Fred Goodwin stripped of knighthood

The former head of RBS has been stripped of his title.

Sir Fred Goodwin, former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland and national hate figure, is to be stripped of his knighthood.

Following advice from a panel of civil servants, the Queen has cancelled and annulled his title, which was awarded to him by the Labour government in 2004 for "services to banking".

Goodwin has been blamed for the collapse of RBS, where he was chief executive from 2001 to 2008. He pursued aggressive strategies in corporate lending and investment banking, and his high-risk acquisition of Dutch rival ABN Amro in 2007 -- at the height of the crisis -- meant that RBS had to be bailed out with £45bn of taxpayer money.

He certainly did himself no favours, refusing to apologise or to return any of his £16.9m pension. (After months of pressure from the public and politicians, he eventually agreed to give up a third of it).

Generally, people are only stripped of honours if they have committed a serious crime or been struck off by their professional register. This could be seen as vindication for those -- such as the makers of Inside Job -- who are incredulous that not a single banker has faced criminal charges for their role in the crash.

It would certainly be hard to argue that Goodwin deserves to keep his knighthood -- his actions led to thousands of job losses at RBS, and he played a part in bringing the economy to its knees. But for all the satisfaction of this moment, it is worth remembering that Goodwin did not act in isolation. Indeed, as my colleague Mehdi Hasan pointed out this month, Jon Varley of Barclays was engaged in a bidding war with Goodwin for ABN Amro - had he been successful, rather than Goodwin, we might have had ended up with a very different hate figure. Nor is "Fred the Shred" the only banker to have been given an honour by the last government.

Coming in the same week as Stephen Hester, Goodwin's successor, was forced to refuse his bonus package, this would seem to indicate that the tides are turning against the bankers. But, as I argued last week, this type of gesture politics does nothing to tackle the underlying structural problems which allow sky-high remuneration in the financial sector to continue unabated.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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