Comments policy – and should Sir Derek Wanless be de-knighted?

I accidentally offended one of our esteemed "commentators" this week, which was a real shame because J Day provided a superb comment - read it here, it is a brilliant analysis of Derek Wanless and his role in the financial and NHS happenings of the last ten years. (It's the last of the 5 comments, all well worth reading!)

Given my cock-up, I thought I would take the opportunity to explain how comments work. If it is your first (and maybe second), it won't get posted until I approve it. Once you have a track record, comments go straight through to publication unless the system picks up bad words! Now in this case, I saw the comment, thought it was great, and thought I'd pressed the button to publish but I guess I didn't. So it was a day later before I realised.

But there are times when I may not get to check the input for a day or so, so don't panic if you don't see a comment immediately.  Apart from obvious Spam, I only reject publication if it is rude, offensive, libellous or if it is more in the way of a personal question to me - which does happen, and I'll generally try and answer outside the Blog.

Anyway, I hope the Wanless author hasn't deserted us, and do read the comments. My own view is that Wanless has always meant well, his heart is in the right place, and he is a bright guy. I didn't feel at NatWest he was one of life's natural leaders though; and unfortunately he has been associated with three fairly disastrous events in the greater scheme of things.

Northern Rock - depositors panic, in a very quiet, controlled, British way, with immaculate queuing

Should we take his knighthood away? Well, Northern Rock cost the taxpayer a fortune, and Wanless as Chair of the Audit and Risk committee has to take some blame for that. Personally, as I said in that post, I don't think Goodwin should have lost his knighthood, but if that's the new game in town, then Wanless must logically be another candidate.

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First Voice

  1. J Day:

    Apology accepted Peter, free speech is the bastion of Britishness, and long may it continue.

    As for Wanless, he will always be a central figure in this banking epoch. My attention was first drawn by those televised Treasury Select meetings, which investigated every nuance of Northern Rock’s costly failure. Lord McFall, in a delicious paradigm of prescience, insisted on referring to Sir Derek as Mr Wanless. The Committee’s final report, which is all transcripted on the Select Committee’s website, singled Wanless out for criticism, as he ‘held all the levers’ necessary to avert the disaster. Lord McFall also aligned Wanless’s weaknesses at Northern Rock, with similar failings identified at NatWest under the Wanless stewardship.

    I do not question that ‘Wanless has his heart in the right place, and means well’ although those are not pertinent qualities this debate. Would a surgeon who repeatedly removed the wrong patient’s limb be excused BMA sanction, upon the mitigation that he is a nice guy ? Would a cruise ship captain who abandons his sinking ship before the passengers, be excused charges of dereliction, because he is a nice guy ? Of course not, Knighthoods are not bestowed by the Queen to ‘nice guys’. The B&Q shop worker, who helpfully assisted me beyond the call of duty yesterday, was goodness personified, as is my delightful postman – although neither are Knights. No, Knighthoods are reserved for those who make a very significant contribution to the betterment of society – at least that is the theory.

    Wanless gifted NatWest to Goodwin, as he had brought NatWest to its knees through his failed strategy. Wanless could have prevented the disaster at Northern Rock, instead he fiddled while the bank burnt. He could have refused to back Gordon Brown’s NHS profligacy, through the incorporation of strict caveats to mitigate waste at the GP’s and NHS Mandarin’s feeding trough, although he didn’t. Wanless, despite being ‘a nice guy’ did none of these things, hence, his contribution to UK society is in deficit by many billions of pounds.

    What really sticks in the craw, is to discover that Wanless still has a seat on the Government funded FRC’s Board for Actuarial Standards (BAS). It is worthy of note, that any reference to Northern Rock is airbrushed out of his BAS biography – what’s a few billion between friends ! Anyway, Wanless is now setting prudent protocols for the pensions and insurance industry, despite his actuarially imprudent past. Is it just me ? Why do these City panjandrums appear to be made of Teflon ? They simply move from each other’s boardrooms and committees, enjoying impunity from ill deeds.

    Wanless was reportedly given a £3,000,000 ‘reward for failure’ when ousted from NatWest in 1999, and the BBC reported that similar payments for failure were thereafter dubbed as ‘doing a Wanless’. Wouldn’t the forfeiture of his Knighthood be a just antithesis to that earlier reward for failure ? I have to wonder, will future Knighthood forfeitures in the City be dubbed as ‘doing a Goodwin’ ?

    Frankly, they should scrap the Honours System altogether, as it incentivises all the wrong behaviours, not least venality. Perhaps Wanless and Goodwin could swop their Knighthood for a Sainthood ? After all, the Vatican only requires 2 miracles before Beatification. For Wanless and Goodwin it is a miracle that they did not face charges of corporate neglect …….

    only one more miracle to go boys !!

    (with apologies Peter – I originally tagged this comment to the wrong article)

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