Goodwin, bad fail



FAIL.’ If Royal Bank of Scotland was a YouTube video, posted by its former head, Fred Goodwin, that’s what most people would write in the comments section. Broadly, it means: ‘you’re rubbish’, and it can be amusingly augmented to emphasise perceived uselessness.

Fred ‘Epic Fail’ Goodwin was most famous for overseeing Britain’s greatest single banking disaster (so far), but last week he became more notorious for refusing to refuse a massively undeserved pension. That pension(following ‘early retirement’ – perhaps that, too, should become an internet epithet), will give him £693,000 a year, for life.

Newspapers went mad about it in a way that made me think that mobs can sometimes be right and Goodwin was lucky he wasn’t also a Muslim cleric (or indeed an Ethiopian with a ticket to an ‘unsuitable’ country), or he’d probably be dead.



Yet, some commentators defended Sir Fred’s right to keep the loot. It was in his contract, they said, and as such is inalienable. Such is the one-sided ‘logic’ of capitalism. The RBS workers whose jobs are at risk or already gone, the deposit-holders or pension-contributors who stand to lose out, the taxpayers whose money will prop this and many banks up for goodness knows how long: they need to accept that life is sometimes just tough. Those at the top earning more money than any person could morally spend, should have their expectations protected by cast-iron contracts. This logic may currently be legal, but it is not just.

From privatised train companies wailing and gnashing teeth about not being able to continue to increase prices for no reason other than greed, to ghoulish Royal Mail head, Adam Crozier, speaking glibly of partly privatising Royal Mail in order to ‘save it’ from the downward spiral he himself was paid £3million last year alone to oversee – that ‘logic’ is ubiquitous. The public, the taxpayer, the lowest paid workers, social spending projects, anyone, in fact, except top executives and private shareholders, should bear the brunt of economic hardship.

In amongst all this, a ‘charity initiative’ called the Fortune Foundation, which aims to get the super-rich to give more to charity by offering them massive tax-cuts, admitted on the BBC last week that the only way the very wealthy will part with their wealth is if there’s something in it for them.

Fred ‘Fail-machine’ Goodwin is not the problem. His bonus is obscene, but it would be obscene whether he failed or not.



The problem is a philosophy that not only allows but ensures and relies upon the majority of people being paid the minimum they’d be willing to accept to survive, and those who have the power to take risky decisions affecting all of our lives (from public services to the global market) being motivated by obscene amounts of money. Huge incentives do not guarantee good or responsible business any more than the mere existence of massive wealth in our society means it magically ‘trickles down’ to the poor.

Capitalism is not a Godly system. It does not even work. And as that fact gets clearer and clearer we need the courage to resist the lies that those with vested interests will use to stop us and make major, not cosmetic, changes to repair and redress the damage of the past. We can start with Fred Goodwin, but if we stop there it will be an epic fail.


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