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Goodwin's goodies

Brian Taylor | 11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Look, I'm as angry as anyone about the be-knighted Fred Goodwin. Having recently reviewed that stupendous, innovative financial product that is my endowment policy, I can top most folk on teeth-grinding fury.

But anyone else out there think that the continuing debate over Goodwin's pension is being used to deflect attention from the inutility of our wider efforts to counter recession?

It reminds me a little of The Crucible. A community unable to do anything much about its prevailing social and economic environment sets out on an increasingly frenzied search for a particularly burnable witch. (And, yes, before anyone points it out to me, I am fully aware that Miller's play is itself a parable of modern times.)

Right now, we have sundry politicians who are beginning to suspect that - in the short term, at least - they can do the square root of zip about the economic crisis.

Longer term, they can act - as witnessed by the PM's efforts at G20 and the FM's economic forum today.

But, more generally, there is a sense of short-term futility, a sharp whiff of fear. And suddenly, the most pressing objective becomes to deprive Fred of his moolah, to strip him of his title and, who knows, to tar and feather him at the Mercat Cross.

Yes, Lord Myners, the city minister, looked rather sheepish to say the least as he attempted to explain to sceptical MPs why he had not known the details of the Goodwin goodie bag.

Yes, the deal sanctioned by the previous RBS board is "outrageous", as his lordship declared. Yes, public anger is justified.

But the more it goes on, the more I'm inclined to think it is at least in part a substitute for action. With George Osborne leading the charge, politicians outbid each other to find more scandalised responses.

When they're not doing that, our politicians are blaming each other for sleeping on the job while the merry financial casino was roaring wildly.

We had the latest today with Labour's Andy Kerr branding Alex Salmond "king of the spivs", arguing that he favoured light regulation.

Not sure that is entirely a wise route for Mr Kerr to pursue - given that the UK (Labour) Government's Treasury had a somewhat more significant role in financial regulation. Mr Kerr might care to remind himself who the Chancellor of the Exchequer was during the relevant period.

Perhaps we might urge all our politicians to ease up on fighting the skirmishes of the past decade. It would help save their strength for the global financial war to come.

Still, at least the Financial Services Authority has announced that it is to impose tough new constraints upon the banking sector. Doesn't it give you a warm feeling inside?

What's that noise in the distance? It sounded eerily like a door slamming. But wasn't that also the derisive whinny of a departing horse?


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