"The Prime Minister has said it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a court of law this contract but it's not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that's where the Government steps in," says Harriet Harman. The issue? No, not human rights violations; Fred Goodwin's pension.
I happen to think Goodwin a quite sizeable sewer. His execrable management of HBOS has contributed to the taxpayer's future impoverishment; they've had to bail him out, and are now paying for him to be comfortable whilst they're eating out of no-label cans by candlelight. But two facts remain: the pension was agreed with ministers and its details should never have been disclosed to the general public. Appealing to the mob, that 'court of public opinion' that elsewhere rushed out Saddam Hussein and hanged him without trial, that gloated as the tumbrils passed and the horrified heads of the nobility dangled before the bloodthirsty maw of the Revolution, is to place us firmly on the path to 1917 Russia. If public opinion had mattered so much, there would have been no Iraq war. If public opinion had mattered so much, the ID card initiative, ContactPoint, mass CCTV surveillance and a host of other initiatives would have been abandoned. If public opinion did indeed matter at all, Gordon Brown would have relinquished his position by now and the country have gone to the polling stations.
The frank acknowledgment that the law means nothing to the government sits uneasily with Jack Straw's importunate bleats in The Guardian: 'there was no golden age of liberty. Since 1997, we've done more than any government to extend freedoms than ever before'. One rule for them, one rule for us: a vague nod to parliamentary scrutiny for them, 18 million security cameras for us. It sits even more uneasily with Purnell's statement that 'minorities' (including women: half the human race, of which I am one) are going to get extra help during the downturn. If there were ever a rallying cry to the BNP standard, this is it. Throwing cash at some people to the exclusion of others is not going to encourage mutual peace and harmony. This policy represents yet another volte face on the DWPs recent shakeup of Incapacity Benefit - for which, in order to qualify, you have to be unkempt, unable to use a telephone book or remember an address: if you can do any of these things, you're faking it; another 'let's see if this works' social experiment on we the guinea pigs.
Goodwin is being canned for capitalising upon the credit crunch. What of Rupert Murdoch who boasted that he positioned NewsCorp to ride out a Depression a full year before it happened? Where is the government's condemnation of Murdoch's shark tactics? Or Mandelson's 'favours for friends' in relation to Heathrow's third runway?
Blatant hypocrisy aside, I would send out the strongest warning to Harman and her ilk not to attempt to appeal to the mob. The mob cares nothing for order; it revels in chaos. Let the mob run free and economic annihilation will follow; on its heels will come Hitler. The mob is indiscriminately destructive; it tears down and kills for the delight of it; it does come equipped with bolts of piano wire and does hang people from the nearest lamppost. And, whilst she and her Cabinet cower in her underground bunker as the force she has unleashed rampages overhead, it is the people she is supposed to protect who will suffer.