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Don't Bash the Banks - Abandon Them

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Bob Diamond seems like a discerning man. If anyone knows his Maldives from his Margate and his gastronomy from his Greggs the Baker, Bob is our man. So I feel quite relaxed, even pacified that when as expected this Friday he receives his millions in bonuses, he'll know how to spend them tastefully, but also with panache.

I am also at ease with his colossal remuneration because after 14 years as a customer, I am leaving Barclays, Britain's most complained about bank. I can no longer accept its stomach churningly unethical investment activities or its culture of Olympian greed. I don't want any money I have now or in the future being handled by them and besides, I've realised something we all seem to have forgotten: I don't have to.

It may not be in my power to cosmetically and cynically remove knighthoods or stop Barclays or any other bank avoiding the tax they should pay, but I don't have to do business with them myself. So on Thursday afternoon I am popping to my local credit union - there are 580 of them in the UK - and opening a current account, featuring every trapping of modern banking such as a debit card and online banking; with a bank I will from that moment be effectively a joint shareholder/owner of, eligible for an annual payout on profits.

I've been galvanised into action by the new UK Move Your Money campaign; a phenomenon borrowed from another economy hollowed out by the banking crisis (USA), where tens of thousands have voted with their chips and pins and moved to ethical banks or credit unions.

The concept was kicked off after the crash by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, with her popular Move Your Money Day and could potentially erect a lightning rod for the current of fury around corporate banking and its seemingly un-ending greed and irresponsibility. It is driven not just by the fact that these financial titans seem impervious or indifferent to the bite on our lives of the austerity they created, it's about their pervading culture and how they behave all of the time, come economic rain or shine.

It's not just their customer services that are quite appalling. Take my (ex) bank Barclays. It has an Ethical Consumers "ethiscore" of 0.5 out of 20; that is to say that almost none of its operations are in anyway ethical. It invests in illegal, deadly cluster munitions, funds rogue regimes including Robert Mugabe's in Zimbabwe, has a vast, global tax avoidance network ensuring it pays little tax on a huge turnover and invests in a spectrum of polluting and oil hungry, environmentally devastating projects spanning several continents.

With all of this in mind, this Friday morning I and many others shall be outside the Barclays branch on Southampton Row to glide the sharpest pair of scissors through my Barclays bank card, at about the same time as Bob Diamond lacerates that special eagle-embossed envelope, and that extra-special cheque drops onto the antique Persian rug.

Because politicians jostling to put bankers in stocks, remove knighthoods and all associated 'banking bashing' is both puerile and impotent. None of them are meaningfully taking on the might, omnipotence and central unfairness, unethical investing and consistently dodgy over-charging that is the big banks stock in trade. So we, I feel, have too.

2012 could finally be the year when their grip on UK High Streets, households and yes, even hearts is wrestled free. The arrival of Richard Branson's Virgin bank, promising to do things differently can only help, but only time will tell how ethical or different it really is. But with or without blonde-beard, the piracy can end now, this week; there are hundreds of ethical banks and credit unions waiting for you to join them.

So maybe Cameron is right? "Market Failures" do require "market solutions" and we, the millions who banks with these foul institutions are a market force. The name calling, fat-catting and loathing can stop. It's infinitely more liberating and empowering to take control yourself.

Unlike Bob, I personally plan to celebrate modestly this week, perhaps a vigorous pirouette outside my credit union on Thursday afternoon, and as the video below verifies, not only will I be better off and more ethical when separated from Barclays, I am also a far better dancer. So reader, lets dance.

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Bob Diamond set for £2m bonus as Barclays report £6bn profit