31 Jan 2012

A very political ‘strip’ show – ‘Sir Fred’ no more

It normally requires a professional disqualification or a criminal offence to get you stripped of an honour. It is normally a decision kept a million miles from everyday politics. But Mr Fred Goodwin is “sir” no longer at a time of maximum political convenience to the government as it wrestles with a very public and toxic row over bankers’ bonuses.

It is the first forfeiture without criminal conviction or professional body complaint since Robert Mugabe in 2008 and only the second of such a kind that the Cabinet Office can recall. The Mugabe forfeiture took years to be chewed over in secret and concluded. This consideration has happened at breakneck speed, formally announced in public by the prime minister, and the rules governing honours appear to have been re-written with a new qualification for being stripped of an honour…there needs now to be “widespread concern” and if that happens to start with politicians stirring it up, then so be it.

I was originally guided that the Scottish Executive, who gave the original recommendation for the “K,” were, as is usual, the body that recommended the forfeiture. I am now told that was wrong information and the Forfeiture Committee, sitting in the Cabinet Office, “took it upon themselves” to strip away the honour. Judging by the speed of the palace acceding to the request you would assume there was no dispute there, but you can’t help feeling that they might be a little squeamish about what looks like a politically helpful, acutely timed forfeiture. Not that any politician in any party is going to be particularly keen to point to any of this given the bogey figure that “the banker formally known as Sir Fred” has become.

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