Together, they raise important questions. For example: since the Libor scandal will soon be seen to be an industry-wide affair, is this just the start of a get-tough policy with UK banks and their directors?
First, the news that Barclays had been at war with the Financial Services Authority for months over a wide range of issues. There were hints of a rift during last week's committee hearing, but the depth was exposed on Tuesday. Read between the lines of Adair Turner's damning letter in April to Barclays chairman, Marcus Agius, to see how the regulator had become exasperated by the bank's practices.
The chairman of the FSA complained of "a pattern of behaviour over the last few years in which Barclays often seems to be seeking to gain advantage through the use of complex structures, or through arguing for regulatory approaches which are at the aggressive end of interpretation of the relevant rules and regulations." Those words will serve as a judgment on the Agius-Diamond era at Barclays: too many clever-clogs wheezes and too little humility.
Agius, clutching at straws, tried various softer constructions. "What that letter is saying is that we overdid it," he suggested. Or perhaps Barclays was "trying too hard". Or maybe – a very un-Agius expression this one – the bank had been "arguing the toss". No, Mr Agius, it was worse: as has been clear for a long time, senior figures at top of the UK financial system were losing faith in Barclays' commitment to improve its culture.
That was the backdrop to Tuesday's second stunner – the manner of Diamond's exit. Agius was summoned to the Bank of England on Monday last week to be told that Diamond no longer enjoyed the support of his regulators.
This was not a formal demand to ditch the chief executive, but the effect was the same. As Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury committee, put it, the authorities were temporarily taking control of Barclays. Agius even felt obliged to seek approval for his emergency measures to fill the hole in Barclays' boardroom.
This behind-the-scenes dispatch of a chief executive deemed to be wayward is fascinating. Private executions at Threadneedle Street were part of the UK financial system a generation ago. But the Bank hasn't yet assumed its new powers of supervision, and there is meant to be a formal mechanism by which the FSA can declare an executive of a bank to be disqualified from duties. On what authority was King acting?
We await the governor's account, but it is clear he wasn't acting alone. The withdrawal of support was made on behalf of all the tripartite authorities – the Bank, the FSA and the chancellor. What about due process? It seems the political and financial establishment had simply had enough of Diamond; and perhaps the main players also feared the media firestorm provoked by the Libor scandal would soon head their way.
Unsatisfactory ? More like intriguing. King, at a press conference last week, probably spoke for 99% of the population when he said: "What I hope is that everyone – everyone – now understands that something went very wrong with the UK banking industry and we need to put it right." King had two prescriptions – "leadership of an unusually high order" and "changes to the structure of the industry". The latter is straightforward. In King's view, it means rapid adoption of the Vickers reforms on ringfencing, even if he himself would like to go further and insist on full separation between investment banks and retail banks.
But the leadership question is open. Was the ousting of Diamond, and the humiliation (in effect) of Agius, an isolated incident or does it herald a wider clearout of the boards of Barclays and other banks ? We shall see, but King suddenly appears like a man on a mission. About time too, many would say.
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image: © Kai Hendry