I was somewhat surprised by the lack of traffic this morning on certain social networking sites about the demotion of Sir Fred Goodwin to plain old Mr Goodwin. There was a certain rumble but nothing like the massed ranks of gloaters I’d expected. Perhaps, I thought, given the British public’s legendary propensity for justice and goodwill, people had decided, justice having been done, that it was best to leave the man to repent in peace.
I scrubbed that idea when I realised it was patently rubbish.
I suspect the quietude we are currently seeing on this particular front is down to neither side of the political debate being able to claim crowing rights in the matter.
The left can hardly bleat. It was under dear old Tony Blair that the lowly Mr Goodwin was elevated to the peerage for “Services to banking”. I toyed with the idea of putting together a novelty forfeiture committee certificate saying he’d been stripped of the accolade “For services exclusively to banking while ignoring the risks to the rest of us poor proles” but thought better of it.
The left, in this instant, stood by and did nothing while the bankers rose to fame. I can’t remember much in the way of vocal protest at the time and while the Labour Party basked in the kind of attention from business of which they had hitherto only guiltily dreamed it’s not all that surprising.
But while the left could be accused of sleeping on the watch, the right have little claim on the moral high ground either. I may have to plough through a slack handful of Hansards to prove my point but I don’t recall the great PMQ speeches of Messrs Hague, Duncan Smith, Howard or indeed Cameron decrying the level of fawning and sycophancy towards the financial elite during Labour’s terms. Neither can I remember any mass protests in the streets or indeed in the commons demanding tougher regulation for the multi-billion-pound casinos using the fabric of our economy for chips. Then again I don’t remember them saying much about spending too much and not saving for the future. Can’t bring a single speech to mind. The memory is such a fragile thing.
As for the current leadership of both the left and the right neither seem particularly keen to say much on the subject now the deed is done. Four years after the cataclysm, Mr Milliband might be asked why he hadn’t called for such a thing before or why he wasn’t now calling for the heads of other ennobled members of the board of RBS.
Likewise Mr Cameron seems reluctant to engage in the debate, perhaps for fear of exposing the truth, which is that rather than a Conservative party Röhm-Putsch to cleanse the organisation of it’s backstairs bastards and draw a line under the affair, the grandees have circled the wagons and thrown dear old Freddie out to face the Sioux with an archery target painted on his gingham shirt.
Her Majesty, I suspect has the best complaint but is restricted by noblesse oblige from complaining about being called upon by a former PR Executive to wield the sceptre against such a transparently sacrificial goat.
No. Whatever your political complexion there’s little schadenfreude to be gained from Mr Goodwin’s exit from the other place. The whole episode was a disgrace for us all.
Fear not though, there is one thing you can think of which will unite us all with a wry smile at Freddie’s descent back in to the the ranks.
No doubt when he was ennobled Mr Goodwin will have done what all those gaining a new title do. On gaining a PHD I understand the majority’s reaction is to change ones stationary and particulars to reflect the new letters before ones name. Of course being a diligent manager of RBS, Mr G will have taken out an account with his own company and had his cards changed in a heartbeat.
So we can all sit back now with a warm feeling in our hearts as we think of him finally getting a chance to see what it’s like to be a customer of a high street bank in Britain, the like of which he once commanded.
Imagine trying to explain to ‘Rebecca’, the hard pressed engineering graduate from Mumbai that you haven’t lost your plastic or had it stolen, you’ve simply fallen from grace. I suspect there isn’t a form for that.
He’ll presumably have to repeat the exercise with Adam & Company, who, I understand, now deal with his finances on a day to day basis.
When you tire of that image (as you may within a month or so), refresh the smile by imagining him explaining it all again to the DVLA in Swansea.