What a fantastic day. The FSA gave the banks a kicking in the High Court over PPI and I had the joy of being in the court to watch. After that it was a day of running and ranting around on the media, taking advantage of the interest to get the ‘reclaim PPI’ message across.
As it’s one of those glorious, exhausting days to remember, when consumers get a victory over the banks I thought (I’m writing this at Wednesday 8:20 pm, though I won’t actually post this till Thursday morning) I’d jot down what it was like for posterity (I shall ignore getting up, brushing my teeth, reading the briefing & papers etc). If you’re reading this for my thoughts on the result, instead read my banks should hang their heads in shame editorial comment.
From memory so times are approx.
- 9:20 Outside the High Court: On the way to meet MSE Wendy and Murray, the site’s press agent, in a coffee bar opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. Bumped into the BBC’s John Moylan and Julia Caesar who were there with their crews. I knew I was scheduled to be interviewed by them afterwards but they had a couple of queries about the PPI issue so I spoke to them for a few minutes to try and clear them up. Also, I heard at that point the British Bankers Association wouldn’t be there – a good sign that they probably were going to lose!
- 9:30 Coffee shop: Sat with Murray and Wendy and went through the notes. Wendy is the site’s campaign officer and does a lot of the political and campaigning liaison alongside me with other organisations – she’s got a very strong PPI focus too so knows all the details. We talked through the likely options (for about the fourth time in the week) and I went through what I would say if the banks won. (I didn’t bother with if the banks lost as that bit was easy).
As we were there James Daley the editor of Which? Money walked in. We had a wee chat to see if we were both singing from the same song sheet. We were mostly – though I was perhaps a little more focused on PPI reclaiming itself, whereas James was more focused about the impact of the case for the future of principled regulation – though I was pleased to see our views were similar.
- 9:40 The Associated Press: I went outside to do a TV interview with The Associated Press and tried to avoid predicting what the result would be (it was only 20 minutes away so there was no point in guessing wrongly). He pushed and I said "it wouldn’t surprise me if the banks won, but nothing’s certain", on the basis that it’s better to predict a bad outcome and it then to be a good outcome, rather than predict a good result and it be a bad one.
- 9:45 Photos by the paps: Walked into the Royal Courts of Justice. Lots of press photographers out there who wanted photos so I posed for a few and ridiculously had to do both win and lose faces in case they weren’t there later (thankfully they all were so the reactions you see were real).
- 9:50 Queued to get in: Having been virtually no queue to get through the Royal Courts of Justice security, in the moment before I tried a party of 15 French school kids turned up. So John Moylan (BBC 1 reporter) and I stood and waited in line for the bag check, (Wendy had gone ahead and Murray had waited outside to co-ordinate) while the security guard told off one of the school kids for being rude. I tried not to do something similar myself as the clock was ticking and the case was at 10 o’clock so I had ants in my pants about getting in.
- 10:00 Arrived at court: I got there to find it was standing room only, even Wendy who went earlier had to stand (should’ve been a bigger court really, it was quite a small one). I saw quite a few heads turn my way and heard talking about me being there. Yet I didn’t know if they were bankers, the FSA or journalists so I wasn’t sure who to smile at (I’m never very good at this, as I’m quite shy off-air and always feel a little uncomfortable in such scenarios).
- 10:03 Clerk said there’ll be a delay: We were all expectant and the Clerk told us to turn our phones off and that the judge would be delayed at least five minutes. I nipped out to find a toilet, couldn’t do so and came back slightly panicked that it would be at least a couple of hours before I got another break and that I might need to do interviews with my legs crossed.
- 10:15 The judge walked in: He walked in, everyone stood, he sat, then those with seats sat. He only talked for a minute and initially no one could quite work out who’d won until he said "and the banks are also ordered to pay the FSA’s costs" – I CHEERED INSIDE.
After that it was a scramble to get the court order papers – Wendy pointed at me to get a copy (I thought I was the boss?) as she was texting Guy our news editor to let him know the result. So I got into the scrum, lots of hacks were fighting to grab one as, rather ridiculously again, there were far too few copied. I did however, manage to get one (then outside I let the chaps from Insurance Times and Citywire read it over my shoulder as they missed out).
