The Scam chairman turns his office into a bunker, piling up the tear gas and riot gear, as he declares that his life is in danger from a Europe—and a world in general—that is out to get him.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to carry on this conversation if you opened the door?” I asked the chairman of the imprisonably-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management, when I went round to see him in his office the other day. Well, to be exact, the chairman was in his office with apparently no intention of coming out, while I was outside his office with apparently no chance of getting in.

“But your secretary says you haven’t unlocked your door in three days,” I pressed on through the oak panelling.

“Surely you, more than anyone, are aware of the dangers of working long hours? Certainly I am, having seen the results of a report from Aviva Risk Management Solutions.

Incidentally, is it just me or have they worked a little too hard themselves for an acronym?

“Anyway, it seems the crunch is piling extra pressure on people, both personally and professionally, with four million in the UK working more than 48 hours a week and a significant number working more than 60. The sad thing is that three-fifths of employers don’t associate long hours with productivity, while almost half don’t reward staff who work out of hours.

“Now I’m sure that’s another thing you know better than anyone—but did you also know that nine out of 10 GPs believe stress-related illness will be the biggest occupational health issue of 2009? Or that nearly two-fifths of employees are failing to take lunch breaks? Yes, that one is a little hard to swallow, but then the good, good people at, um, Arms, also say that long hours can cause all sorts of health issues.

“So, for the good of your health, unlock this door and come and buy me a drink.”

“If I might finally be allowed to get a word in,” the chairman replied from his side of the door, “this has nothing to do with long hours. No, I’m much safer locked in here than roaming around outside. Honestly, even if I had any work to do, I’d be too worried to do it.”

“Worried?” I replied. “What have you got to be worried about?” “Europe,” said the chairman.

“Oh, come on,” I laughed. “The threat of a federal European state is much exaggerated, while the nice folk at the IMA are fighting your corner with regard to all the legislation. I bet that if you gave Ucits III a chance, you might even learn to like it.”

“This has nothing to do with sovereignty or legislation,” sighed the chairman. “On the contrary, it’s about a complete lack of control and a disregard of the law. Have you not read about the terrible things happening in Germany and France?”

“Apparently not,” I replied. “Enlighten me.”

“What?” exclaimed the chairman. “You mean you haven’t read about the German financial adviser, who was—and I should say ‘allegedly’ here—kidnapped, bound and tortured by four pensioners, who felt his ploughing £2m of their life savings into a pre-crash Florida property market hadn’t worked out quite as satisfactorily as it might?

“That was just one adviser and four disgruntled clients, so imagine what could happen to Her Majesty’s financial services industry if that sort of behaviour spreads across the Channel. No, I’m much safer locked in here with my giant telly, maxibar and year’s supply of Twiglets, thank you very much.”

“Then why not at least let me in for a beer and a Twiglet?” I asked.

“I’d love to, honestly,” the chairman lied. “But how do I know you’re alone? People may be coercing you into tricking me into letting down my guard.”

“Nonsense,” I said. “You know your security and staff would never let investors invade the Scam offices – that’s why you keep the tear gas and other riot gear behind reception.”
“It’s my security and staff I’m afraid of,” the chairman whined.

“Now I’m really confused,” I said. “What?” exclaimed the chairman. “You mean you haven’t read about the French worker’s new-found fondness for holding his employer hostage—or ‘bossnapping’ as I believe it’s called?”

“I’ll drop by next week,” I shouted over my shoulder. “In the meantime, try and stop reading newspapers.”