Crosby isn’t the worst rat this week

I have no idea how much of the Banking Crisis can be blamed on Sir James Crosby, but there is certainly an unseemly rush to blame him for everything now. The Prime Minister, politicians, and journalists are all piling in and it’s ugly.

At least since November 2008, it has been known – it was on Newsnight for goodness’ sake – that Paul Moore warned HBOS in 2004 that it was taking on too much risk and was sacked for being out of step with the ethos of the day. Sir James Crosby, the HBOS CEO of the time and presumably the ultimate target of Moore’s case, moved on in 2005 (deftly people now say), and fetched up at the FSA as deputy chairman and later as a writer of a couple of Gordon Brown’s characteristic reports. And why not indeed? Poachers and gamekeepers, that sort of thing.

It is really horrible now to watch the Moore case being resuscitated as though February 2009 is the first anyone knew about it. If Gordon Brown didn’t know the man he was dealing with, he should have, and if he did, he should have stuck by Crosby. So Gordon Brown comes out of this badly. But then he’s the man who is now displaying synthetic anger about the behaviour of banks up to 2008, when the banks were being run by men he knew and celebrated under a regulatory regime partly (mostly) of Mr Brown’s devising.

It is even more depressing to watch the Tories pile in. I like to expect better of them. They are criticising Brown for being close to Crosby before we know whether Brown’s folly was (a) being associated with the man or (b) not standing by him. In any case, we are in trouble if the Tories did not know long before now what they thought of such a man as Crosby. The Tories ought to have excellent antennae in The City.

The Treasury Select Committee’s chairman John McFall yesterday backtracked a bit from his seeming glee on Tuesday at this tatty little saga. Rightly: if Crosby was a monster yesterday, he was a monster last year, and if he was all that awful the Select Committee should have been on it long before now. Ditto, of course, all the media who are busy pretending that this five month old road-kill was fresh meat they’d never seen before.

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Publication date

12 February 2009