Friday, 20 January 2012

Shredding Sir Fred of his knighthood would be a vain gesture

Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former chief executive of the now mostly state owned Royal Bank of Scotland, has been the agent of his own downfall. Rarely have hubris, incompetence, and unpleasantness come together in one boardroom tyrant to such devastating effort on the company under his stewardship.
I met Goodwin on several occasions when he was cock of the walk; you could tell from his icy smile that secretly he revelled in his ‘Fred the Shred’ nickname earned by his ability to slash costs.
That said it would be wrong if Goodwin were stripped of his knighthood in the wake of the growing clamour he suffer the ignominy.
Such events are reserved for titled convicted criminals and then not always. Goodwin has never had his collar felt.
Culpability would have to be extended to the RBS non-executive directors who rubber stamped his fast-track expansion plans, the City fund managers who came along for the ride, chiefs at the Financial Services Authority asleep at the wheel and at least Gordon Brown of the Labour ministers of the time who encouraged his ventures.
New Statesman blogger Medhi Hasan today is particular good at re-visiting Labour’s “indulgence of all the top bankers in the City, not just ‘Fred the Shred’.”
He recalls a Daily Mail investigation in 2009 that found “Labour has given 23 bankers honours, brought three into the Government as ministers and involved 37 in commissions and advisory bodies.”
The call to cancel Goodwin’s knighthood seems to originate in the grimier side of politics. As Hasan observes it smacks of a smokescreen to hide the fact for all its bluster the Coalition has failed to rein in bankers bonuses including those in line in the current RBS boardroom.
Labour leader Ed Miliband can hardly demur; he agreed today that Brown was wrong to honour Goodwin in the first place.

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