RBS bonus: Government will not vote against Hester award

George Osborne has just told me the government will not vote against Stephen Hester's bonus as a shareholder at the April AGM. Ed Miliband had thrown down the gauntlet on this today, but the chancellor has declined to pick it up.

He said it would be an inappropriate use of the government's 82% shareholding, just as it would have been inappropriate to intervene in setting the size of his bonus in the first place. The government made its views known to the board when they were in the process of setting it. And that's that.

He wouldn't be drawn on whether the size of the bonus itself was inappropriate - only that for the government to step in (as even the Mayor of London suggested on Friday) would definitely have been so.

Why? Same old answer. Because it would have meant overturning the system for holding the RBS at arms length that Labour put in place when the bank was bailed out.

In other words: "Don't blame me, guv. That Alistair Darling made me do it."

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