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"I'm sorry the iceberg was there"

Nick Robinson | 17:43 UK time, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Perhaps the song now needs to be rewritten. Sorry does not, after all, seem to be the hardest word.

Not, that is, if you're one of those billed as the "guilty men" of British banking facing trial by Select Committee.

They had their apologies scripted and ready.

However, the question was left hanging: "what are they sorry for?" For the consequences of banks' failures for shareholders, staff and customers certainly. What was much less clear, however, is that they accepted personal responsibility for causing those consequences.

This felt more like the captain of the Titanic saying "I'm sorry the iceberg was there" and less like "Sorry I steered the ship into the iceberg and promised you that it couldn't sink".

The point of these hearings is not, of course, merely to extract apologies but to learn lessons for the future. The MPs on the committee did not feel they'd learned enough.

Those who blame them should ponder how easy, say, John Humphrys, Radio 4's inquisitor in chief, would find it to interview four people at once while sharing the job with 13 of his colleagues.

Tomorrow, the committee will try to get to grips with those who are now running the banks.

It may well turn out that "the hardest word" for a banker is not sorry but "no" - as in "no, we won't be paying any bonuses".


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  • Comment number 1.

    Nick, Would not the Treasury Select Committee have been wiser and better informed if they had called before them Mr.Paul Moore. Rather than the chairman read out that persons memorandom. Especially before todays debate with the Bank bosses. The USA senate did this when they heard in person Mr. Markopolos, who shredded the regulators and laid bear the corruption and ineptitude within those departments. To a man the committee members thanked him for his evidence on behalf of the American public

  • Comment number 2.

    I guess the're not sorry about how wealthy they all are, regardless of their incompetence.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why no word from Gordon Brown.
    When will he go before a select committee.

  • Comment number 4.

    But the iceberg didn't come from nowhere - it was there for all to see !

    It wasn't difficult to identify that the vulnerability of HBOS to a collapse of a bank like Lehmans (as actually happened in 2008, of course) needed to be analysed ahead of time: see for example this comment of October 2007.

    We heard a lot from them about the excellence of their risk management, but their stress-testing was delinquent in the extreme.

  • Comment number 5.

    #3 -- and yes that select committee should be in the form of the general public at the ballot box.

    A general election is needed NOW.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is very trite but true: if a committee wants to examine a witness effectively it has to either allow one of its members to do it (there must be a purpose for all those barrister MPs) or have another lawyer do it for them. All the other ways - like to-day's - may be good television but miss the mark. And as television don't come close to real effective expert examination.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why was James Crosby not called? he was CEO of HBOS from 2001 to 2006, the period during which they were transformed from a "boring" mortgage bank into a risk-led player in all sorts of derivative markets.

    Could it be because, after he left HBOS, he was appointed by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, to lead the Government's Public Private Forum on Identity Management? Or could it be because it was the very same Chancellor of the Exchequer that recommended him for a Knighthood in 2006? Or could it be that he is a (Gordon Brown appointed) non-executive director of the FSA? Or could it be that in April 2008, Crosby was appointed by Chancellor Alastair Darling to head up a Working Group of mortgage industry experts to advise the Government on how to improve the mortgage market?

    Or maybe they just haven't got round to him yet? I wonder when they will.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh come on Nick,

    Questioning people in commitee is what the TSC does all the time. They are paid extra to do it and have been doing it in most cases for quite some time.

    That they learned very little has more to do with the quality of questioners and poor quality of the questioning than having 4 people sitting at a table in front of them.

    If they are incapable of handling 4 at a time then perhaps they can adopt a mastermind format in future.

    IMHO they were more concerned not to back any of them into a corner where the bankers would point the finger at the government and regulator. Toothless and gutless performance.

  • Comment number 9.

    Come on Gordon - say sorry and go.

    Come on BBC - the Bankers are not all the story, it seems that the BBC are not training their guns on the politians who allowed this to happen

  • Comment number 10.


    why is there still no word from you on Jacqui Smith's obscene grubbing of the public purse for her expenses?

    They may not be against the rules but they are no more defensible than bankers' bonuses.

    Stop being so myopic Nick, or people will begin to doubt your credibility and impartiality!

  • Comment number 11.


    It would be nice to know from our leader on camera what he was told by this gang of 4 when he met with them over dinner.

    Did he never question them about the huge mountian of debt that was being racked up within this country?

    Did he never ask about the 5/6 times salary mortgages that were being sold or the self certification of personal income on mortgage applications? Or of the extraodinarily good credit deals being given to people with no assets.

    Did he never ask if the level of debt in the Uk was sustainable? What did they tell him and when?

    The Govt is calpable in all of this as well as the joint captains of the, "Titanic". Did he never ask why the ship was going straight towards the iceberg?

    As seemingly the passenger on this trip, perhaps Gordon had gone to bed early and had missed the lead up to the crash!

  • Comment number 12.

    This is all trivia and sidelining.

    Brown wants the world banks nationalised, run globally, in a world federal state. Total control, total fairness thinks he.

    Remember, New World Order is about control, not capitalism.

    Look up Aaron Russo on Youtube and his dealings with Rockafeller. Real eye opener in more way than one. Scary. Very scary.

  • Comment number 13.

    Do not expext Gordie to appear anywhere to admit fsilure, because most of you get it totally wrong, HE IS NOT A STOTSMAN, HE IS A FIFER, there is a vast difference!

  • Comment number 14.

    The body language of the people concerned suggested to me that they were not being totally forthcoming with the answers.

    Personally i think they should all be investigated fully into their personal involvement and finances....they were basically allowed to get away with trying to make us feel sorry for them when they stated they had lost money !!!!!

    They didn't personally lose one penny.They just didn't get as much as they would have liked.

  • Comment number 15.

    Can you imagine Gordon Brown coming before a Select Committee and coming even close to an apology for his mishandling of The Economy. If pigs could fly.

