Mob rule is no rule

Like many, I am no apologist for Fred Goodwin.  Alistair Darling has been particularly trenchant on the issue.  He is the author of his own misfortune but the removal of his knighthood has been vindictive and tawdry.  It has left Darling, many others and indeed, me feeling unclean.

Not because I think he should have kept it – I don’t believe in the honours system full stop.  And while the Lords are to be commended for their scrutiny of the welfare reform bill and attempts to iron out its worst excesses, a revising chamber should have some level of accountability to the people, and not just the political parties whose pockets nominees fill.

And of course, Goodwin still has his rather generous pension pot to fall back on, paid for by the taxpayers, natch.

But why stop at him?  As the First Minister says, there are convicted criminals in the Lords who have been allowed to keep their honours.  There are many others in there who were rewarded for services to banking who are also culpable here.  The appointment that I think should be reversed belongs to Sir Robert Smith.  He was involved at the Weir Group while its senior management (and board one supposes) made a calculated decision to circumvent the UN oil for food programme, preferring instead to win oil contracts in Iraq by bribing Saddam and his family.  The Weir Group was fined £14million for its illegal and immoral behaviour.  Smith’s punishment for his involvement in the wheeze?  A seat on the Scottish Government’s economic advisory council and the opportunity to front the Glasgow Commonwealth Games efforts.

Fred Goodwin may be guilty in the court of public opinion of many crimes, but he does not have the stain of the starvation of innocent children on his conscience, at least not directly.

It is the issue of the court of public opinion that bothers me.  We are living under the charge of a UK Government utterly lacking in backbone, and worse, without any shred of moral fibre.  One that thinks that if it throws a gladiator to the lions, the populace will be satisfied.

It is aided and abetted by the media in all this, who love the chase and the scent of blood.  If some papers could have depicted Goodwin with his head on a stake, they would have.

What does it say of the quality of our political leadership or indeed, the state of society when this kind of behaviour is seen not only as acceptable, but is applauded.  Goodwin was simply the most obvious victim to pick on;  an easy target for the Tories.  And I cannot help suspecting – perhaps portraying my own paranoia – that the fact that he was a Scottish working class boy made good (sic) made him all the more delectable for a political class that thrives on its establishment mores.  Had he been an Eton old boy would the Tories have done more to protect him?  I’m sure they would have.

Worse, much worse, is the demonisation of some of the most vulnerable in our society.  Labour started this.  When it was attempting to start reform of the benefits system – for which read cut the budget – it embarked on a cynical exercise of getting public opinion on side through the worst media mouthpieces.  The numbers on incapacity benefit were inflated by talking only of the number of claimants rather than recipients (which is much lower); the fact that incapacity benefit was a contribution-led payment ie you had to have earned at some point in your life and made national insurance payments to qualify for it was ignored; recipients were depicted as scroungers and workshy, folk with sore backs and weak heads rather than individuals with complex conditions, some of which were not very visible.

It worked, and allowed the Labour UK Government to set the train in motion which reached its final destination last night.  The demonisation of disabled people, lone parents, large families, poor older people and the long term unemployed is complete.  Everywhere you go, every red top rag you read has another tale of the excess of the vulnerable poor, those of us who give a damn are met with uncomprehending stares and titters.  Establishing the narrative of the feckless, undeserving poor allowed the Tories – helped by their little Lib Dem partners of course – to push through vicious cuts to the safety net that keeps many afloat.  It has done me at various points in my life – and many more besides.

But no more.  In order for bankers like Goodwin to keep their gold-plated pensions (and there’s an irony) and the likes of Ed Lester to lead a public sector agency, (no doubt soon to be a lord now there’s one going spare) be paid from the public purse but be allowed to avoid paying his fair share of tax, the UK Government has deemed those on the lowest rungs as the ones to help cut our deficit and get us out of this mess.  All the while nodded on by an unforgiving media and public.  Because if the pain falls on them, less of it hits us.

It all amounts to little more than mob rule.  We have gone full circle and our mores resemble those in a more primitive culture, where the need to survive requires that the weakest be outcast and where difference is barely tolerated.  Yet, we do not have such basic survival requirements:  we have a much more sophisticated economy that should allow for more than survival of the fittest.  Indeed, there are some supposedly primitive societies which would be horrified at what is going on on these shores.

John F Kennedy – no stranger to privilege himself – once said that “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”  Yesterday was a less than edifying example of that in action.

And if this is the kind of society successive UK Governments think it appropriate to lead and to foster, it is one I no longer wish to be part of.  Selfish that might be, but I’d rather have some chance of success of creating a different place that lives by different rules – of living somewhere that can be, that dreams at least of being “a beacon of progressive opinion” – than none at all.



9 thoughts on “Mob rule is no rule

  1. First Dehumanize: Carefully chosen Generalizations and Statistics that group individuals together can achieve this

    Then Demonize: Selective (unrepresentative) examples, catch phrases and myths do the job.

    Then: You can do whatever you want to the unfortunate victims because whatever it is, they deserve it.

    Also: those not in the group feel relief and superiority so they hardly notice when they are becoming the next victims

  2. I thought you had moderated me out.

    The timeline should tell you why.

    Your ball, your pitch, your rules, I suppose.

  3. why is my comment at 9.12 am still awaiting moderation?

    Is this the BBC??

    • No it’s a blog written by someone who works during the day and therefore, doesn’t have time to moderate comments. Incidentally there is no divine right to publication of comments. I can choose or not…

  4. Step forward Sir Paul Ruddock knighted by David Cameron for his services to the arts. He also contributes £ thousands to Tory party coffers.

    Ruddock is the hedge fund manager who profitted to the tune of £100 million from the demise of Northern Rock.

    Paul Ruddock used a practice called ‘short-selling’ to profit from a fall in the share price of Northern Rock before it had to be rescued by the taxpayer.

    Short selling is now seen by financial authorities as hastening the failure of the banks during the crisis, and meant that the resultant government bail-outs of the banks were much higher than neccessary.

    To date many countries have banned the practice of short-selling.

    What is good for Fred Goodwin is also good for Paul Ruddock, it is time he too was stripped of his knighthood.

  5. Cranmer calls the removal of Goodwin’s title an example of “Honour Killing” I am no fan of the honours system as it is inextricably linked to the career path politcs which has corrupted the UK’s democracy; that, the lack of a cogent written constitution and the principle of parliamentary supremacy.

    Of course Goodwin’s public cashiering was managed from 10 Downing Street as a deflection from all the shite economic problems we have and nice we circus without the bread. It also tells us in Scotland where is our place; Royal Bank of SCOTLAND,

    I wonder if we will see the real criminally honoured cashiered too; Lord Swann Vestas of Hotel, Archer ad infinitum.

    I take deep satisfaction that the troughers, now trying to derail the Scotland Bill, will be delisted come independence. Let Former United Kingdom Rump pay his pension.

    We need to get out.

  6. A beautifully succinct summary of my own thoughts on the matter. The one benefit that may come out of this is if people (real people that is) begin to call firstly for the removal of honours from the likes of Mike Watson and secondly for the dissolution of the entire awards system.

    The trouble is that those of true liberal mind are few and far between and our media panders to the baying mob. BBC Reporting Scotland last night referred to a “backlash” against the removal of Goodwin’s knighthood, which was an unfortunate word to choose, but I suspect that it was an attempt to reflect the public’s thoughts on the matter.

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