Wednesday 1 February 2012
Why bashing bankers is shortsighted
Michael Fallon revealed the real motivation behind the decision to strip Fred Goodwin of his honour. On the Today Programme he said that there was a 'persistent demand from the public that he should lose his knighthood'. Is this the way the government is making policy these days: decisions by public acclamation? Who shouts loudest and displays the greatest amount of moral indignation wins?
Fred Goodwin clearly has a case to answer. But his decisions should be subject to questions of competence, not moral standing. He can be accused of taking the wrong decisions, perhaps out of a lack of expertise. Yet his moral integrity has never been questioned, nor should it be. After all, let us not forget that, apart from very few far sighted observers, Goodwin's decision to buy NatWest was praised by everyone at the time. Not least was it loudly applauded by the Treasury and the FSA back in the day.
Now, Ed Milliband was 'outraged' and appalled that Fred Goodwin retained an honour awarded by Milliband's own government back in the day. This smacks of populism and his indignation looks synthetic. While the real problems with the banking sector are allowed to continue to fester, have you heard Ed Milliband talking about banking charges recently that puts ordinary people up and down the country out of pocket every day? Not a word!
Stripping Fed Goodwin of his knighthood is bad politics by a political class with a distorted sense of what it means to lead. As John Humphreys said on the Today programme this morning, Fred Goodwin is being stripped of his knighthood for making a wrong decision, not for committing a crime. Milliband's moral outrage is a sign that increasingly the Labour leader makes political decisions with the benefit of hindsight. It wont take him far, nor anyone else who tries it, because the fundamental fact of modern society is that everyone who comes after us will know more than we ever do.