  • Comment number 16.

    The really galling thing (of a great many galling things) is that for all these apologies, select committee hearings, royal commissions - there is bound to be one of those - and ponderous statements that 'lessons must be learnt', nothing, but nothing will change. Nothing. Nothing at all.

    'Sir' Fred Godwin and 'Sir' Tom McKillop and all the other knights of the realm (and why, exactly, were they knighted?) will all make the appropriate noises, take early retirement, then slink off to their place in the Exmoor, or Cornwall or Powys or the Peak District, well padded with a wonderful pension subsidised by 'consultancy work' and running a quango. Others will take their place, accept a knighthood and the whole sorry state of affairs will continue.

    We are living in cloud cuckoo land if we think any lessons will be read. The wide boys will continue and the rest of us can get stuffed.

    I read today of a pensioner who once had £6,000 of HBOS shares, which were converted into Lloyds TSB shares and are now worth the princely sum of £250. All these nauseating apologies mean nothing to her. And, Nick, you know this is all true.

  • Comment number 17.

    The whole thing sounded contrived.

    I didn't believe a single word of it.

  • Comment number 18.

  • Comment number 19.

    Our government and most of our MP's are lawyers.

    If they couldn't sort out the bankers contracts and bonuses, they've got no chance at sorting out the country?

  • Comment number 20.

    ....and at least it takes the heat off the Government Expenses.....!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    What a bunch of DISINGENUOUS individuals






    2001/2002 AS HAVE RBS/NATWEST.



  • Comment number 22.


    why is there still no word from you on Caroline Spelman's obscene grubbing of the public purse for her Nanny expenses?

    This may not be against the rules (actually it probaly is) but they are no more defensible than bankers' bonuses.

    Stop being so myopic Nick, or people will begin to doubt your credibility and impartiality!

    Also Nick can you find out why Angela Knight, former Tory Minister and current chairman of the British Bankers Association hasn't been called to answer some questions, there must be some culpabillity there too, come on Nick do your job!

  • Comment number 23.

    9 Blogpowell

    I think Bush, sarkozy, Merkle, Putin, Berlusconi, Zapatero, Cowen, Taro Aso should all be called to our Select Committee. How did these clowns allow this massive coincidental recession happen just at the same time as Brown caused ours.

  • Comment number 24.

    Incompetence? What incompetence?

    As far as I can see it has all gone to plan for these banksters. Except for the public swallowing their apologies.

    Surely now Mr Brown and his other Bilderburg buddies needs to be questioned about this.

    Theres nothing here but utter corruption that has potentially bankrupted the UK but the banksters will get to keep their yachts and secret offshore accounts and Brown etal will be their guest of honour on mistress' birthdays in the not so distant future when the rest of us will be wondering how to pay the next mortgage payment.

  • Comment number 25.

    #7 obangobang

    Great post and very true - I'd be astonished if they don't eventually call Crosby, but he's not listed for the next meeting - more bankers.

    See the HoC Treasury Committee: Meetings.

    Next one is Wednesday 11 February, Wilson Room, Portcullis House, at 2.30pm grilling:

    • Eric Daniels, Group Chief Executive, Lloyds Banking Group
    • John Varley, Group Chief Executive, Barclays
    • Stephen Hester Group Chief Executive, Royal Bank of Scotland
    • Antonio Horta-Osorio, Chief Executive, Abbey Bank
    • Paul Thurston, HSBC UK Managing Director
  • Comment number 26.

    The facts are that RBS has lost 20 billion on its ABN purchase, which was voted for by 90% of its shareholders.

    It has lost another 20 billion on US mortgage-backed products.

    Neither of the above were within the remit of the UK government or indeed regulators. Both were examples of pure greed.

    The same goes for the losses of UBS and Citibank, the other two worst culprits.

    When will one of you people with a political axe to grind not just wake up and accept that this has always been about the sheer naked overarching greed and machismo of a tiny number of top bank directors around the world- all they wanted was to say 'my bank's got more assets than yours'.

    Probably never, because you appear to be suffering from a very similar delusion.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's a near equal outrage that Jaqui Smith (shiver down my spine) should be paying her sister rent from the tax payers purse.

    The public need to vent thier anger on this so lets have a blog - or have you been told to stay clear of this one?

    The good people of Redditch will surely not allow her another term as MP but I am afraid of all the 'policies' she is bound to rush through before she is jettisoned from power.

    THIS UNELECTED GOVERNMENT STINKS - even the conservatives do look like a good alternative in comparrison. How bad will it have to get before a 'vote of no confidence'?

  • Comment number 28.

    The Shadow Chancellor has asked for an enquiry into the role of Mr Crosby, former chief at HBOS. He is right to do so.
    I would like to see an enquiry into the links between Tory members of both Houses of Parliament and the City. In view of the fact that the Tories are 'bankrolled' by elements from city institutions, it would be interesting to know if any of the vast amounts of money that has been effectively stolen from the public has found its way into Tory coffers. Is young George likely to support such action?

  • Comment number 29.

    7. obangobang

    Compare and contrast Channel 4's detailed coverage of this section of the Select Committee's inquiries of the former chief of HBOS James Crosby's activities, with the vague reference to Paul Moore (not even a name check) on the BBC.

  • Comment number 30.

    Just seen Channel 4 news and this story is going to get a lot more interesting.

    They have the scoop this time and it appears that this is getting ever closer to Gordon Brown's bunker.

    Many more developments to come.

    Maybe we will get some answers after all.

  • Comment number 31.

    The more I hear about this financial catastrophe the more dumbfounded I am.
    None of the top people at these banks appear to have any banking experience. Instead they seem to be glorified used car salesman rushing to get their noses in the trough and at the same time giving jobs to their pals so that they can also get on the gravy train.
    On top of this two of the men who now appear to be prime movers in this mess (eg Hornby & Crosby )are being retained as advisers by the Government, no doubt on astronomical wages.
    At least the bankers today have (grudgingly) admitted culpability in this financial mess. When is Gordon Brown going to do the same ?

