hammered into that arcane world, as Cazenove - by far the poshest City firm - agreed to be taken over by the American behemoth JP Morgan.

The rot really began to set in for City toffs, of course, once Maggie Thatcher paved the way for ‘Big Bang’ in 1986. This was a concerted effort by the grocer’s daughter from Grantham to wipe away the over-regulated elitist old boys’ network, and open up this rarefied world to all in sundry. Soon oiks (some of whom hadn’t even been to public school!) were set on the road that led to untold wealth and, before you could say ‘loadsamoney’, a whole generation of nouveaux riche Cityboys was born.

Within a few years, nearly all the old UK stock broking firms had been acquired by rapacious foreign banks and these guys really meant business - twelve hour days, profit margins, getting in on time - all that nonsense. These foreign types also had the temerity to believe in something called ‘meritocracy’. It was a dark day indeed for Tarquin and Rupert, when over-bearing yank bosses demanded results, and didn’t care a jot about which school they’d attended. These hard taskmasters didn’t even respect the fact that you never had butter with brie, or that house pronounced correctly rhymed with lice.

All to soon, the posh boys were being pushed out by diligent, clever middle class types, and super sharp barrow boy traders. Inevitably, these Stella-swilling chavs would reveal their poor upbringing and be responsible for mayhem. Indeed, one Watford boy called Nick Leeson would show his contempt for all things posh by nonchalantly causing the collapse of Baring’s - Britain’s oldest investment bank. It was almost as if he was on a one-man mission to finish the job Maggie started!

But, in the end, the fears for the demise of posh folk in the City proved to be groundless. The toffs have shown a remarkable resilience. Nepotism and the old boys’ network have helped ensure their survival, and the kudos that an Oxbridge education confers still matters to City firms. I always used to wonder why these already rich upper class chaps didn’t just bugger off back to their estates and take up a traditional country pursuit (like developing a smack habit). However, a couple of Hoorays once explained to me that their families were often cash-poor and asset-rich - and hence making a fast buck in the Square Mile was still a very attractive option.

So, posh folks can rest easy in the knowledge that, despite the best efforts of Maggie & Co, they’re still a major force in the City, and look likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. And, interestingly, they are also uniquely qualified to survive in the current climate of banker-bashing, for surely no social group is more used to resentment and envy than our aristos, who’ve seen their economic and political power steadily usurped by uppity social rivals during the course of the last century. All this banker bashing stuff must surely wash over them like raindrops off a well-oiled Barbour'.

Cityboy is the author of the best selling Beer And Loathing In The Square Mile.

Visit his website at www.cityboy.biz

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