Banks: bonuses and break-ups, royal gifts and Europe

A person walks past an RBS sign carrying a brolly Image copyright PA

Bankers' bonuses are back in the news and the Daily Mirror finds "no credit" in the prime minister's refusal to promise a veto on any increase in payouts to staff at state-owned RBS.

Likewise, the Daily Mail "recoils" at the suggestion that senior bankers at RBS should receive awards worth double their salaries. Its city editor Alex Brummer has a message for George Osborne: "Don't dither... you MUST veto these bonuses at the Royal Bank of Shambles."

The Independent accepts the chancellor is in an "unenviable position", recognising "good reasons" for signing off mega-bonuses. But it says that - given criticism of RBS for failing to support small business and the fact it's facing substantial losses - such awards would be "indefensible". The "politics must, in this instance, take precedence", it adds.

Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, journalist Susie Boniface said: "I don't understand quite why banks have to be one of the few professions which has to have bonuses."

But Financial Times political correspondent Kiran Stacey said: "There's a good reason to have bonuses. You get paid less and you get a bonus to top it up, which then goes in the bad times. The problem is… they never went down in the bad times and that's where the anger comes in."

Fat cats?

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While the Guardian highlights Ed Miliband's plan to introduce more competition by limiting the size of retail banks, the Financial Times reports that Bank of England governor Mark Carney has doubts about reducing their market share. The FT's Sharlene Goff finds industry analysts suggesting the move might "limit their ability to price competitively" and therefore "hurt customers".

Guardian financial editor Nils Pratley questions whether the Labour leader's solutions are right for the problems. On bonuses, he says: "If he succeeds in limiting bonus payments at RBS to 100% of salary, he may end up ensuring that every high-earner at the bank receives an increase in his or her fixed pay, or a payment that substitutes for a salary increase."

Telegraph illustrator Matt sums up the situation by picturing an RBS director telling an employee: "I can't give you a bonus, but there's a £2m reward for the person who finds my umbrella." A brolly lies on the floor between them. Meanwhile, Independent cartoonist Dave Brown's take sees the chancellor as a milkman riding on the back of a float. It's driven by a fat cat in pinstripes who knocks down Labour leader Ed Miliband as he makes off with the cream.

But it's not all good news for senior bank staff, it seems. The Guardian's Katie Allen watches financial black comedy The Wolf of Wall Street (pictured above) with a group of City workers whose grumbles include: "It's not real", "junkets and lunches are now largely in the past" and "anyone vaguely familiar with the financial services industry would see it as a historical parody".

Meanwhile John Gapper, in the FT, hears from one author who describes the life of graduates in big banks: "Your friendships deteriorate and your boyfriend or girlfriend is angry because they have not had a meal with you for a month. You lose touch with your family. It's miserable."

Royal spoils

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"One keeps on getting crazy gifts," is how the Daily Star introduces its story highlighting the list of presents handed to the Royal Family in the past year, while the Daily Mail's headline reads: "Hope you like it, Ma'am."

The Mail highlights the unusual gifts presented to the royals, including a 3D doll of Prince Harry, an oyster card handed to the Queen by Transport for London and a book - Your Arms Remind Me Of Pork Luncheon Meat - given to Princess Anne by author Joan Thompson.

It's "a chocolate castle, macaroons, knitted hats... and gnomes" that capture the Guardian's interest, and "One's got a gong," says the Daily Mirror, as it remembers an honorary Bafta received by the Queen. It quotes an aide insisting many of the gifts are displayed in royal residences.

Valentine Low, in the Times, guesses the most expensive item might be a family photo in a gold frame set on a bejewelled ostrich egg, while the cheapest could be a plastic angel handed to Princess Anne. "There would be no difficulty, however, in deciding the most unusual... the portrait of the Princess Royal riding a moose."

The Daily Telegraph says we've all received gifts "given with love but opened with a raised eyebrow", adding: "Next time you complain about another pair of socks at Christmas, spare a thought for the 'over-spoilt' Royal household." Meanwhile, the Express says: "It seems safe to conclude that the most valued gift Her Majesty received by far was that of a great grandson, Prince George."

Europe 2014

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A poll commissioned by the Sun suggests the Conservatives will finish third behind Labour and UKIP in May's European elections, while the Lib Dems will be "a distant fourth". "There's only one crumb of comfort for David Cameron," its leader column reckons: "He's not Nick Clegg."

The Mail's editorial notes "one of the great paradoxes of our age" - that the rise of UKIP would be the biggest single obstacle to "the Tory victory that would guarantee us an in/out vote" - and urges the Conservatives to explore an electoral pact.

For the Financial Times, however, Britain has a "muddled European strategy". It says that although Poland, Bulgaria and Romania feel "the rough edge of Tory tongues", as the party seeks to appear tough on "welfare tourism", the three states account for 15% of the union's votes. "[David] Cameron needs the goodwill of eastern European countries more than ever," it says.

The Daily Telegraph notes Chancellor George Osborne's speech suggesting that the price of failure to reform the EU would be the "disaster" of Britain's exit but says he and Mr Cameron want to stay in. Meanwhile, it says, the Eurosceptic backbenchers calling for reform are "really trying to push the UK towards the exit". "How much more preferable it would be if the debate could proceed with greater calm and honesty," it argues.

Europe 1914

As the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I approaches, the Guardian quotes a descendant of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered the conflict.

His family "should not be blamed for causing the war that led to 37 million people being killed or wounded", according to Karl Habsburg-Lothringen, grandson of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor. He adds: "If you had to blame someone, then the greatest blame would lie with nationalism itself."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail tells the story of its "eccentric, rebellious" reporter Basil Clarke, who reported from the front line in Flanders "without any official sanction" at a time when journalism was censored. "Clarke set off from London dressed in decidedly unmilitary wear - a bowler hat and a Burberry coat," it recalls, before explaining how he was able to convey the "unvarnished truth" of the war: thousands of Belgian refugees, "streets strewn thick with the dead" and the horrors of shell shock.

The reporter returned to Britain in the same headgear, and the Mail reprints his opinion that: "It proved my best disguise in a war zone. For whoever thought of looking for a newspaper man under a bowler hat?"

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