Alistair Darling says ‘why pick on just one banker’

Alistair Darling

Alistair Darling

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FORMER Chancellor Alistair Darling today claimed it was “tawdry” to single out former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin by stripping him of his knighthood in the wake of the banking crisis.

The decision by a committee of senior civil servants to remove the ex-RBS chief executive’s honour was welcomed by political leaders on all sides.

But Mr Darling, MP for Edinburgh South West, said: “There is something tawdry about the Government directing its fire at Fred Goodwin alone. If it’s right to annul his knighthood what about the honours of others who were involved in RBS and HBOS?”

Meanwhile, there was speculation the removal of Mr Goodwin’s knighthood would be followed by the withdrawal of another honour – the fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s most august institutions.

Its governing body is understood to be meeting later this month to consider stripping him of his membership in light of his failed management at RBS.

It was also suggested he could lose his honorary degree from St Andrews University and the honorary fellowship awarded by London Business School.

The removal of Mr Goodwin’s knighthood – awarded in 2004 for services to banking – brackets the former RBS boss with notorious figures such as Soviet spy Anthony Blunt and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

But former motor racing champion Sir Jackie Stewart, a close friend of Mr Goodwin, asked whether others would now lose their honours if their businesses failed.

He said: “If somebody has to go to jail, I can see the logic of such a knightood being removed, but that is simply not the case.”

Ex-CBI director general and Former Labour trade minister Lord Digby Jones said: “I think there is the faint whiff of the lynch mob on the village green about this, but that isn’t to say that the end result isn’t what is right.”

RBS had to be rescued with a £45 billion bailout from the taxpayer in 2008.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It is only right that Sir Fred Goodwin should have his knighthood annulled. He was at the helm of RBS when the bank played a huge role in bringing our country’s finances to the brink.

“It’s about time this country’s real heroes were honoured with decent pay and pensions. Care workers, nurses, social workers, community support officers and the millions of other vital public sector workers who work tirelessly, day in day out, to make our communities better places in which to live and work. Every one of them is paying a heavy price for the failure of the banks.”