  • Comment number 32.

    7 Obagobang

    They just did. See channel 4 news tonight.

  • Comment number 33.

    Coverage on Channel 4 news much more comprehensive on events with the Select Committee today and events (Paul Moore) leading up to today.

    John Snow is having difficulty in concealing his amazement at some of the subjects being discussed.

  • Comment number 34.

    Dear Nick,

    When are GB, AD, EB and (2)HS going in front of this committee? Do they not have their own questions to answer?

    Show trial anyone?

    Is it possible to sue an incompetent government?


  • Comment number 35.

    At least on the Titanic, the Captain went down with the ship. These guys were the first in the lifeboats; and to hell with the women and children.

  • Comment number 36.

    Young Robinson said: "This felt more like the captain of the Titanic saying "I'm sorry the iceberg was there" and less like "Sorry I steered the ship into the iceberg and promised you that it couldn't sink"."

    ----- ----- ----- -----

    As I never tire of saying, it was your buddy the Golem in Downing Street who said the ship couldn't sink, or, more properly, that he'd eliminated "boom and bust", so the economy couldn't sink.
    No point blaming the bankers totally, when they had the top man at the Treasury telling them that the eternal boom was here, is there?

  • Comment number 37.

    Am I the only one who can't stand John McFall?

  • Comment number 38.

    The 2 cases (RBS and HBOS) are quite distinct. HBOS had an Applegarth-like incompetence. The business model was naive and flawed and it beggars belief that the FSA allowed them to continue.
    RBS were wrecked by the egomania of Goodwin. A truly 1-trick pony who delivers others ideas. The Natwest takeover was a response to BoS bid and ABN a response to Barclay's.
    They're damned by their own words - "sorry guv we didn't see it coming".
    Why exactly were they paid the enormous sums they were? They're at the heart of the financial world, with it's insanely complex instruments, and they are paid to forsee the unforseen - why else would you pay them millions a year?

  • Comment number 39.

    thowee thaid the naughty sthcool bwoys veree thoftlty

  • Comment number 40.

    Ha such entertainment

    Fat cat politicians trying to get fat cat bankers to answer straight forward questions on an embarassing topic.


  • Comment number 41.

    The least credible of the bankers was Hornby of the HBOS. He seemed incredibly aggrieved that he'd apologised several times and no-one seemed to believe him. (He probably feels that his wife doesn't understand him either.) Yet he is still allowed to recieve £60,000 pounds a month as a consultant. While this goes on, the system is clearly rotten.

  • Comment number 42.

    We are told that these 4 un-wise men of whom each have NO Banking qualifications at all between them, that they each are Sorry for running the U.K.'s Banking System into the ground.

    They have informed us that too the best of their knowledge they believe that all of the U.K.'s Banking problem's have been caused by dividing and further Sub - dividing over and over again all topic's of Financial risks into ever smaller and smaller parcel's, and selling these parcel's all around the World, to a point now where no one has any clue whatsoever as to how much in total the debt's and future interest on both the short, long and bad Debt's will be.

    For their Champagne, and Rich life-style's, they are now sorry for the biggest Cock - Up in British Banking history, while million's of ordinary men and women are being made Unemployed, while also the useless 4 are quite happy to hold on to their past Golden hand - out's, and payment's while all the U.K. Taxpayer's bail-out the Banking System for their past mistake's.

    Nice Work If You Can Get It.

  • Comment number 43.

    The FSA like other regulators set up by New Labour are only there to ensure the Fat Cats keep getting the cream.
    It matter not if its Fuel/Money or anything else we have MP's that don't give a t*** for the man in the street and Ministers have an eye to their Job in the city when the plebs finially rumble New Labour, Suckers and Mugs are what the establishment think of the great smelly mass of British citizens, they have used the mushroom system on us for years...
    Keep them in the dark and feed them s*** every morning'
    MP = more please

  • Comment number 44.

    While the bankers have to accept their portion of the blame, why did the Government, including the former Chancellor, apparently stand by for 10 years and do nothing? It's all very well being angry now and pointing the finger at someone else - did they really have no idea of what was happening?

  • Comment number 45.

    Nick, if the bankers are saying "I'm sorry the iceberg was there", then what we need next is for the Sub-Prime Minister to say "I'm sorry I launched the iceberg"

  • Comment number 46.


    BTW Yellow, answered your questions on Bash a Banker at 290 but posed you some in return. Cheers.

  • Comment number 47.

    27 sapphire and steel

    "THIS UNELECTED GOVERNMENT STINKS - even the conservatives do look like a good alternative in comparrison"

    Three points:

    1. The government was, I think, elected.

    2. If you want to sort out the City and bankers etc, bringing in the Conservatives is not going to work, they are the City and the bankers under a political guise. It's like Sinn Fein / IRA but with bowler hats and lawyers.

    3. I still think Sicilian should change his name to the 'Cheeseman of Eggington'.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    Am I right in thinking that none of the members of the Finance Select Committe is a woman? One in six of the MPs nowadays is a woman. Given that women seem to be suffering more severely than men in terms of unemployment as a result of the credit crunch, it is particularly unfortunate that there are no women to question the multi-millionaires.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 22. At 7:28pm on 10 Feb 2009, Eatonrifle wrote:


    why is there still no word from you on Caroline Spelman's obscene grubbing of the public purse for her Nanny expenses?"

    Eaton, to answer your spurious question, Caroline Spellman did this for a short period of time in 1997. Then she stopped and has been subject to a full inquiry. The outcome of which will either be that she is cleared of all wrong-doing OR she will have to repay those (or a share of those) expenses ala Conway.

