Simon Carr: Dozy Kingman and the art of saying 'no'

The Sketch
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The Independent Online

"Dozy." That's what the Treasury committee's chairman called John Kingman. This is the chief executive of the new company looking after our interest in the banks, UK Financial Investment Ltd. "We characterise your approach as dozy," John McFall said.

A dozy civil servant looking after £300bn of taxpayer liability? Old ways are the best ways. Who else was there?

On Kingman's right: UKFI's chairman, Glen Moreno. This transatlantic smoothie was speared a few weeks before in PMQs. Gordon had been asked why he'd appointed a chairman who was so heavily implicated in Lichtenstein tax dodging. With the fierce and instinctive loyalty Gordon is famous for, he replied: "He is acting chairman only."

So – a dozy CEO and a lame duck as chairman. At least we know how it'll end.

Kingman excelled himself from the start. The first question asked about levels of bank staff pay and bonuses. "I don't know," he said. McFall was surprised. He'd written to give notice of this question last week. "You don't even seem apologetic!" And then later: "Did you even contact the banks?" Mr Kingman said: "No." It was the marvellous new "No" that we have started to hear. It neither explains nor excuses. It is definite but private. And it falls at the end. It dies. It stops without any possibility of starting again.

There was some murmuring about "a misunderstanding" but McFall was now wound up. "The clerk is telling me you were phoned on Friday and told specifically what we were going to ask." "The message hadn't reached me with that clarity," Kingman said blandly.

We were back at Fred Goodwin's pension.

Poor old Kingman couldn't say how the pension was funded, for all his legal advice. It's a very basic question. Andrew Tyrie shook his head. Michael Fallon gave his cold, incredulous stare. Moreno faffed.

Lord Myners "couldn't be expected to have known all the details of the pension arrangements," he tried to say. "What bloody details?" George Mudie exploded. It defied belief that the most elementary questions weren't asked, or the simplest precautions weren't taken.

Kingman defended Lord Myners against all criticism.

So who are these dozy lame ducks representing?

From John Kingman's answers: 1. The Chancellor. 2. Treasury ministers. 3. The UKFI. 4. The Financial Services Authority. 5. The banks. 6. Who else is there?