Richard Oliff - It was right to strip ‘Sir’ Fred

Richard Oliff
Richard Oliff

For a ‘commoner’ to receive a knighthood it is usual that the award is for outstanding achievement or contribution within a certain field.

From the day one has such honour bestowed one might be expected to maintain such standard or at the very least not to bring said field of excellence into disrepute. Part of this view is in direct contradiction to that expressed by Sir Jackie Stewart in his defence of Fred Goodwin (formerly Sir Fred). Sir Jackie rightly suggests that Goodwin was given his gong for past services to banking: all well and good. Where our views appear to part company is that I believe that said knighthood is an endorsement of trust by the Crown and state, a badge of honour if you like, which rubberstamps an individual as having a pedigree: a trusted pair of hands in which to place one’s future faith. This is where Goodwin failed and, in my view quite rightly, was stripped of his title. Sir Jackie did make an interesting point that if we are to treat Fred Goodwin in this way then why are there so many peers still in possession of such grand honours? It’s worth noting that a knighthood is a bit like a passport, not something that is owned by an individual, but rather by the state and something which may be withdrawn given certain mitigating circumstances. Often politicians, when gauging public mood, will act accordingly to appease feelings of frustration, even anger, at the way some bank leaders were able to bring the country to its knees, though the stripping of Goodwin’s knighthood may not be enough ‘tangible’ retribution to quiet the baying electorate. The culture of ‘reward for failure’ seems to be wearing a tad thin when one considers Goodwin and others within his field have still managed to walk away from the wreckage with bonuses and pensions which would be regarded by many as a massive mouth-watering lottery win. An alternative for the government and the state would have been, through direct and immediate intervention, to stop all such payments to those, like Goodwin, whose mismanagement and poor judgement lead to financial catastrophe. The BBC’s Panorama programme recently examined the complex business life of Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, alleging his concealed involvement in a business that went down the pan owing creditors some 19 million pounds. My hat goes off to the journalist whose tenacity has to be commended when trying to uncover the most complex ‘spaghetti’ of tax-haven companies entwined in the investigation. Lord Jeffrey Archer is still that, a Lord, having committed perjury in a court of law, and been sent to prison. Many have said that he should have been stripped of his peerage the minute the judge passed sentence.