Huge rewards for massive failures – this stinks to high heaven
It’s bad enough having hereditary peers in the House of Lords – the upper chamber responsible for amongst other things detailed scrutiny of legislation that the House of Commons is so poor at. People who are able to amend bills going through Parliament because of an accident of birth – such as being descended from a lady who had a fumble in the jungle with a monarch several centuries ago. Charles II was responsible for more than a few.
There used to be a lot more of them. Labour got rid of most of them in the late 1990s, but because they hadn’t really decided what was going to replace them, they didn’t go the whole hog and finish them off. Which is why it is absolutely outrageous that in order to replace one deceased hereditary peer, they have decided to replace him (it’s always a ‘him’ – White, pale, stale and male because bizarrely, the law says so) with the man responsible for kicking off the biggest banking crisis this country has ever seen.
Step forward Viscount Matt Ridley - who is taking the Conservative Whip. (Which means he is joining the Conservative group of peers in the House of Lords, rather than say becoming a cross-bencher. This was a by-election for Tory hereditary peers).
The same Matt Ridley who was Chairman of Northern Rock (but not a qualified banker – why would a major bank want to appoint an oxbridge aristocrat whose specialism was in zoology as chairman?) in the run up the banking crisis until it was nationalised. The failure of this man to steer a steady ship as chairman cost the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds. Indeed, losses could top £2billion according to National Audit Office.
Let’s see what the Treasury Select Committee said of the Northern Rock Board of which Ridley was chairman.
The directors of Northern Rock were the principal authors of the difficulties that the company has faced since August 2007. [My emphasis]
The high-risk, reckless business strategy of Northern Rock, with its reliance on short- and medium-term wholesale funding and an absence of sufficient insurance and a failure to arrange standby facility or cover that risk, meant that it was unable to cope with the liquidity pressures placed upon it by the freezing of international capital markets in August 2007
So there you have it. In a country where the lack of social mobility continues to be a problem, out of all of the talent that the House of Lords could have had in it, we have a procedure that only allows hereditary male peers to take part. Then out of that talent puddle, the best candidate they can come up with is Ridley? Astonishing. It makes you wonder what bad stuff the other hereditary peers up for selection have done to make their colleagues think Ridley was the best candidate.
I imagine George Monbiot is going to fire off something quite soon too – a very vocal critic of Ridley and not just on banking either. As for the Conservatives, well this chap is explicitly one of yours now. It’s PR gold for the Labour Party because there is now a blood link between the banking crisis and the Conservative Party. I wouldn’t be surprised if Labour and other political opponents of the Conservatives spin this one continually to election day and beyond.
Apologies for the bad language in the headline but this stuff really makes me mad.
Update: It gets worse for the Tories. The full results are here. Who did the Tory hereditary peers think was the second best candidate? The former MP who thought claiming for cleaning his moat was a reasonable expense! The chap who came third? Not surprisingly an oxbridge old etonian.
Update 2: on 14 May 2013, Ridley made his maiden speech – transcript here.