Sunday, 1 March 2009

Goodwin might be unpopular, but he has rights

This is what Harriet Harman had to say in today's Telegraph about former RBS boss Fred Goodwin's pension:

"The Prime Minister has said it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a court of law this contract but it's not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that's where the Government steps in."

The public, with its outraged opinion, has just walked into some very dangerous ground. Reports suggest that the government might be thinking of retrospective legislation to grab back Goodwin's pension. If this is the case, we should all be very afraid.

Goodwin's payoff is absolutely reprehensible; but it is either legal or it is not. The only place where this can be assessed is in a court of law before an independent judge, and not "the court of public opinion". The government can not retrospectively decide that a contract is not to its liking and arbitrarily pass legislation negating previously legally binding contracts.

Harman's comments reflect the deep contempt New Labour have for civil liberties. Goodwin may be a deeply despicable character, but he has rights. He is only a failed banker. Insofar as we know, he is not a thief, nor a fraudster, and he is not accused of breaking any laws.

Goodwin deserves the full protection of the law. He must be protected against the dictatorial tendencies of people like Harman, Straw and Brown. If the law can protect Goodwin, then the rest of us can sleep a little easier.

25 comments:

sobers said...

Nothing will come of this. Its all huff and puff. Which would you want on the front pages - outrage at Fred the Shred's pension, or the fact that we are all on the hook for £0.5tn at RBS, and that Lord Turner put Gordon in the frame for the entire crisis? A no brainer. Fred will keep his pension, as will Tony, Gordon, Alistair etc etc.

Vodka drinker said...

Sobers,

I wouldn't be sure about that. New Labour are talking themselves into a corner. They have more or less promised the baying public that they will strip Goodwin of his pension. If they don't deliver, New Labour will look weak.

Anonymous said...

The court of public opinion says that politicians are lying mendacious, snout troughing, ignorant bastards. if you deal with this you can have Fred's pension as well.

Anonymous said...

Alice,
I am not sure which way you are leaning, with this post. I am starting to get a feeling that your only motivation is Brown bashing. Not that I agree with everything that Labour stand for. But, this is something which Brown needs to be applauded for. Unfortunately, Cameron is not a better choice by any standards. He wants to raise taxes!!! Conservatives stood by and even supported many of the Labour policies, even the war against Iraq.
You say that The Shred "is not a thief, nor a fraudster, and he is not accused of breaking any laws" [yet], unless you are saying that white collar crimes which are too big for the country to digest should be ignored!?! Are you saying that Fred claiming £25m in pensions to leave RBS is fair, when the 20,000 employees to be fired due to Fred's corruption get nein, nada, nothing?!? My own pension is in negative territory due to people like him! Shame...
Joseph

Josh said...

The law be damned; take the money.

Ready Steady Go said...

What are the ramifications of this?

For example contract law in the US is being torn up.

If they tear up laws to take back Shred's pension...what does that mean for the rest.

Anonymous said...

The politicians are creating a smokescreen. This is an issue they alone appear have brought to the court of public attention. It was dragged out on the same day as the RBS toxic loan guarantee which will cost us a fortune. On the same day that the Governor of the BofE blamed Baldrick for the crisis, and on the same day that they admitted being implicated in rendition of prisoners.

Now they wish to vilify one man, and have the cheek to spout dictatorial crap like you quote above?

Forgive me, but when exactly did the public elect Brown primeminister? At least Adolph bothered to stand for election.

If they want to go after Fred I demand that they personally put up the money for the lawyers. I can see another pile of my taxes being squandered on a witch hunt when the idiots who are to blame are in the Lords and in 11 Downing Street.

HIVE US A BLOODY ELECTION NOW!

Anonymous said...

Indeed Give us an election even!

Donald Swarbrick said...

So who said that crime does not pay?!

electro-kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Maybe Harriet Harman is confusing Fred Goodwin with Tess Jowell's husband when she complains about people's illicit gains....

dearieme said...

"If they tear up laws to take back Shred's pension...what does that mean for the rest." It means that the bastards could steal my pension too, so I'm agin' it. Those who object to Goodwin's behaviour can try to lynch him if they want, but they'd better leave his bloody pension alone!

Anonymous said...

