This is our truth, tell us yours
Are you one of the anti Tory activists who relishes the stories about George Osborne and his sex worker friend? Do you grin with delight every time David Cameron refuses to deny drug use in his past? If so you may be part of the problem,not part of the solution.
The bonfire of the vanities of the Rev Paul Flowers has overwhelmed the press this week. The former Chairman of the Co-op Bank has been exposed as a drug users, a drunk, and a user of the services of sex workers. The press, and the Conservative Party have had a field day.
In the process any attempt at intelligent, sensible reporting has gone out of the window.
What broke the Co-op Bank? Was it Paul Flowers personal conduct, or a reckless expansion and merger? If Flowers is to blame for that, how did the same sorts of problems manage to destroy HBOS, RBS, Northern Rock and Abbey National? Flowers may be an unlikeable man and a hypocrite, but Matt Ridley, who many people regard as a fine example of the Tory nobility at its best and a decent scientist presided over the wreck of Northern Rock just as completely as Flowers has presided over the demise of the C-op Bank.
A serious debate needs to be had about banking and mergers. The debate about whether mergers create or destroy value has been ongoing for more than a decade. Paul Flowers sex life, drug habits and difficult relationship with his religious vocation are just a side show to this much more important debate, not least because there has to be a strong argument that the only way most mergers deliver increased shareholder value is by reducing competition and choice.The need to return to a more competitive banking environment, with banks that act as champions for regions or industries rather than engaging in a race to the bottom, excluding too many along the way, is a veryr eal debate that culd shape Britain’s future. You won’t get much traction for a serious minded debate about the role of regional banks in the post war German renaissance if the press are allowed to only focus on how much Paul Flowers spent on sex workers.
Next time you feel moved to jeer at George Osborne or David Cameron for their private conduct, ask yourself this. Are you masking, a deeper, intelligent debate we should be having about the future of our country? Are you obscuring the real issues behind a smoke screen of nonsense?
Which matters more? The bedroom tax and its impact on social capital and cohesion in our communities or the suggestion that George Osborne might once have snorted coke in the presence of a sex worker? If you think the latter it’s my view that you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.