    Why don't you ask Nick to ask about more recent and relevant misuse of public money? like the expenses claims by that senior minister in this Government that is based on the (at best) spurious claim that her sister's camp-bed is her main home.

    That must make us look good internationally, that one of our senior minister's claims that her main residence is a spare room in her sister's terraced house.

    This kind of dissembling is surely morally equivalent to benefit fraud and is utterly indefensible.

    The fact that she turned down a state grace and favour flat, as an entitlement of her senior position, to live in diggs so she can claim a huge wad of cash instead can not sit well with your socialist tendencies can it?

    Or is an old non-story from 1997 the best that you can do in terms of trying to smear the tories with sleaze?

    What about the vastly more prevalent and relevant and recent and sizeable chunks of current labour sleaze? Cash for honours? Cash for amendments to law etc?

    How myopic to labour's sleaze do you have to be to overlook selling out your parties POLICIES to the highest bidders???

    Oh sorry, eaton, the labour party can do no wrong in your eyes can they? They are utterly and completely above board in all their grubby dealings and have never done a thing wrong ever.

    Enjoy being in opposition for another generation...

  • Comment number 51.

    Now lets have a clear out, lets have the Prime Minister our ex Chancellor in front of the committee. He states that he had no Idea what the the American Banks were up to and he was the chancellor who set the terms of reference for the FSA. Cosy or what, how could the Chancellor not know how the financial sector worked?

    This was the Chancellor who would have profitted from the tax take in certain areas. You make comparison to the Iceberg but please note that on that occasion it was dark, there were no binoculars and the captain had at least taken some kind of avoiding action and he went down with the ship. No chance of that with our erstwhile Prime Minister!!!

    But perhaps the truth is that the Bankers did not know what they were doing in which case I will take no more of the private sector knowing better than the average man on the Clapham Omnibus. Fire the lot find some properly trained bankers and before the existant lot think they have got away with it they should be rehoused in normal housing, their piles can be sold to make up the shortfall.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 18, Eaton, how can I make this so simple that even you understand how Brown IS responsible for OUR recession/depression....

    OK how's this for an analogy...

    Imagine a massive multiple car crash. Lots of vehicles involved. One car started the crash, but many of the other cars involved also played a vital part in the severity of the crash. The one driver that started the crash is NOT responsible for the actions of all the other drivers. However EACH driver is responsible for their own car.

    If the drivers following the first car were driving too fast, not paying attention, driving cars that were not serviced properly and were not roadworthy, then they are each responsible for the severity of the damage to their own cars and are equally in part responsible for the overall severity of the whole crash.

    Gordon Brown's changes to the banking system in 1997 was the equivalent of him loosening the brake cable. The failure to see how the unsustainable credit was building from 2001 was the equivalent of him slamming his foot on the accelerator whilst closing his eyes. His part in the crash IS HIS FAULT!!!

    Brown IS responsible for how deep the global crash affects this nation. HE was the Chancellor for 10 years. HE deregulated the market in such a way that Eddie George had a stand up blazing row with Brown and Blair about it in 1997, warning them both about the likely outcome (which has now come to pass)

    What is it about it being Brown's fault that you do not understand? Just because other nation's were equally as wreckless with international money as Brown was, does NOT exonerate Brown from the blame for things for which he IS accountable and responsible.

  • Comment number 53.

    " This felt more like the captain of the Titanic saying "I'm sorry the iceberg was there" and less like "Sorry I steered the ship into the iceberg and promised you that it couldn't sink". "

    To me, this felt more like the Prime Minister saying "all our problems are due to a global recession" and "I'm angry with the bankers" and less like "I've steered the economy in a reckless manner" and "I've abolished boom and bust" and "we're well placed to weather the recession".

  • Comment number 54.

    22 and 23:

    Good try but The Government can't expect to get away scot free in all of this!

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 26. At 7:53pm on 10 Feb 2009, MunichMadrid7980:

    Of course the banks are at fault....However the fact is that Brown did make the problem worse by removing Bank of England oversight in 1997, then he encouraged as much gambling as possible on the premise that he had eliminated boom and bust and that inevitable and unending growth would continue in the economy for ever more. The banks business models worked on that ridiculous and unsustainable theory of economics.

    The bankers were only doing what bankers ALWAYS do. Exploiting their naked and rampant greed for profit. That is what they do and it is what they are there for.

    It is the Government's role to provide a framework to harness that greed and exploit it in a sustainable and as harmless a way as possible. THAT is what Brown failed to do. In fact he did the opposite.

  • Comment number 56.

    They havn't really apologized, neither have they taken responsibility proportional to what they have rewarded themselves, nor have they come clean with the why, who, how and where.

    It is arrogance, greed and fear.

    Arrogant that they believe they have and will get away with it, then, now and in the future. Greed to get and retain as much as they can, however it is done.

    The puzzling bit is "fear". They are afraid. But who are they afraid of? Certainly not the UK public, nor the MPs, not the government, nor the PM, not even the media ... hhmmmm? Who and why???

  • Comment number 57.

    I can only assume all those here blaming Gordon Brown for this mess are younger than my 31 years and so have no memory of Thatcher and Reagan's part in all this. It is their ideology that kicked all this off: that unfettered free markets could solve all the ills of the world. They were demonstrably wrong. The only failure Gordon Brown is guilty of is the same failure we, and much of the rest of the world are guilty of: clinging to this one warped ideology. Tony Blair didn't have the balls, and neither does Brown to stand up and say that the free market can't solve all our problems and is actually the source of many of them. Thatcher and Reagan and all their greedy, fanatical followers have skewed political thought so far to their narrow-minded view of the world that it's taking events like these for people to finally start thinking about alternatives. Once we get past people's belief and misguided desire to "get back to normal" then maybe we can all start living back in the real world again. Something which we've failed to do since I was a boy in the 80s.

  • Comment number 58.