- 10:20 Suspend their licences: Spoke to a financial compliance consultant who explained that one power the FSA has is to suspend a banks licence to do general insurance if they don’t comply – a fascinating nugget.
- 10:22 Went to the gents: Hoorah, I spotted a loo on the way out and nipped in – I’m rather embarrassed to say it was in here that I actually had the thinking time to decide what my key line would be – that the banks insurance licence should be suspended if they don’t lift the hold.
- 10:25 Paps: As I left the court I had one of those film moments where all the photographers and cameras turn to you (not quite as big as when the bank charges loss day which was a full on scrum, but still pretty big). Excitedly, and admittedly a bit suavely I indicated victory to Murray by holding up my court paper to show what’d happened.
I was obviously quite aware that the paps and cameras would film it – but as the cliché says, a picture is worth a thousand words and coming out indicating VICTORY speaks loud and clear. It’s this pic that I’ve seen on quite a few big news websites today.
- 10:28 BBC News 24: I was feeling very pumped and did my first interview live on BBC News 24 at full energy cheering the victory, explaining what it means and calling for the hold to be lifted or insurance licences pulled. At the same time MSE Wendy scan read the 60 page judgement document I’d brought out.
- 10:32 Banks must consider collective redress: Just before doing my next interview, for ITV news (the reporter asked for a photo with me for his mum!) – this one was later clipped on YouTube. Wendy then shoved under my nose that apparently the banks would have to notify people they’d mis-sold, even if those people hadn’t complained.
- 10:35 Channel 4 News: Gave a quick briefing chat to the Channel 4 News reporter (who later borrowed my court document, so I had to borrow the BBC’s in a big pass the parcel – although everyone gave them back in the end, but it was quite a nice camaraderie) though no interview as I believe she was taking the ITN feed.
- 10:40 – 11:30 Interview with Citywire: From then on I was running the gamete. I spoke to the Indie, did a TV piece for Citywire, the AP, spoke to the Insurance Times and spoke to the MSE office to do a quote for a press release. I did an interview with the PA news (it was from that which most papers picked up their quotes from, as well as the press release). With each successive interview, I got to finesse the language better and better until I could have told the story standing on my head.
- 11:30 Sky News Live: Did an interview on Sky News, still buzzing. I think I remember grabbing the paper out of the reporter’s hands to show how the judge had ‘smacked the banks’ with it.
- 11:35 More paps: Some of the photographers had checked their shots and seen that the sun was too bright so I had to try and recreate the walking out of court moment under the Royal Courts of Justice sign.
- 11:40 BBC1 clip: Finally did the interview with John Moylan for his BBC1 package. At one point he said "could you do it a little more calmly as otherwise it won’t fit in well with the package" so I answered again but took some oompf out of my voice (it was still quite oompf-ful though).
- 11:50 BBC Radio 4 World at One interview: Then I did a pre-recorded interview for World at One from the BBC TV truck. Heard myself saying "we need to derail the banks PPI gravy train" and was pleased to realise I’d accidentally managed to be consistent within my analogy – mentally tucked that one away to use again.
- 12:00 Time to leave: That was it as Murray said I’d done all that was needed and I needed to go back to the office for a Radio 5 Live interview. Wrote my banks should hang their heads in shame editorial comment in the taxi, Tweeted, Facebooked, spoke to the office and finally got back.
And then it was noon
I’m writing this blog at 20:20 in the evening feeling pretty tired if I’m honest. So if you forgive me, I’m going to stop the minute by minute recall here.
The afternoon wasn’t much different though and continued at a pace. As well as some regular commitments on other things (columns, planning meetings and dealing with emails) there were lots more interviews including BBC News 24 and the Daily Star amongst others, plus I had a new section on PPI for my News of the Word column to write.
At one point Mrs MSE texted me to say she’d logged onto the Daily Mail website to check for showbiz news only to see my pic on the front page. By about 5 o’clock the energy levels started to fade, so I took a five minute slump moment to stop. Then I geared myself up again for BBC London and then the interviews culminated with a One Show appearance at 7pm.
Next it was back home to answer the 100 other emails that have appeared and to write this blog. It was a tough day, but these are the ones that make it all worth it!
Related past blogs
- My minute by minute political day in the life – 13 Aug 2009.
- A day in the life of… well me – 27 Feb 2007.