A banker has set himself on fire outside of a City of London branch of Barclays bank after what reports have suggested was a dispute over a six-figure bonus. The man, identified by colleagues at the bank as thirty-nine year Charles Farrup-Bumsler, is understood to have doused himself with vintage cognac, before igniting his alcohol-sodden designer suit with a gold lighter. “He was engulfed in blue flames,” said bank teller Angela Spanner who, with several other bank employees and customers, had rushed out of the bank when they realised what was happening. “But almost as soon as they ignited, the flames burned themselves out, leaving him standing there smouldering slightly and smelling a bit like a Christmas pudding.” Farrup-Bumsler was subsequently treated at an exclusive private clinic for minor burns. Police investigating the incident believe that Farrup-Bumsler, a top trader at Barclays, took his extraordinary action after learning that his annual bonus was to withheld following the recent inter-bank interest rate fixing scandal at the bank. “It seems that he had told colleagues that he feared the drop in living standards he and his family would suffer as a result and was worried that he simply wouldn’t be able to make ends meet on just his six figure salary,” Chief Inspector Robert Wrench of the City of London police told a press conference. “I fear that over the coming months we might see many similar incidents as the fall-out from the various banking scandals begin to bite.”

With the rate-fixing scandal coming hard on the heels of the infamous RBS computer error which left thousands of customers unable to access funds in their accounts, the banking community is bracing itself for further instances of distressed colleagues taking drastic action in the face of increasing public hostility toward them. “It’s a high-pressure profession at the best of times, but with the increased scrutiny which will inevitably result from these so-called scandals, bankers are now facing the prospect of reduced bonuses and possibly even a severe reprimand for even the most minor instances of mis-selling or financial manipulation,” opines top City analyst James Blingford-Snell. “Is it any wonder many of them are threatening to immolate themselves or jump off of buildings? You have to remember that it isn’t just the threat of financial loss and professional sanctions which is causing them stress – on top of that there’s the complete loss of public respect they’ve suffered.” According to the analyst, bankers are now facing verbal abuse from complete strangers in the street if their profession is identified. “It’s often the hand-tailored suit, the top of the range car or, more often than not, their air of insufferable arrogance which gives them away,” he explains. “At least in the old days they could just shrug off such abuse with smug satisfaction in the fact that they were getting more in bonuses every year than these plebs could earn in a lifetime. But now, even that is under threat!”

Blingford-Snell believes that the potential financial hardships bankers could be facing if the financial sector is forced to cave into public pressure to curtail their bonuses, shouldn’t be underestimated. “You have to understand that these guys have enjoyed years, sometimes decades, of being paid massive bonuses on top of huge wages – consequently they’ve completely over-extended themselves buying vast quantities of stuff with it,” he says. “Take away that bonus and they’ll suddenly find themselves having to support mortgages on at least half-a-dozen properties scattered across Europe, public school fees for their children, golf club memberships, bar bills, holidays in the world’s farthest flung luxury hotels, paying their tax-evasion advisors, not to mention bribes to regulators. How are they supposed to manage all that on just their salaries? Despite all the headlines about their high earnings, the reality is that most of them earn less than three quarters of a million a year.” Curtailing the spending power of bankers could prove disastrous for the UK’s economy, the analyst believes. “Who else is going to stimulate the demand we need to restart the economy and get us out of this recession?” he asks. “The lower classes? Even before their wages and jobs were slashed they wouldn’t have been able to buy enough stuff to boost demand without all those dodgy cheap loans the banks facilitated for them!”

However, many other commentators are less sympathetic toward the plight of distressed bankers. “Far from being an economic asset, these bastards are, in reality, a complete waste of space,” opines Labour backbencher Roger Bandsaw. “Like the institutions they work for, they simply accumulate huge piles of cash, stashing it away in Swiss bank accounts were it can amass interest – believe me, this does nothing to boost the UK’s economy!” In fact, Bandsaw argues, Britain’s bankers actually represent a drain on the country’s economy and people shouldn’t wait for them to immolate themselves – they should be on the streets pouring petrol on suspected bankers and setting them ablaze. “It’s the only way we can save the economy, by taking out these tax-dodging bastards now – if you can’t afford petrol, (and who other than bankers can at today’s prices), then just string them up from the nearest lamppost,” he says. “The loss of revenue to the exchequer from their tax avoidance is colossal – just think of the schools and hospitals which could be built with that money! Is it any wonder we’re in the shit with these parasites sucking the economic lifeblood out of the country?” Blingford-Snell is keen to refute the argument that avoiding tax makes high-earning bankers free loaders, enjoying public services without paying for them. “This is arrant nonsense – these people pay proportionally more tax than the lower orders who actually make more use of public services,” he contends. “Who does that make free loaders, eh?” Bandsaw is unimpressed by this argument. “Isn’t that just bollocks?” he says. “The idea that rich people create wealth is just a load of steaming shite – they simply grow fat on the sweat of underpaid workers then, instead of reinvesting their ill-gotten gains in the economy for the common good, they just pass it on to their feckless offspring!”

Blingford-Snell maintains that Britain’s bankers deserve support and sympathy from the public during these difficult times. “At least in the old days they could credibly threaten to take their talents elsewhere if they didn’t get their bonuses,” he laments. “But nowadays there isn’t anywhere else for them to go – bankers are being made scapegoats for everyone’s economic ills worldwide! Germany’s probably the only place they still have some credibility – but who the Hell wants to live there?” Roger Bandsaw, by contrast, would welcome a mass exodus of top bankers. “They keep threatening to leave the UK, but they never do though, do they?” he muses. “Frankly, I’d encourage them to go elsewhere – China, perhaps. If they could do to the Chinese economy what they’ve done to ours, we might actually stand a chance of competing with China economically!” Blingford-Snell is adamant that any banker exodus would represent a terrible loss for British society. “They’re simply misunderstood – far from being the rapacious greed-fuelled capitalist monsters they are usually stereotyped as, Britain’s bankers are actually sensitive, creative souls,” he claims. “People just don’t realise the effort they put into devising all those exotic financial products and trading schemes they persuaded people to invest their money in – fraud on that scale is a work of art! Trust me, Britain would be the poorer without such artistic endeavour!”