Five questions answered on Vince Cable’s call for a decision on RBS prosecutions

Why now?

Business Secretary Vince Cable has urged the Scottish legal authorities for a swift decision on whether to prosecute Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) former directors. We answer five questions on Cable’s request.

Why is Vince Cable making this plea now?

Cable said he sent the letter to the Scottish authorities asking for the matter to be dealt with as soon as possible because he wanted to maintain public confidence, report the BBC.

What did Cable say exactly?

According to the BBC, Cable said to the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Wallace, a fellow Liberal Democrat, that he was looking for an update on the situation but was not trying to influence it in anyway. He said

"There is, as you will know, considerable public concern about the actions of the directors of RBS prior to its insolvency.

"Following the release of the FSA's report into the failure of RBS I sought legal advice on what if any enforcement action was appropriate and was advised that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) should consider a possible prosecution.

"Given that this matter was referred to them in January 2012, I am very keen for a decision to be reached as quickly as possible in order to maintain public confidence in the efficiency of the decision-making process."

What do the prosecution charges relate to?

In 2011, a report by banking regulator the Financial Services Authority (FSA) said RBS was nearly foiled in 2008 – when it required a £45.5bn taxpayer-funded bailout – because of ‘multiple poor decisions’ and a £50bn ‘gamble’ on buying Dutch bank ABN Amro.

It also stated that RBS Chief Executive Fred Goodwin’s management style was highlighted as a potential risk as early as 2003.

A short while afterwards, the Crown Office in Scotland said an investigation had been under way for some time because of "the degree of public concern about recently reported issues in the banking sector".

Is this the only legal action against those involved in bringing RBS to its knees?

No. Earlier this month more than 12,000 private shareholders and 100 institutional investors raised a class action against the bank relating to a £12bn rights issue by RBS in 2008 after its acquisition of ABN Amro.

Who are those involved in this latest legal action?

Goodwin is among those named in the action, as well as ex-chairman Sir Tom McKillop and senior figures Johnny Cameron and Guy Whittaker.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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