Richard Ingrams’s Week: Scapegoat for the banking crisis? Look no further

Saturday 24 January 2009 01:00

The convenient scapegoat for the collapse of Britain's banks has emerged in the person of the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir Fred Goodwin. He has all the best kinds of qualifications for a scape-goat,being not only extremely rich but arrogant, overbearing and fond of sacking his employees in large numbers – in other words, not just incompetent but unpleasant with it.

No wonder that the press, which seems not to have noticed the unattractive aspects of Sir Fred hitherto, is now unanimous in its condemnation. There have even been suggestions that the Queen should strip him of his knighthood.

Gordon Brown may well be sympathetic to any such campaign. Because the knighthood is a permanent reminder to us all that, until quite recently, Sir Fred was so highly regarded in official circles that he was deemed to be worthy of a very high honour.

And more than likely the recommendation came from Brown himself. Because few people in the banking world were closer to Brown than the man now being groomed for scapegoat status.

When Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Goodwin was a regular visitor to No 11 Downing Street. He was a member of Brown's International Business Advisory Council and the Chairman of a Treasury taskforce on credit unions.

It is scarcely reassuring to think that the man now universally condemned as one of the most disastrous figures ever to head a major British institution should have been a close adviser to the Government on its economic policies. On the other hand, it may go some way towards explaining why we are in the mess we are today.

Cruise through an easy interview

There were no references to scientology when Jonathan Ross interviewed Tom Cruise on last night's chat show. This is in accordance with the actor's refusal to talk about the cult of which he is the best known adherent.

It seems unsatisfactory to conduct an interview on these terms, particularly in view of the controversy in Germany about Cruise's new film Valkyrie. A bit like agreeing to talk to Wayne Rooney without mentioning football.

But this is the craven BBC which will nowadays agree to any terms in order to get a celebrity on to one of its programmes. Not, as it happens, that Tom Cruise would have anything to fear from Jonathan Ross, who is one of his greatest admirers. In his recently published book, Ross salutes the actor. "One of the most famous people on the planet ... incredibly down to earth for someone of his stature". Ross goes on to describe how when Cruise comes into the studio he says hello to everyone, shakes his hand and says, "Hi. I'm Tom Cruise. Pleased to meet you."

Good heavens. What a very wonderful human being he must be. And as for scientology, Ross can't see much difference between it and any other religion. No worse than the C of E, in other words. In fact, though it calls itself a church, scientology is not a religion. There are no services, no prayers, no God. But these are matters that Ross cannot be expected to look into.

Ross's sexual innuendoes are found offensive by many. But they seem quite minor misdemeanours when compared with his ignorant and grovelling sycophancy towards this second-rate Hollywood actor.

Israel has done irreparable damage to itself over Gaza

"They make a desert and they call it Peace," the familiar quotation from Tacitus again comes to mind as I watch the Channel 4 news showing the devastation in Gaza – whole villages bulldozed, mountains of rubble, racist graffiti scribbled on the walls of houses by Israeli soldiers.

And all, it would seem, to no purpose. The tunnels into Egypt are still intact and there are plenty of rockets left for if and when hostilities are resumed. Worst of all, from Israeli's point of view, is the intensification of hatred towards their country not just in Gaza but all over the world. It may be of little comfort to the citizens of Gaza mourning their dead and searching for their possessions in the debris, but the fact is that the damage done to Israel in recent days is far more radical and long-lasting than what the Palestinians have had to endure.

It is not just in terms of the slaughter of the innocent or the lying, harsh-voiced government spokesman, but above all the confirmation in everything that has happened that, in the eyes of Israel's civilians as well as ill-disciplined soldiers, the Palestinians are dirty Arabs who if they are killed have only themselves to blame – women and children included.

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