British Politics’s Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘fred goodwin

Harman does it again

with 5 comments

At PMQ’s Harriet Harman made the following statement in response to a question about who had put Fred Goodwin forward and why; “I think Sir Fred was nominated for a knighthood because of his services for the Prince’s Trust.  “I understand it was not in recognition of his services to banking.”  Tut, tut Harriet, have you learned nothing? If you want to be PM in waiting you don’t try and guess the answers, you can only do that when you have the position, ask your boss! This statement has since been corrected by an official from her office.

But what does it tell us about Harriet Harman? It is, after all, only a few days since she suggested that the government would consider introducing new legislation, which would then be made retrospective, to enable the government to reverse Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension entitlement. Now, whilst I accept that there are at the very least, moral reasons why Sir Fred should not receive this pension, the fact remains that government ministers were party to, if not fully au fait with, the content of a compromise agreement, which is legally binding on all sides. To make matters worse, any threat to introduce legislation designed to target one citizen is a draconian move and anyone supporting or suggesting such an act must be considered a threat to all of us, especially when they are from a government that has paid lip service to civil liberties.  Sir Fred is NOT deserving of a pension in my view, but surely there are other ways in which this can be dealt with, for example, whether or not he had failed in his fiduciary duty?  If he had not, then there would, presumably, be some form of legal recourse using existing and established law.

In my view, Harriett Harman has, in the past week or so, confirmed why it is that she will never be a viable candidate for prime minister (or, more accurately, leader of the Labour Party).  Firstly, her judgement; no minister, whatever the motivation or justification should ever seek to use the immense power of government to target a single British subject. No-one deserves that, not even Sir Fred. Secondly, her knowledge on the subject matter; how is it that Ms Harman can claim to know all the details surrounding Sir Fred’s pension arrangements and the negotiations thereto, but not why Sir Fred was nominated for a knighthood and by whom? As Alan Duncan said, “Instead of worrying so much about her campaign to succeed Gordon Brown, she should focus on mastering the detail.”

I find it difficult to recall anything useful that Harriet Harman has ever done during her time as an MP, though I am happy to be corrected on that one, any takers? That said, at the risk of arguing against myself, perhaps that is why she would make a good leader of the Labour Party for their period in the wilderness which is certain to come after the next election. But PM, never, at least not in my life time, of that I am certain.

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Written by British Politics

4 March, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Is Harriet Harman is an opportunist?

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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!

Written by British Politics

1 March, 2009 at 2:06 pm

RBS Pension scandal or attempt to divert attention

with 4 comments

Perhaps it is the cynical side of me, but, I can’t help wondering whether the release of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension entitlement is a bit too convenient. Bear with me if you will.

Sir Fred has complained that his pension arrangements have been made public. Now lets face it, given the scale of the losses at RBS, it is not inconceivable that this particular obligation could have been ‘lost’ in the malaise, but it wasn’t. Why is that? At time of public anger over bankers, a nice juicy pension to a former banker was bound to get the blood pressure rising, with the masses venting their anger at the recipient. Yes, yes, the government must have known about it, but they have got away with other issues in relation to due diligence, so why not this. Added to which, the government will have known that the public, for the most part, would target the recipient not them. Then there is media commentators, the vast majority of whom have fallen for it, stating that the if the government did know and released the details then, it must have been an own goal. But was it?

Take a look at the headlines and you can get a feel for what has captured the public imagination. Not the fact that RBS is about to receive another £13bn of taxpayers money (on top of £20bn last year);  not the fact that a bank that is 70% owned by the tax payer has just announced losses of £24bn, 70% of which is ours; not the fact that we, the taxpayer, are about to underwrite £325bn of ‘toxic assets’ in return for a premium of just £6.5bn; and not the fact that our ownership of this company is now likely to rise to 84% in economic terms, if not voting shares (75%).

You would expect something of this magnitude to lead the news stories, but is has not, instead, in a classic New Labour ‘smoke & mirrors’ game designed to dupe the public, our attention is turned to Sir Fred Goodwin and his obscene pension. The bailout of the banks, the underwriting of inter-bank loans and the public guarantees on toxic assets have all but bankrupted this country and here we are kicking up a big fuss about Sir Fred’s pension arrangements. Instead of Gordon Brown having to defend the fact that he has just spent way in excess of our expected tax receipts for this year, he could go on television and say that the government were considering legal action to challenge Sir Fred’s pension entitlement, in other words, he (Gordon Brown) could appear to be in tune with the public mood.

Please people, stop falling for these classic New Labour, cynical moves to wrongfoot the public, they are laughing at us and in a way, we deserve it. As for the political commentators that have fallen for this trick, they should hang there heads in shame. Before anyone accuses me of supporting Sir Fred’s pension arrangements, I will state for the record that I firmly do not, I just believe that this government has used the pension to divert our attention and boy, has it worked!

Written by British Politics

27 February, 2009 at 3:59 pm