    You are funny mate. Like the little boy trying to put his finger in the dyke to stop it flooding, whilst the raging torrents are up around his neck.

    Compared to the stuff that is coming out now that has happened on Gordon's watch, what has been alleged about Spelman has paled into insignificance....

    Still, someones got to defend 'em eh??? :-))))

    besides Nick, I mean!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    Always remember that the majority of really good professionals in finance, politics, government or most fields are not leading as we (the public) are easy to give our money, vote and confidence to any trickster or good blagger.
    The committee even if it has good intentions is the least ineffective way of controlling a bunch of people with minimum scruples.
    Enjoy the monsters we created!!!

    Our children will laugh and may also cry lookign at how foolish we have been to allow such crimes.

  • Comment number 60.


    Dont be a twonk mate, you know full well why.

    Nobody is doubting the fact that there has been greed in the sector. No-one here is absolving the guilty parties in the sector.

    The mud that unfortunately sticks is the allegations surrounding James Crosby for a start, the setting up of the tripartite system, which happened on Gordons watch, the rushed bail-out, which was meant to have strings attached, only someone forgot to attach the strings before it happened... there is an undeniable political element to it that is unescapable.

    Much as you hate the Tories, and you know me by now, I'm not convinced they're going to be any better, you cannot deny that the conditions that allowed this situtation to develop, the light touch regulation, the tripartite system the "no more boom and bust" the "I would resist the call for tighter regulation" - it all happened on Gordon's watch. Now there is apparent disunity between Gordon and the man who was effectively his deputy chancellor for 10 years... Labour have lost control of the situation. Doesnt matter a thing about the Tories. They've got nothing to do with it.

    You cannot seriously be thinking/trying to sell the line that those greedy city boys created this monster to stitch Gordon up and deliver an election victory to their Bullingdon mates???

    Surely, even you couldnt be that paranoid.

    Gordon was in charge, as chancellor and as PM.

    For ten years he was the pidgeon.

    Now its his turn to be the statue. There aint no getting away from it, no way of spinning out of this one. It is inescapable.

  • Comment number 61.

    38 MadofHitchin rightly questions why the top dogs at RBS/HBOS did not see it coming. Purely because the City, investment community, govt and very especially the City journalists kept praising them. Just remember how much grief Lloyds TSB got from the City pages for being boring and not delivering the profits of RBS/ HBOS among others. Except that Eric Daniels was largely vindicated in the end especially as he is a banker - surely not??. The City supported the global aspirations of RBS and HBOS was pushed to break the grip of the Big Four - all in the name of competition. Yes, the warning signs were there if anyone cared to deal with them but the entire system failed because it suited everyone. We still fondly believe that those getting to the top must be intellectually superior but nothing is farther from the truth.

  • Comment number 62.

    I think your "Titanic" analogy is a little misleading, Nick ... at least Capt. Smith had the guts to go down with his ship. You wont see any of these city slickers going down without a damned great golden handshake.. if you really want to extend the analogy, the banksters taking the billions of taxpayers money and paying each other obscene bonuses, is as if, having struck the iceberg, Smith and his crew commandeered all the lifeboats and left the passengers to go down with the ship.

  • Comment number 63.

    #35 ... apologies.. I spooled right past your comment without reading it

  • Comment number 64.

    It was hardly riviting watching the side show with the politicians trying to get to grips with an event that is now old news. The business model was flawed and they did not see the problems building up. I was in the states in Nov 06 and already the housing market bubble was deflating. How those in power missed it all is incredible. Nobody wanted to believe it could end. In Apriil 2007 we go out of everything and we are just your average Joe so how come these guys were still doing deals with massive leverage/debt?
    The goernment did not want the ecomnomy to slow and thought that people like Crosby knew what they were doing. They still do, and that is the real problem.
    What part of there is no money do these guys not get? Brown wants he banks to return to 2007 lending volumes. Is that not where we really fell off the cliff?

    It is all very frightening, we have Brown saying nothing of consequence, no mention of his part in all of it, no idea what to do, rushing around making soundbites (we have all progressed a bit now and expect more. I am not interested in the side show, ministers muttering asides and you trying to explain what the uneducated are unable to articulate.....he does not need you to interpret for him. Either he deserves to be heard or not, and we can take it from there.
    What right have they to preach morality when they passed the expense system in such a way that they can hide how they steal our money?
    Roll on the election and hope that we can demand of the new government transparency.

  • Comment number 65.

    I defend the bankers. Bankers are there to borrow and lend money for the benefit of their customers. They have been doing just that rather successfully and that has benefitted the whole world in recent years.

    The easy credit policy was provided by the Central Banks as pointed out today by Tim Gietner the new US Treasury Secretary. By far the biggest culprit was Alan Greenspan .

    Whilst Ben Benancke and Mervin King tried to deflate the housing bubble and put an end to easy credit before they led to a crash others were still trying to inflate the bubble (Gordon Brown was insisting that banks provide fixed rate mortgages for life).

    It is the job of Government to govern. Those on the Finance Select Committee should have been the ones worrying about the upside and downside of easy credit, PFI, student loans, National Debt, personal debt and lack of savings.

    We have enjoyed a boom but it has been a psuedo-boom. We couldn't afford those new hospitals, the 118 new schools built last year and the massive public sector pay rises. We and our servants, the Government, drove up GDP by spending the income of the next generation today and then congratulating ourselves for having produced 10 years of growth. But this was psuedo-growth because it was all on credit and our servants even snatched £200b from future pensions by removing pensions tax credit.

    As we go into the future with a massive new dollop of National Debt how shall we repay it when we are paying off £216b of PFI, student loans of as much as £30,000 and £200b less in the pension pot.

    The bankers who are suffering from the bursting of the State sponsored credit boom should ask Mr. McFall if he voted for PFI, student loans, tuition fees, the removal of pensions tax credit and the 70/30 rule that led to so few new houses being built.

