As Christmas approaches Dick Skellington heralds the first panto season since the banking crisis.
I say, I say, I say. Latest news, the Isle of Dogs Building Society has collapsed. They've called in the retrievers.
Have you heard this one? A masked man holds a bank cashier up with a gun. He says: 'I don't want any money - I just want you to start lending to each other’.
Sorry, it’s the way I tell ‘em. Let’s start again.
The dame from Crowthorne's 2008 Dick Turpin Rides Again panto
What have Captain Hook, the Wicked Fairy, Cinderella’s stepmother, the Evil Baron, King Rat, the Evil Wizard, the Giant, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and the Wicked Queen got in common? This Christmas, whatever your panto and wherever it is in the land, the villain is more likely to be portrayed as a banker. Let’s hear it for the Lehman Brothers as the Ugly Sisters. Just think of poor little Goldilocks lost in the Bear Market being pursued by three nasty brokers! And think of poor Puss trying to pay those prices in Boots! Don’t forget to boo and hiss!
This Christmas it will be the banker who will be lurking menacingly behind the principal boy who will be played by a vulnerable single parent recently evicted for falling behind with her mortgage.
So when Dick Whittington pops onto stage left with Tommy the Cat at his feet, Dick is more likely to ask the audience:
What’s the difference between a merchant banker and a pigeon?
A pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW.
And then, not to be outdone, up purrs Tommy with this one to the Gods:
What’s the difference between an investment banker and a large pizza?
A large pizza can feed a family of four.
How we’ll all cheer when master villain King Rat gets utterly custard pied by Tommy the cat and Dick gets a tracker mortgage with a Bank of England interest rate and returns home to marry Alice and live happily ever after in a nice semi in Sidcup.
For this year it’s the bankers who will be getting the slap and stick. So let’s hear the cheering throughout the land. Rejoice. Whatever the panto you can cajole your kids into heckling: ‘come on you bankers pass the interest rate cuts on to me mum and dad!’. This year’s panto season promises to be a hoot. I mean who would want to trade places with the head banker at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)? I can just imagine the chorus singing ‘I’m a Banker, Get Me Out of Here!’.
No really. There is nothing more likely to get us chuckling in the Gods than the bankers getting their comeuppance. The suffering proletariat have had it so bad. We need a little bit of festive humour to roll back the impact of the credit crunch with its rising mortgage debt, repossessions soaring 70 per cent compared to the same quarter last year, the lowest pound since 1992, and with unemployment expected to top 3 million before the next panto season.
To the nation this parsimony sums up the public image of an already discredited menagerie of fat cats. Since the bail-outs the banks have done little to improve their stock by helping those whose money – what’s left of it – keeps them in offshore accounts and Christmas parties.
Politicians too can expect a panto drubbing after allowing banks to profit enormously in a deregulated culture for so many years, and lending poor Red Riding Hood a 130 per cent mortgage. It is not for nothing the phrase 'Houses of Parliament' is an anagram of 'shameful operations'!
At the King’s Head in London, Dick Whittington’s nemesis King Rat is a banker and property developer intent on bringing the economy of the paradise island of Gran Canaria to its knees. The audience will wince as the shameless speculator greedily buys up property, lends money to local businesses and causes havoc when he calls in the loans and buys the island’s central bank. On the way he evicts the show’s Dame from her bar and sells off the premises as luxury flats. Now where have we heard that one before?
It is hardly surprising this festive season will witness pantomimes all over the country revising their storylines and casting the evil villain as a banker, updating daily as the credit crunch unfolds. Since ancient Greek and Roman times panto script writers have had a keen eye for contemporary events. Pantomimes have always told morality tales. And who can blame the script writers with the banks so reluctant to pass on any good news as they use Government bail outs to restructure their own finances with little thought for the rest of us. Never has A Christmas Carol been more relevant. Scrooge is so 2008.
Here’s Dick again:
Talked to my bank manager the other day and he said he was going to concentrate on the big issues from now on.
He sold me one outside KFC yesterday.
The Gods groan in disapproval.
But Tommy the Cat soon wins them over with a real Christmas cracker!
What’s the capital of Iceland? shouts Tommy!
But should your panto fail to cheer this Christmas remember the old saying:
What’s the definition of optimism?
A banker who irons 5 shirts on a Sunday.