The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, today proclaimed to the nation that he would pursue every legal means possible to claw back the £16 million pension awarded to the former Chairman of failing bank RBS, Sir Fred Goodwin.
This is a prodigious waste of time. If the Government are successful in pursuing this man’s pension through the courts, which is highly unlikely, it will take years and will probably cost a considerable amount more in legal fees.
But aside from the practicalities, I refuse to accept the moral argument that the Prime Minister and others have made. Vince Cable has said that Goodwin ‘obviously has no sense of shame’.
This is nonsense. No shame for what exactly?
At the time that Goodwin’s £16 million pension deal was struck, the Government was not a share holder in the Royal Bank. While it is true that the board of directors were not contractually obliged to award Goodwin the full amount they did, they were under no obligation to pay him the ‘minimum’ legal amount which the Treasury have since claimed they assumed had been paid to the former Chairman.
The Royal Bank was a private enterprise, and you cannot go around demanding money that was paid to its former employees.
Not that this worries the gutter press who scent blood, or the politicians who clamor to join in on the hunt. Gordon Brown, of course, is desperate to deflect from the fact that he either failed to notice or ignored the vulnerability of British banks, despite IMF warnings.
In 1930 W.B Yates wrote on the fall of civilisation that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
This is true now, with envious commentators baying for a scape-goat and tired Ministers lacking the conviction to hold them back.