Surely the whole point of a law, even from the earliest of times, is to correct what is perceived to be wrong by stopping the "outlaws" i.e. FG, from continuing said wrong by making it illegal?
Retropsective argument is rubbish-I was driving(age 16) in 1967 before the drink-drive alcohol limits were set I don't get any"grandfather's" rights to drive over the limit now.
So there shouldn't be a problem with future payments.
My money is on some sort of "outrageous pension" clause in the budget with pensions over a set sum being taxed at 100% with only a very small amount tax free.
That'll learn 'im!

traderboy said...

Goodwin did nothing wrong and is fully entitled to his pension. Whilst he ran RBS, the bank paid billions in taxes to the country, a great benefit to all of us.

He made some mistakes and consequently his company failed, but if the government had only done the sensible thing of letting RBS go bust, then there would be no taxpayers money on the line and there would be no problem (this could have been done whilst also saving depositors, if they wanted).

The blame lies squarely at the feet of the Government and the Bank of England.

AntiCitizenOne said...

What traderboy said...

electro-kevin said...

Alice: Arrest him.
More: Why, what has he done ?
Margaret: He's bad !
More: There is no law against that.
Roper: There is ! God's law !
More: The God can arrest him.
Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.
More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law.I know what's legal, not what's right.. And I'll stick to what's legal.
Roper: Then you set man's law above God's.
More: No, far below. But let me draw your attention to a fact - I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God.
Alice: While you talk, he's Gone !
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law !
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil the benefit of the law !
More: Yes. What would you do ? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil ?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that !
More: Oh ? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat ? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then ? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
(A Man for all Seasons)

aSteve said...

Alice, I'm almost 100% with you on this one. What I find reprehensible is that, in my opinion, Goodwin acted criminally in the way he ran RBS. The crime? Debasement of currency - which, I think you will find, is treason. Until 1998 you could be put to death for that in the UK... I certainly think that a conviction could lead to seizure of assets and a lifelong prison sentence. What is sickening is that the treasury will stand in the way of any proper investigation - since it leaves key politicians with a lot of egg on their face... if not with evidence that they were complicit in the greatest fraud in history.

In my opinion, making a preposterous argument that Goodwin's pension is "unfair" is intended only as a smokescreen to avoid facing the hard questions.

Anonymous said...

Tax him until the pips squeak

Alice Cook said...

aSteve,

If Goodwin broke the law, then he should be dealt with.

However, his pension is a matter of contract. The government can not, after approving it, retrospectively, pass a law to remove it.

Alice.

Anonymous said...

The NuLabour smokescreen around Fred's pension will blow away like all the other dreary fictions that this despicable crew has tried. In years to come we will ask ourselves why we put up with it and struggle to find an answer.
Once, many years ago, I heard Harman debate civil liberties. I found she was not very civil but strident and tendentious in her arguments. Liberty to her, was what she approved of, not a freedom that stands outside of our opinions or beliefs and offers all protection.

John Pickworth said...

I hear that the Tories squandered Billions over the ERM wobble... I'm sure the court of public opinion, together with the righteous Brown Knight will call for a law to be writ that will see these evil doers thrown into debtors prison forthwith?

Seriously, Brown needs to tread carefully (even though I personally hopes he doesn't) because one day someone might questioning how much he pissed away on the New Deal, gold sales, bank rescues or office expenses etc.

Anonymous said...

aSteve, again it was one person who is almost single handed responsible for the current decline of the GBP and that is Gordon Brown. Repeating the same lie over and over won't suddenly make something true.

Anonymous said...

What's going on here is some poor old judge is being set up by Gordon et al to be the patsy who gets to tell everyone that legal contracts cannot be broken.

Gordon and his merry minions already know that Fred's pension, reprehensibly greedy though it is and probably no different to a long string of other bankers actually; it just being Fred who got the limelight put on his remunerations this time, is completely legal.

Pulling Fred up in front of some kangaroo court, assuming that you could pry him out of whatever hidey-hole he's currently ensconced in, isn't going to get him to give up a legal contract for on such things the rule of law stands and falls. No, all that'll happen is the poor old judge gets to play the role of Spoilsport Who Won't Support Gordon and cops the popular blame for not supporting the moral argument.

Anonymous said...

Great post Alice, the same thoughts went through my mind as soon as I read all this court of public opinion nonsense. Since when do Labour give a damn about public opinion anyway?

Chefdave

Solici said...

If it is deemed as a criminal act, the you have to pay the consequences. The moral high ground seems to be where many wealthy people live?