Wednesday, 20 November 2013

But tomorrow I shall be sober

Everyone's had a lot of fun pointing and laughing at the substance-fuelled meltdowns of Toronto's rogue mayor and the 'crystal Methodist' former chairman of the Co-operative Bank.

But maybe we shouldn't be laughing too loud. These two might be in the spotlight of public ridicule, but being out of your tree on illicit drugs is at least some sort of explanation for bizarre behaviour and terrible judgement.

The Reverend Paul Flowers became chairman of the Co-Operative Bank on 29 March 2010, after the disastrous decision to merge the Co-Op Bank with the troubled Britannia building society had been made. Co-operative Financial Services chief executive David Anderson, CFS chief financial officer Barry Tootell, CFS chairman Bob Burlton, supported by the CFS board, were among those who steered through the merger, despite having the cautionary example of the sub-prime-fuelled global financial catastrophe fresh in their minds and, presumably, being aware that 'Around 25% of [the Britannia's] mortgage lending is non-traditional business such as sub-prime, self-certification loans and buy-to-let, much of it through its Platform Home Loans subsidiary' (as the Guardian noted at the time).

As far as we know, none of these people had the excuse of being off their heads on illegal substances when they took the decision that effectively destroyed the Co-Op. Flowers, who at least had the excuse of chemically-impaired judgement, seems to have destroyed nothing but his own job, social standing, dignity and - potentially - his liberty.*

On to mayoral matters and London's own comedy mayor didn't, as far as anyone can tell, have the excuse of taking any psychoactive substances when he wrote:
It is my duty to stick up for every put-upon minority in the city – from the homeless to Irish travellers to ex-gang members to disgraced former MPs...

...But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich...

We should be helping all those who can to join the ranks of the super-rich, and we should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools.

Indeed, it is possible, as the American economist Art Laffer pointed out, that they might contribute even more if we cut their rates of tax; but it is time we recognised the heroic contribution they already make. In fact, we should stop publishing rich lists in favour of an annual list of the top 100 Tax Heroes, with automatic knighthoods for the top 10. 
I can't help thinking of one of Winston Churchill's famous - if probably apocryphal - put-downs (which I've helpfully adapted into the form of a mayoral rap-battle):
Boris Johnson: Rob, you're drunk!
Rob Ford: And you are an asshole. But tomorrow I shall be sober. 
Rob Ford's extreme behaviour is easily explicable, given his history of substance abuse. Boris - as far as I know - has no such excuse for being such a nasty piece of work.

*David Anderson went on to join John Lewis as a non-executive director and here's useful round-up of some of the other people who are probably glad that the Reverend Flowers is now attracting all the Co-Op Bank-related headlines.