Fred Goodwin joins the ex-Knight club

The former boss of RBS's passage from hero to zero is now complete as he has lost his gong. But a backlash is emerging...

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

He presided over one of the worst disasters in UK banking history, starting with buying the rump of ABN Amro in 2007 after the market had turned and finishing with the £45bn taxpayer bail-out of RBS, the ramifications of which continue to this day. And his knighthood - bestowed upon him back in 2004 - was for services to banking. Services which turned out to be rather less worth shouting about than everyone thought at the time. So we can be pretty certain that if the powers that be could go back in time they would never have ennobled Goodwin in the first place.
But does that mean that the now plain old Frederick Anderson Goodwin really deserves to join the likes of Russian spy Anthony Blunt, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe among the not so exclusive ranks of those who have been stripped of their Knighthoods? The jury is out….
On the one hand, Goodwin’s performance as a banker was undeniably woeful. A litany of bad decisions and poor judgment disguised as swashbuckling merchant venturing found him out in the end, as such deeds will. So extreme an example was he, as Robert Peston has said, that the removal of his title is both hard to argue with and doesn’t set much of precedent.
Neither did his high-handed manner endear him to many before or after the crash - that and his reputation for getting more agitated about the presence or otherwise of pink biscuits in meetings rather than the risks he was taking with the bank will linger. ‘RBS under chief executive Fred Goodwin symbolised everything that went wrong with the British economy’ as George Osborne said. What politician can resist a point of principle on which they can safely stand, secure in the knowledge that it will also win them public support?
On the other hand there are those who think it craven, misguided and anti-business. Former head of the CBI, Lord Jones, said there ‘was a whiff of the lynch mob about it’ and ex-chancellor Alastair Darling said he thought the decision had been taken ‘on a whim.’

Goodwin may not have the cleanest of hands, goes this argument, but he is hardly alone in that. What about the supine regulators, the complicit politicians, the over-leveraged consumers who couldn’t resist the lure of easy credit? Should all these groups expect to offer up sacrificial lambs as well?
Whichever side you stand on, the move is significant: politics is edging further into the banking fray. Is this a new era of fairness? Or is finger-pointing and scalp-taking simply becoming common currency?

Top tweets from the twitterati:

@Peston For taking reckless banking risks, and leaving a steep bill with British people, Goodwin was in a class of his own.

@daviegm Is it any worse than Lord Archer who commuted a criminal act, served time and still kept his title? Or Mckillop who kept his?

@fleetstreetfox Surely it would be more appropriate to present Fred Goodwin with a bill?

@rhysmogs Coincidence between the timing of the announcement on stripping G of his knighthood and Cameron's mauling in Commons EU statement?

@BBChignfy Goodwin's knighthood will sit in a glass case alongside some neatly arranged deckchairs from the Titanic and a recently bolted stable door.

@Ed_Miliband It is right that Fred Goodwin has lost his knighthood, but it’s only the start of the change we need in our boardrooms.

@krishgm Wait a minute. does this mean that all Fred Goodwin has left is a 16.9 million pound pension pot? He must be devastated

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