I’m not sure what to make of this Sir and now not so Sir Fred Goodwin.
He was clearly up to all sorts that he shouldn’t have been and RBS became a disaster area under his tenure, for which we are all still paying a price. But it wasn’t the only disaster area. And he wasn’t alone in helping create it.
So there are still plenty of bankers, not to mention regulators, who are wandering around the world from board to board, knighthoods and peerages and enormous pay packages largely intact. And before anyone shouts ‘what about the politicians?’ they are at least accountable at the ballot box. Gordon Brown was PM, he is no more. The banking crisis was not the only reason, but it was one of them.
So are we really to say that because some faceless group called the forfeiture committee decides Fred is to lose his K now we can all carry on as before? Is that it?
By wanting more, I don’t mean more humiliation for more banking knights and peers of the realm. I mean a proper investigation and explanation of all that happened.
In my new and varied life I do quite a lot of speaking to business organisations, including banks. And yes, in the spirit of openness, I am often handsomely paid for the wit, wisdom and insight I impart.
One point I have been making is that the banks have not engaged in a process of reckoning and explanation about what happened. Perhaps it is too painful. Perhaps they just feel they have to put the past behind them and get on with the job of sorting out the mess. But it won’t work. The disaster was too big and it was too costly. There has to be, surely, a proper reckoning of what went wrong. And that requires more than a bit more humiliation for the man who, in becoming a symbol of what went wrong, also became a scapegoat.
The fact that he is now Mr Goodwin and not Sir Fred ultimately affects hardly anyone but him. I find the whole honours system so ludicrous anyway – in my mind it is more of a punishment to have all the silly letters than to lose them, but on this I realise I am in a minority.
The serious point is that the humiliation does not put right what went wrong. It doesn’t help explain why the disaster occurred and nor in truth have any of the reports and inquiries so far.
We have had Chilcot for Iraq. Leveson for phonehacking. Surely there has to be a similar investigation into what went wrong in the banking disaster. Mr Goodwin would not be the only witness who would find such an inquiry testing indeed.
In being the scapegoat he has unwittingly done his former colleagues a huge favour. But if the stripping of his honour is the only moment of reckoning for what went wrong, then I think intelligent outsiders are entitled to look in on our country and say ‘what an odd little place it is.’
Ps. Ed v Dave so far this week. Played 2 won 2.