WHY is Gordon Brown still Prime Minister? After the events of last week, why has he not resigned? And if he won’t go of his own accord, how long before he is hounded out by voters whose homes, pensions and jobs he’s put in peril?
After all, he sacked his multi-millionaire banking pal and key adviser Sir James Crosby the moment he was exposed as a dud. Yet Crosby’s offence — destroying bank giant HBOS — pales by comparison with Mr Brown’s sins and omissions.
The career of Sir James, knighted by the PM and handed a top job at the shambolic Financial Services Authority (FSA), is a mirror image of Gordon’s. He was the bullying intellectual powerhouse behind the spectacular rise and fall of HBOS. He ruthlessly exploited weakness in his opponents and brooked no criticism. And he ignored warnings from his own whistleblower that he was taking too many risks with other people’s money.
Crosby pressed ahead regardless, leaving HBOS a crippled wreck and taxpayers with the £17billion tab for his reckless incompetence. How did he land HBOS in such a mess — leaving Britain needlessly exposed to the worst of the world’s economic meltdowns? Sure, this recession is global. Yes, it started in America. But there are many countries, unlike the UK, where prudently regulated banks will still be standing when it’s all over. We’ll be paying huge bills long after everyone else has pulled out of this slump.
The seeds were sown by Mr Brown on his first day as Chancellor, when he handed the Bank of England control over inflation — but took away their role as City watchdog. In a fatal error, he shared out that task between the bank, the Treasury and the new but toothless FSA. Nobody was in charge of this clattering train. Bank governor Eddie George warned Brown was putting the economy at risk of “systemic failure” — bank jargon for “boom and bust”.
Like Sir James Crosby, the Chancellor ignored him.
Instead, he threw open the casino, welcomed the biggest losers in UK banking history — and gave them our money to play with. Tories accuse Mr Brown of failing to fix the roof when the sun was shining.
It was much worse.
He demolished the load-bearing walls and propped up the rafters with broomsticks.
Why? Because he wanted those City high-rollers set free to make billions for Labour’s binge on public services. Even the timid FSA saw the risk. Each year from 2002 it warned Crosby that HBOS and other banks were over-lending. Did Gordon know? Like Sauron in Lord Of The Rings, the Chancellor watched everything that moved on the economy. In June 2006 — before Northern Rock crashed in flames — the Bank of England briefed journalists that High Street lenders did not have enough in the kitty to balance their books. Any jolt to the economy could bring disaster.
The Chancellor, who received regular Bank updates, would have known this far sooner than a bunch of newsmen. Yet, as HBOS headed for the buffers, he knighted Crosby and made him deputy chairman of the FSA... the fox in charge of the hen coop. When that “jolt” arrived with the credit crunch it was Crosby who persuaded Mr Brown to put up £100billion of our cash to bail out the banks — including his old firm HBOS.
It was Crosby who urged Gordon to bully Lloyds TSB into a catastrophic merger to save HBOS. Lloyds was Britain’s only really solid bank. Today it is just another wreck, dragged to the bottom by the dead weight of HBOS. Thanks to Gordon Brown, taxpayers face losses and liabilities worth countless billions. Take in the Royal Bank of Scotland and the sums escalate into trillions.
Co-conspirator Ed Balls predicts we will be paying that off for the next FIFTEEN years. If that’s true, today is not a moment too soon for Mr Brown to say sorry to the British people.
And walk out of Downing Street for good.