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It is not that long since David Cameron took up the cudgels for the hard-pressed taxpayer against the bankers accused of pushing the UK economy to the brink of disaster.As leader of the opposition with an eye for an opportunity at the height of the banking crisis in the autumn of 2008, he was in the vanguard of those demanding the most drastic action against the speculators who had suddenly become Britain's Most Wanted."No one wants banks to fail," Mr Cameron told Mr Brown in October 2008."But also no one wants rewards for failure." Barely 18 months later, Mr Cameron made it into power after fighting an election on a manifesto pledging to "empower the Bank of England to crack down on risky bonus arrangements".His coalition partners had promised to "ensure that the bonus system can never again encourage banks to behave in a way that puts the financial system at risk or offers rewards for failure".Together, incessantly, they vowed that, at last, Britain was all in it together.Forcing the amount below £1m was not enough to put an end to the objections.
While the Royal Bank of Scotland boss has publicly lost £600,000 of his annual bonus this year, it has emerged that he may also have given up his claim to a plush marital home valued at over £8m in Holland Park, London.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister appears uncharacteristically out of step with the public mood.
Only 7 per cent of Britons think a chief executive of a FTSE 100 company should be paid more than £1m a year, according to poll findings in The Independent on Sunday today, and even the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said "the Government should step in and sort it out".
Mr Hester is also credited with sparking a recovery at RBS and any share options awarded this year will not be available to him for three years.
The Government maintains that remuneration is a matter for RBS and, even if Mr Cameron wanted to intervene, he is prevented from doing so by the contract agreed by Labour following Mr Hester's arrival in 2008.
Yet, barely a week on, Mr Cameron was presiding over attempts to limit benefit payments to some of the poorest in society.