By Ray Fleming

STEPHEN Hester, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, must have thought long and hard before deciding to give a live interview to BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Mr Hester has been at the centre of the storm over banker's pay in general and his own one million pound bonus which he waived last week.

James Naughtie was the interviewer -- less abrasive than his colleague John Humphrys but sometimes more incisive.
On this occasion he focussed on a single theme which he put to Mr Hester in five variations. “Why isn't 1.2 million enough?” he asked in reference to Mr Hester's base salary.

Then, “Would you work less hard if you were paid less?” and “Doctors don't need bonuses, why do bankers?” -- and so on. ´ This approach certainly addressed the public's concerns and, although Mr Hester never quite answered directly, it enabled him to make several important points.

He described what had happened to the Royal Bank of Scotland before he joined it as “the biggest time bomb in banking history” which required staff of the highest calibre to handle it and in whose selection “one cannot forget how people are motivated”. Mr Hester came across as a man conscious of the damage he has to repair and also of the need to be fully aware of the societal issues thrown up by the bonus controversy.