Belfast Telegraph

Shredding Fred won't provide jobs or boost the economy

By Janet Street-Porter

Politicians are jumping over each other to demand that the disgraced former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin should be stripped of his knighthood. Why? What difference would it make?

I can see that the ritual of public humiliation might turn some people on, but this futile gesture won't help the huge number of folk fruitlessly looking for work, or trying to pay bills.

It won't build a single affordable home, fund a creche or keep a library open. Labour's Ed Miliband is the latest lemming to demand Fred's head on a platter, telling anyone who'll listen that Gordon Brown should "never" have handed out the accolade in the first place. Goodwin is an easy person to loathe. He's a bit common, looks like a ferret and has never publicly graced us with a full apology.

He still lives in a posh house with mega-security in a swanky part of Edinburgh. What do Dave, Cleggy and Ed want? That he should walk down Whitehall in sackcloth, having custard pies chucked at him by angry voters?

There are plenty of people as loathsome as Sir Fred - former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, for starters, with their self-important charitable foundations and conspicuous lack of humility about their track records; their huge 'expenses'; their trumpeting of their desire to 'help' the underprivileged on a global scale; their refusal to accept blame. Taking away Goodwin's knighthood will not make any difference to the bonus culture, or the deeply entrenched mindset in the City.

Unemployment is at a record high. The High Street is in crisis, with liquidations every week. More young people than ever have been sitting around doing nothing for more than a year.

There's the ever-present danger of a double-dip recession. The euro teeters on the brink of collapse. The truth is, Fred G was just one of many. The Government did bugger-all to deal with banking excesses. And when the crunch came, they still treated bankers as a special case.

So forgive my cynicism. I can't see that any politicians are committed to changing how bankers and tax avoiders operate.

If they did, we would have signed up for the Robin Hood Tax, a levy on all financial transactions, a simple decision that would change charitable giving overnight and really help the needy. Another thing about knighthoods is that they're worthless, a snobbish relic that reinforces our class-ridden, socially stagnant society.

Terry Leahy, Philip Green, Stuart Rose and Richard Branson were all knighted for services to retail and various types of enterprise. In reality, they were already lavishly rewarded financially for their job. So why garnish their CVs with a gong?

In the US, knighthoods don't exist, you are valued by your peers according to how well your business is doing.

When Simon Schama trashed Downton Abbey as "a steaming, silvered tureen of snobbery", he hit the nail right on the head. There's a nasty little corner buried in our psyche that secretly aches for a gong, that can't help itself genuflecting to a title. Sir Mick Jagger sold out when he accepted one. Ditto Sir Bob Geldof. Sir Fred's title is an irrelevance, not worthy of a moment's concern.

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