British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Is Harriet Harman is an opportunist?

with one comment

It is difficult not to conclude that Harriet Harman’s attack on Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension is anything other than opportunistic. Clearly she will be aware that public opinion is firmly against corporate greed and any form of reward “for failure”. However, if government ministers were to be judged on the same criteria, there would be mass resignations, no pay-off’s and a refusal to take their generous, gold-plated pensions. Of course we all know that isn’t going to happen.

It is fair to say that Sir Fred’s pension is obscene and that the board and Lord Myner’s should have dealt with this thorny issue at the time, but they did not. Instead, it would appear that it formed part of what is commonly described as a ‘compromise agreement’ and this is, whether government ministers like it or not, enforceable in a court of law. Compromise agreements are not the exclusive preserve of high ranking banking officials, many thousands of people every year enter into some form of compromise agreement with their employers, with each party fully appraised by their legal advisers of the consequences.

It is difficult to conceive that any credible member of parliament would possibly suggest that a compromise agreement ought to be overturned through the introduction of new legislation which is applied retrospectively. Yet, Harriet Harman has done precisely that, whether it was her own idea, or someone has ‘suggested’ that she become the sabre rattler is not clear, either way, she does not come out of this with any real credibility. Yes, the public will, at face value, agree with her and therefore, it will appear that she is in tune with the masses. However, this completely ignores the fact that a Labour minister was party to the pension discussions and that the government were aware of the compromise agreement back in October. Yet it has only come to light now, when there was a need to divert attention from the real issue, which is the massive injection of additional taxpayer cash into RBS and the taking on of massive potential liabilities through the underwriting of so called ‘toxic assets’.

There have been suggestions that Harriet Harman has been positioning herself to become the successor-in-chief to Gordon Brown, I don’t know how much truth there is in these rumours. However, if I wanted to set her up for a fall, I would have asked her to do precisely what she has done. Why? Because no minister ought to be proposing new legislation to reverse something in a contract, that they were party to (directly or otherwise), simply because they no longer like the terms. Once that happens, the government can no longer be trusted to enter into any contract, without the other party believing that there is a possibility that any terms could subsequently be overturned, on a whim, through retrospective legislation.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension arrangements, ministers from the Prime Minister down appear to be milking it for all it is worth and in doing so, they are successfully diverting the country’s attention from the real issue and that is our massive long term exposure to RBS liabilities. Worst still, if they are expending so much time and effort on what, in the scale of things, is a peripheral issue, can we trust them to be steering the ship in which we have so much invested? I wonder!

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Written by British Politics

1 March, 2009 at 2:06 pm

One Response

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  1. Yes she is and I suspect it will come back to bite her in the backside.

    UK Voter

    2 March, 2009 at 5:36 pm


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