    World economic crises are made with easy credit and bankers are only an actor on the stage running with the script. The script was writen by our servants who secured re-election and glory with a growing GDP that was entirerly pseudo, jam today.

    The way forward is already underway. Asset prices are correcting. The $3,000t of toxic assets has now reduced to $2,200t. Easy credit that was good for our misguided servants and bad for the bankers has disappeared as bankers correct their balance sheets much to the shagrin of our over interventionist servants.

    You cannot buck the market with an economic stimulus package such as the one just approved by our interventionist sevants in the US. Recent history tells us that Mr. Bush did the same thing in April last year and it only led to a modest boost in US consumer spending in May and that was it. The new economic cycle is to repair balance sheets and that means not spending but paying off your debt. The housewife, the debtor, the small businessman and the mortgagee will all do this. Unfortunately, our interventionist servants will do the opposite and bulldose yet more schools and rebuild them making our children's debt to pay for our jam our main priority. We shall save and not spend.

    I have mentioned the word "interventionism" a few times. Interventionism replaced capitalism some 150 years ago when Karl Marx was explaining that capitalism would lead to a revolution as the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. It is not the extinct capitalism that is causing the problem but interventionism gone mad at the expense of the Golden Goose, industry, including the poor bankers having to say sorry to the interventionists for spoiling their pseudo boom.

    Where has all the money gone? Look no further than your house. You took all the money with your house price appreciation, your home equity release, your new conservatory and your filing for bankruptcy. You were caught up in a house price bubble whilst the Golden Goose was starved of investment to employ your children in an ever more competitive world. Bankers helped you gain all that wealth and provided our biggest industry, invisible earnings and tax take. You loved the the bankers and our interventionist servants loved them even more. The Golden Goose went to China with its naked Capitalism. You had magic money,credit, and China could gain 100 years of motor manufacturing experience from 22,000 containers of machine tools from Rover when Rover couldn't pay its council tax bills because we liked benefits rather than doing the work we gave to quest workers with a capital "W".

    The cause of our problems is interventionism and one of the victims is bankers here and across the world. Your wealth is in your home but it is overvalued by a factor of 3. You knew it was overvalued when the average price of a house was 9.3 times the average income and the average age of a first time buyer was 33. You knew that your interventionist servants were continuing to inflate the house price bubble and sucked in 1m buy-to-let buyers when first time buyers were priced out of the market. You knew that someone had to pay student loans off, pay off £216b of PFI and manage with a £200b shortfall in the pensions pot. You knew we had an ageing population to support and yet the cost of the NHS doubled on an apples for apples basis for a reduction in productivity, GPs salaries increased by 50% in one year, the Police were driving expensive German cars rather than Vivas and teachers were driving 4x4s rather than A35s and retiring earlier because of stress because some parents convinced their children that benefits were the future rather than education.

    What was John McFall thinking about when we charged him with governance and the servant of the people? Give me bankers rather than interventionism gone mad any day.


    David Lilley

  • Comment number 66.

    Dear Nick

    It is really sickening that the Home Secretary who is doing her best to make this a police state will steal from the tax payer by perverting the Parliamentary rules to obtain the maxumum advantage from them. It is a disgraceful example of one rule for the establishment and another for the rest.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    i can't quite work out who is worse. The contrite and rather stomach churning bank executives or the pious government ministers making them squirm. I don't pretend to understand the inner dealings of the banking system and the government but it simply strikes me they saw it happening and stood and watched. Perhaps they should be sitting on the same side as the bankers and us poor folk who are now working twice as hard to make a living should be sitting there making them all squirm

  • Comment number 69.

    I agree with the various posters' comments about the honourable (sic) Home Secretary.

    Are all all family heirlooms, treasured possessions, children's drawings etc etc kept at her sister's home in London? I suspect not, more likely at the family home in the West Midlands. I rest my case.

    Probably best to resign now dear.

  • Comment number 70.

    I deplore the short sightedness of the bankers along with the greed, credit and false promises they made. But how do they differ from Gordon Brown, our (unelected) Chief Executive?
    He built a reputation on capitalising on the boom years, of claiming no more "boom and bust", of recommending Knighthoods for key members of the banktocracy, of saying the brilliant stewardship of the economy was down to him.
    The Labour controlled Treasury Select committee should call him as a witness and ask him if he foresaw the economic catastrphe, to explain the lack of regulation and why he appointed to the FSA the man who sacked the whistleblower at HBOS who told his colleagues they were heading for disaster. Nick

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    Stop wingeing and do something, folks.

  • Comment number 73.

    Dear Nick,

    People have been comparing what Balls said and the Great Depression of the 30's.

    Just a quick point but.....

    ... that depression ended with the galvanised economies across the world fighting WWII.

    If history is repeating itself and this is far worse..........

    ...........the Mayan caleder ends in 2012,
    WWIII anyone!

    Just a point.


  • Comment number 74.

    No 61 and what did Eric Daniels get for his prudence at Lloyds TSB? He got lumbered with HBoS. It hardly seems fair does it? Especially since HBoS is hardly worth anything at all and Lloyds TSB overpaid rather than back out and face the wrath of the Golem.
    Eric Daniels has been shafted good and proper. It'll take years to sort out the mess at HBoS by the Golem's best buddy Sir James Crosby.

  • Comment number 75.

    Time to stop trying to apportion blame or score (pointless) points....surely better now to address the way forward (and do that right!).

  • Comment number 76.

    This felt more like the captain of the Titanic saying "I'm sorry the iceberg was there"
    and less like
    "Sorry I steered the ship into the iceberg and promised you that it couldn't sink".

    But Nick, this is just what Brown is doing.

  • Comment number 77.

    57. At 10:38pm on 10 Feb 2009, Bransby wrote:
    I can only assume all those here blaming Gordon Brown for this mess are younger than my 31 years and so
    Something which we've failed to do since I was a boy in the 80s


    No I was a man in the 80's and it has nothing to do with anyone other than Brown Blair and Labour in general.

