19 Jan 2012

Is going for Sir Fred a decoy for bonus row?

When David Cameron said that Sir Fred Goodwin’s knighthood had “been referred” to the Forfeiture Committee he didn’t say who had referred it.

“Normally”, the rules say, referrals come when an honours recipient has broken a professional code and been referred by the professional body, or when the recipient has committed a criminal offence that attracts a jail sentance of more than 3 months. But neither of those things happened in this case.

No professional body has referred Sir Fred. It’s not clear that he is a member of any relevant body. He has not been convicted of any offence.

This isn’t a breach of rules because the rules simply say that they “normally” apply. But it could be seen as practice moving in an interesting new direction.

If the Honours sub-committee, chaired by the man the Prime Minister newly knighted and promoted Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood (“Deputy Prime Minister” to some in Whitehall)…  If it now moves at its usual stately pace it could be expected to take some time over all of this. It meets at least once a year, might occasionally meet twice a year.

Forfeitures where there is no conviction or professional misconduct have taken years in the past – as in the case of Robert Mugabe losing his honorary knighthood.

But a Whitehall source said there was clearly pressure “to move fairly quickly.”

If Sir Fred is pre-emptorily stripped of his knighthood in the season of City bonuses it might just look like a politicisiation of the honours system, using the whipping away of Sir Fred’s gong to distract attention from current political discomfort elsewhere. Not sure the Palace would like that very much.

I should mention that it was actually the Labour-led Scottish Executive who referred Sir Fred for the original honour and the SNP-led Scottish Executive who later referred Sir Fred to the Committee.

A rare case of David Cameron and Alex Salmond’s interests coinciding?

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4 reader comments

  1. adil says:

    Mr Goodwin’s case highlights an interesting point regarding the need to reform the honours system. Perhaps rewarding people for service to society. As for Mr Goodwin’s knighthood being revoked. The point is moot (imho). He and sadly many others did untold damage to many whilst they were at the helm. Even more sadly, it is the responsibility of the shareholders (every one of us) to put short term profits aside and look at the long term. Otherwise we run the risk of lurching from the current disaster to a new one. Responsible capitalism or consumerism or sustainable capitalism is what is needed. Regulation of the markets will only work if we ourselves are not looking to make a fast buck. But, perhaps I am misguided.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    Fred the spiv is unfortunate. He must have done something really bad for his chums to turn on him.

    A decoy? Maybe. It doesn’t matter much because they’ll do absolutely nothing about the theft of the nation’s wealth.

    Intriguing though that an offender has to get a jail sentence of more than three months to be defrocked. It reminds me of Nancy Reagan, wife to the Moron President Reagan. When asked if she owned a gun she replied, “Yes. But It’s only a teeny weeny little gun.” Presumably it was used to kill teeny weeny little people.

    You couldn’t make up these neocon nut jobs if you tried.

  3. Tom Wright says:

    There’s no grounds for objecting to the removal of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood whether its opportunistic or not. He shouldn’t have it, period.

    Indeed, in your speculation Gary, you reveal your own prejudice.

  4. Ananobi says:

    Before removing Fred’s title let’s consider a couple of points.
    Firstly, how much did RBS, under Fred’s management, earn for its shareholders and the government (and remember that the shareholders are also tax payers)
    Secondly, I seem to remember the government of the day encouraging – even insisting – that the banks should lend money for mortgages to people on lower incomes to give them a start on the property ladder.
    So, where did Fred go wrong?

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