Knifonomics (part 15): The man behind the Shred


It’s true that Fred Goodwin was ultimately a lousy banker, although it’s also the case that no-one raised this at the time of his hubristic spending, least of all his low profile chum, Fat Eck Salmond.

It’s entirely wrong to claim that Fred wasted £45 billion of taxpayers’ money. He didn’t. He certainly let down his shareholders very badly, but depositors’ cash was secured by law, to the tune of £35,000 per person, as I recall. Innocent savers were unlikely to be wiped out if the bank went bust.

The effect of bankruptcy on shares, investment funds and pension funds would  no doubt have hit the man on the street to an unquantified extent, but hey – shares can go down as well as up can’t they? The average man in the proverbial street (me) isn’t going to lose sleep over it, frankly.

Likewise, the lurid descriptions of cashline machines running dry and…er…riots in the streets, were basically sensationalised rubbish. Cash would still have existed, the government can print and distribute whatever they like. It’s what they have done. The trouble is that the “quantitative easing”/printing money tactic went the wrong way – into institutions that were non-functioning. Another knight, Sir Simon Jenkins has often written of “helicopter money”, as proposed by Milton Friedman (see this piece by the normally wrong Paul Krugman), being the right use of all that newly printed dosh. Certainly chucking it into the black hole of a failed institution was not.

So who on earth did spend the £45 billion that we didn’t have in the first place, on essentially, nothing?

Step forward Mr “I saved the world” Gordon Brown, by an incredible coincidence the man who arranged Fred’s short lived knighthood.

Just as the Iraq war will continue to destroy whatever was left of Tony Blair’s reputation, Broon’s characteristic profligacy with our cash will wreck whatever kudos he still retains. It won’t be The Knife who writes the damning history, it will be his children’s generation whose prospects have been blighted by the demented self aggrandisement of the Kirkcaldy idiot.

I actually like the idea of the occasional knave being a knight. If a destructive thug like John Prescott can preen himself in the Lords with relatively little controversy, it seems a little harsh on Fred to kick him in the nuts on this.

Goodwin could have rightly  answered to his shareholders. Brown is the man who has yet to answer to the nation.

He got off very lightly by losing the election.

** See Jeremy Warner for an associated perspective


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