    They have been in power for 12 years.
    They created the regulatory frame work that caused this, they are to blame.

    You will just have to wake up and smell the coffee



  • Comment number 78.

    Why has my comment been referred?!!!

    I am a taxpayer and have justified concerns about where this money goes. I am well within my rights to demand Jacqui Smith be fired.

    Her actions in any other walk of life would be deemed fraud and she would be imprisoned.

    I am disgusted by yet more evidence of snouts in the trough of our MP's and want to see action, the fact that they have the gall to criticise bankers for being greedy would be comical if it didn't enrage me so much.

    Nick, try reporting on the real story, it's probably past time for you to start sucking up to the next government, I'm surprised the survival instinct hasn't kicked in already.

    Thank God labour are dead men walking, even with expected postal vote rigging they will be hammered at the next GE. What do you think will happen to all their apologists then...?

  • Comment number 79.

    It was patently obvious these discredited bank directors only apologised for expediency sake. They should be extremely worries as there could be strong cases for apparent criminal negligence in their operations. Ignorance of the law is no defence. It is not beyond the remit of the law to bring such miscreants to justice.

    The allegations by Mr. Moore, former head of risk at HBOS, that he was fired by Crosby, then its Chief Exec, have grave implications.

    If Crosby apparently ignored warnings from Moore about impending risks, he is apparently grossly negligent. It also spells danger for Brown who subsequently appointed him as Deputy Head FSA.

    After Brown fatally removed the regulatory powers from the Bank of England to monitor other banks use and misuse of financial instruments; he created the FSA, a substitute organisation with Crosby as its Deputy head. As events have transpired, Crosby again and his Board failed to recognise danger signals.

    As Crosby is one of a coterie of advisors to the PM, it demonstrates poor judgement on Brown's part to entertain such incompetence.

  • Comment number 80.

    I'm surprised no-one else has brought this up.

    Your comment :-

    This felt more like the captain of the Titanic saying "I'm sorry the iceberg was there" and less like "Sorry I steered the ship into the iceberg and promised you that it couldn't sink".

    isn't quite right.

    If the captain HAD steered the Titanic into the iceberg the opinion of most naval experts is that the ship would have survived or at least taken much longer to sink as only one or two compartments would have been affected. However, as he tried to avoid the iceberg. it ended up scraping down the ship and caused damage that allowed water into 5 or 6 compartments, dooming the ship.

    One other thing. Why no mention of the other culprits in this?

    I refer, of course, to the estate agents who fulled the boom by encouraging people to look upon houses as a short-term profit maker and not a long term investment. If they hadn't artificially inflated prices the banks wouldn't have lent so much and we wouldn't have so many people struggling to pay their debts!

  • Comment number 81.

    #78 It's been happening to me a lot lately too, viva la democracy! It seems freedom of speech only counts so long as you're not saying anything too controversial.

    As for the bankers and the committee, I can't help but feel that this is little more than a stage show. As Nick points out, the bankers had all pre-scripted their apologies, and all that was left for them to do was perform their lines well on the day.

    Their performance was trite and insincere and I doubt any of them have a future in the thespian arts. I suspect their futures are more likely to involve golden handshakes and retiring to their respective tax havens.

    Meanwhile the real culprit carries on at No.10 steering the ship into every iceberg he can find before it can sink, laughing as his passengers scream.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 82.

    Why does this 'closing of the barn door after the horse has bolted' exercise need to be so public. Lessons should be learned but MPs are not the best interrogators in this scenario because they lack banking expertise. They are more interested in promoting party allegiances. This whole charade is just a sop for The General Public so that The Government can point the finger at others in order to deflect attention away from their partial responsibilty for the total lack of regulatory discipline in the big financial institutions.

  • Comment number 83.

    The whole thing is a farce to try and make everybody feel better. Does it? Who gives a flying buttress who is to blame (except we know that Gordon's position is now untenable)?

    We need to clear the decks of this rubbish Labour fandango and get the new lot in to fix it.

    A new tide of action, enthusiasm, acumen and general well-being for the country.

    So many of us are sick of the status quo but are bound by our (so-called) democratic laws.

    To hell with it, let us vote!!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    #78 #81
    Ditto my #71
    I posted two similar submissions, one on RP's blog, the other here. RP's contained a spelling mistake inverting two letters of McKillop's name, this one was reduced to the core accusation. As both were suppressed, I can only conclude that the BBC is actively involved in the conspiracy they admitted to. Please stop posting here as it may be taken to include you.

  • Comment number 85.

  • Comment number 86.

    Lost in these comments is my warning to you all for the umpteenth time that this "apology" was staged and acted.

    What you must all REALLY think about is that Brown and those whom he can coerce around the world is hell bent on revolutionising the world into a NEW WORLD ORDER.

    He wants the world banks nationalised and in control globally. He wants a central government to control the world.

    Look it up on Google and Youtube. New World Order.

    If enough people tumble him he will have to water down his plans.

    Saying he will create thousands more jobs for those who have lost their jobs is just one of his ploys. He wants most people in the private sector so he can control them too.

    He is a dangerous, secretive and unsafe Prime Minister to have - and he was not elected by the people no matter which way you look at it so neither was this government because he appointed his ministers.

  • Comment number 87.

    In case you need further clarification Please Please Please read this:

  • Comment number 88.


    Excellent article that one, well worth a read! If only we had some journalists here equally willing to hold this government to account!

  • Comment number 89.


    Finally Sir James Crosby is being fingered:

    But when will he and Gordon Brown be called before the commons select committee?

    This crisis is in itself an argument for reform of the upper house and the appointment of a supreme court.. which is where these people should be being questioned right now...on oath.

