Flagellating Sir Fred will not save Gordon Brown
New Labour’s desperate bid to sacrifice the City’s scape-goats does not absolve politicians of their role in the financial crisis
It's not just Harriet Harman, it's the whole tarnished gang of New Labour ministers that make me feel that I've stepped into a time machine and been whisked back three millennia to ancient Judea. If these Pharisees had their way, Sir Fred 'the Shred' Goodwin would be wearing a pair of goat's horns as he was herded, bleating furiously, over a nearby cliff.
True, the High Priest Gordon Brown and his Archimandrite Jacqui Smith have moved to distance themselves from Harman's more outrageous assertion that retroactive legislation might be employed to shear the Goodwin's golden fleece, but our so-called leaders remain wedded to the idea that they can somehow maintain their own authority by scapegoating the bankers.
Of course, every time the Pharisees try it on they are, quite rightly, reminded of their own Mansion House speeches proclaiming the adamantine brilliance of the City, and their own - frankly psychotic - claims to have abolished the business cycle.
The Conservatives, it seems, are still wholly funded by a tax-avoiding lord-ling
Then there's their 'off-balance sheet' PFI shenanigans, and their ennoblement of assorted financial services nabobs - Sir Fred among them - not forgetting that crucial 'light touch' regulation, which now seems merely to have been the captain of SS British Economy asleep at the wheel.
Not - I hasten to add - that the opposition can be let off any more lightly. The Tories are still, so far as one can make out, wholly funded by a tax-avoiding lord-ling who refuses to confirm his domicile, despite this being a condition of his ermine and coronet. It's a truism of politics that it isn't oppositions who win elections - but governments that lose them.
This is just as well for Cameron and Osborne, because if the Government are engaged in a volte-face, their own disciples need to spin about faster that a wind turbine on a Notting Hill townhouse, so in love have they been with that whore of Babylon, the unfettered free-market.
But there's a problem with this process of reminding - this forcing of the political class to bear witness to their own culpability; and that's that the people doing the reminding were some of the loudest yea-sayers of all. With one or two noble exceptions - and they were confined to the outer limits of the financial pages - the Fourth Estate in this country were quite as enthusiastic about the moolah-mill of the City as the politicians.
We can’t expect to purify the temple merely by excluding the moneychangers
It makes my eyes bleed to read some of the self-serving drivel the commentariat is dishing up at the moment. They drool it over the politicians - they serve it up to the bankers, but by golly they won't suck it down themselves. While it's true that few could have been expected to understand exactly where and when the bubble was going to pop, it beggars belief that quite so many allegedly intelligent people were unable to see that it was a bubble at all.
Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised; after all, ever since British politicians took to making pilgrimages in order to be anointed by that great Yahweh, Rupert Murdoch, the mainstream media in this country have been setting an agenda based securely on maximising profit.
In Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye the reclusive newspaper magnate Harland Potter says to Philip Marlowe: 'A newspaper is an advertising vehicle predicated on its circulation, nothing more and nothing less.' I pity all those readers, viewers and listeners who never grasped that most editorial and comment had no more significance than a discount voucher - and considerably less utility.
So, who should we turn to now? Certainly not John McFall, the chairman of the Treasury select committee may pose as the hammer of the bankers, but in years past he was as happy to sing hosannas for them as his High Priest.
No, we cannot expect to purify the temple merely by excluding the moneychangers from its precincts, while forcing goats to jump over cliffs will only make us feel better for as long as it takes them to hit the rocks; some people are going to need to recognise that when the bathwater of socialism was unceremoniously thrown away, out with it went the baby of egalitarianism.
Somehow, I doubt Harriet Harman will be one of their number; but then, in a few short months no one will care about anything she says ever again - with the possible exception of her immediate tribe. ·
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