How can minsters claim competence after agreeing to this?
The numbers involved are on such a scale that it’s hard for the ordinary voter to comprehend the crisis that the financial system has been going through in the past five months. The challenge for ministers has been to appear confident and competent without being complacent.
And for the most part since then the government has given off an aura of knowing what it’s doing which has been picked up in survey after survey. Even when the voting intention findings have looked bad Labour has taken a lot of comfort from the “who is best to handle the crisis” responses.
Yet could all that be put at risk by Sir Fred’s pension – a story it is said that was leaked yesterday in order to divert attention from the big picture – the Â£24bn loss at the company he ran and into which billions of taxpayers cash is being pumped.
The charge the Treasury agreed to these massive annual payments has the potential to change completely perceptions of the government’s handling of the whole financial crisis. This is very bad news for Brown and Darling.
People can relate to the amount of cash that one man in these straightened times is getting. It’s bad enough that any fifty year old should get a pension of Â£14,000 a week – when the beneficiary is seen as one of the key architects of disaster it becomes, as the Express front page shouts at us this morning “OBSCENE”.
That Fred is able to sit back and say no just adds to the impression that a major cock-up has occurred and one, judging by the headlines, that is resonating. Even worse the story looks set to stay in the news. This “has legs” as they say.
It also provides an issue for the opposition to get their teeth into and a great defence against the “do nothing” charge. It will be brought up time and time again to cast doubt on Labour’s ability to cope.
If David Cameron was not, sadly, otherwise engaged he would have an extra spring in his step. What a great counter to the perhaps disappointing YouGov poll overnight discussed on the previous thread.