    The CEO of Banesto in Spain who led his bank to a similar state to HBOS and RBS in 93/94 is still behind bars.. why are the four 'bankers' who stood before the select committee yesterday not on trial for gross misappropriation of shareholders' money?

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 90.

    #26 munichmadrid7980

    "The facts are that RBS has lost 20 billion on its ABN purchase, which was voted for by 90% of its shareholders.

    It has lost another 20 billion on US mortgage-backed products.

    Neither of the above were within the remit of the UK government or indeed regulators."

    Surely as UK registered companies, resident within the UK, formed under and regulated under UK law, listed on a stock exchange based within the UK, operating financial systems within the UK primarily for and on behalf of UK citizens, they are within "the remit" of the UK government?

    The safety and well-being of UK citizens is within the remit of the UK government and these banking companies operate a system that is integral to that safety and well-being. Surely that brings it within their remit in some small way?

    If it wasn't in their remit, how come MPs are allowed to now ask them questions regarding it? Has the UK government's remit changed in the last six months?

    If you are simply saying that this was not regulated in any way because it was never decided to regulate them, that is different.

    If the transactions are outside the remit of the regulators, that is the fault of whoever set their remit.

    I imagine that the story behind this situation is full of people who can say that these events were outside their remit.

    Whose remit was it exactly to regulate these companies?

    May I remind you that all companies have a duty to try to protect their profits for their shareholders? Saying their motivation is pure greed is almost tautological.

    That's why governments should be required to regulate companies that operate vital services.

    What sort of idiots would let profit motivated individuals run the financial system without a thought to the safety and integrity of that system?

  • Comment number 91.

    #7 obangobang

    Excellent post.

  • Comment number 92.

    #18 87 Flamepatricia

    You have really opened my eyes this morning with these clips. Scary......................

  • Comment number 93.

    If we are going to use the Titanic analogy then the Government would have to be the owners who proudly claimed that the economy could never sink. Their hype meant more people bought tickets and therefore sank with the ill fated depression sorry recession.

    Well I guess it’s nice to have a scapegoat, it’s either the American’s fault or the bankers fault (probably American bankers), well that’s okay then. It seems no one else is to blame, yeah right, its not as if the general public didn’t lap up the “free” credit when they were offered it, didn’t lie on their mortgage applications, didn’t decide that they had to have a new bigger house or car every other year, is it? The general public apparently are such a group of brain dead sheep that they could not realise that having more debt than they could pay back was going to lead to problems. In some ways these same brain dead sheep deserve everything they get, either they are too stupid to run their own budgets or they have decided that despite everything that they can blame someone else for their mistakes. That the people they can blame are rich, fat blokes in suits makes things even better, the green eyed monster gets its gleeful revenge.

    As for these bankers not being actual bankers, well strike me down with a pillow, really? You see I assumed that since every boss of a car manufacturer is a qualified engineer who knows the ins and outs of the combustion engine, that every manager of a financial institution would be a former bank teller! These people are business men and managers, in it solely to make them and the company money, the same parasites that sit on the board of every large company. Surely those posters who work know exactly the type of manager I mean, the bloke who comes in knows nothing about what you actually do and takes all the money and credit?

    I am not saying that the bankers are not at fault, they got greedy, they used loop holes to take risks that apparently even rocket scientists didn’t really understand. What I am saying is that there is an apparent tendency is for people to take the easy option and plant the whole blame on them, rather than take responsibility for their part of the current crisis.

  • Comment number 94.

    #37 Sicilian29

    No you certainly aren't. Not direct or hard enough in his questioning and his anger appears contrived to me.

  • Comment number 95.

    At 10:38pm on 10 Feb 2009, Bransby wrote:

    I can only assume all those here blaming Gordon Brown for this mess are younger than my 31 years and so have no memory of Thatcher and Reagan's part in all this.

    You were in junior school when Reagan and Thatcher were in power!

    If you're going to peddle nonsense - at least first do the maths.

  • Comment number 96.

    (Tranferred from an older blog)

    I am staggered at the crass insensitivity, amazing arrogance, and obscene greed shown by executives of taxpayer-rescued banks in even considering the payment of bonuses. I am equally disappointed with a government enquiry which will not report until the end of the year. This is yet one more example of dithering, indecision, and failure to understand the general public's feelings on the issue.

    I am also appalled by the way in which the Home Secretary has claimed taxpayers' money for expenses relating to what are her first and second homes. When someone claims that what they have done is quite 'legal', I am minded to consider that it is also morally questionable.

    No doubt banking executives and certain members of the government would consider that they run 'tight ships'. As I have mentioned in blogs before, I would agree with Doctor Spooner had he expressed things in exactly the same way.

  • Comment number 97.

    #42 LondonHarris

    Their qualifications for running the Banks look similiar to the Government Front bench. So......if it can happen in the Banks it can happen in Government !! Oops it already has

  • Comment number 98.

    Look, all this talk and tv on the contrition of the bankers is froth. A pebble thrown into the water to distract you all.

    What you should be calling for is Brown to be cross questioned live on tv on his motives.

    The purpose of government is to serve the people.

    He does not think that does he? It is staring you all in the face. Don't be sidelined by climate change, contrite bankers etc ad infinitum. His "baby" the financial services authority did not do their job - why? I wonder why? You should wonder why too!

    He has a master plan right under your noses and you are so niave you are missing it.

    How many more times can I tell you. all? Act now.

  • Comment number 99.

    I'm right looking forward to Gordon Brown's appology for running the British economy into the ground.

  • Comment number 100.

    Re SORRY by the bankers

    Anyone can say sorry - what does it really mean. It seems to be so easy to say for so many people now and it's real meaning being discredited.

    As the saying goes - talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words - lets see some good and decent responses and actions.

    One good deed is better than 100 good intentions (another brilliant phrase we should all aim for).

    Personal responsibility should be accepted if they are to personally financial gain in such outlandish, significant amounts.


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