The Sketch: The gospel of Gordon the gambler

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The Independent Online

What ambitious architecture it is in the upper reaches of St Paul's, above the pillars, hidden galleries and white statues.

A crowd had come for the event – men in turbans, tailcoats, skull caps, gold medals, chains, floor-length dresses. There was a great hubbub. A belting young choir from Twyford dressed in white shirts and black ties sang "Go Tell it on the Mountain". The gold leaf glistened, the congregation chattered. And then our Mosaic leader arrived with his new Commandments and some sort of Australian prime minister to lead us to the Promised Land.

Their speech writers had excelled themselves. They needed something to fill the space, and it's a big old dome. The best bit was when Gordon said we were to "awaken to a tide in the affairs of men which if missed means you can end up literally too late for history". Love that "literally".

The audience had a Thought for the Day sensibility, if lacking that slot's abrasiveness. They gave warm applause to Australian Kev's assertion: "I have enormous faith in the kids of the world."

Gordon showed us what he hadn't got. Among all that goodwill, and for all his carefully-tailored words, he got next to no reaction. Even for his biggest clap-trap ("Markets need morals") – silence. Nothing there. No contact. His hectoring certainties repel even his admirers.

Or so his supporters say. More neutral observers suggest his speech was corrupt and crafty cack from beginning to end.

He mentioned the "cynicism" in the national press. He also referred to reckless investment, secretive behaviour and hiding big gambles off balance sheet. We all do what we do best, I suppose, Gordon.

He told us that bankers ought to adopt family values. He was adding human texture to his brand, and personalising his abstract message.

It's also drivel. The essential family value is forgiveness – it's what holds families together. But forgiveness disables hostile takeovers and turns capitalism's creative destruction into collective gloop. Gordon may believe what he's saying. He has forgiven bankers billions, and maybe trillions. Ah, his prodigal sons.

And if you have the strength, consider the new "global code of ethics" he's proposing. Let's hope China or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Dick Cheney don't get control of the keyboard when they're hammering that out.

And as for his central ethical point "Love your neighbour as yourself" – a brief history of Gordon's neighbourly relations makes it the least convincing proposition he could put forward.

The moral problem underlying this crash is the disregard some people have had for the money of others. They spent and gambled as though it were their own. But Gordon has spent and gambled more than any other individual in Britain. If he's now lecturing us against such behaviour, that's a conversion as big as St Paul's.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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