Can Balls bounce back?

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The Rev Paul Flowers scandal beats that of John Profumo

YOU have to have a bit of mileage to recall the extraordinary year of 1963. Apart from the assassination of US president John F Kennedy and the Great Train Robbery this country was consumed for that entire summer by the Profumo/Keeler scandal.

By Frederick Forsyth

November 29, 2013

It was all in a much more shockable age. Compared with today it was pathetic. So for the younger readers, here is a quick recap.

It all started with rumours that Tory [Defence] minister John Profumo, married to the lovely actress Valerie Hobson, had been attending very louche parties at the Astor stately home of Cliveden. In a phrase, so what? Well he had also been jumping on party girl Christine Keeler.

And then he made his big mistake: he went into the House of Commons and denied it.

Nowadays the first would have been a phone-hacking job and as for the second, since Blair, mendacity in high office has been as common as the morning cup of tea. But back in 1963 the entire press feasted for months on tales of dodgy aristos, decadent dinners and kinky parties [not forgetting the involvement of a KGB officer].

Before it was over the scandal had destroyed one [Cabinet] minister, triggered the trial of a society osteopath and pander (who committed suicide) and seen the grossly unfair condemnation of a girl whose misdemeanours now rate as something done twice nightly with a matinee on Sundays.

It also came within a whisker of bringing down the government and the stress certainly wrecked the health of prime minister Harold Macmillan whose prostate went off like Bonfire Night and put him in hospital.

Why recall all this? Because the Flowers affair of today involving the ex-chairman of the Co-op Bank is actually worse.

The Rev Paul Flowers’ private life seems far beyond the odd pleasures pursued round the swimming pool at Cliveden.

At three levels it appears to involve pretty relentless use of rent boys, use of five illegal narcotics and the alleged mass misuse of expense accounts. The last named, if true, involves large-scale embezzlement which is a form of theft. But is it all just one debauched man’s private life? No, it is more than that.

This decadent cleric was also chairman of a major bank, brought to ruin under his auspices, which was created specifically to support and fund the Labour Party. As such he was a financial adviser to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, both now trying to use the “nodding acquaintance” excuse.

In fact the Co-op boss was a close friend and, via the bank, supporter and funder of Labour. But a bank has trusting depositors who believe [hope?] that their life savings are safe.

On one occasion Flowers, via the bank, donated £50,000 to Ed Balls’ private office. It seems not a shred of concern was shown for the character of the donor, or the friendship behind it which was not “nodding” but close and warm.

On the simple basis of his grotesque lack of judgment Mr Balls should now consider his position. After all, in 18 months’ time he hopes and intends to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This outrage – even by today’s miserable standards – cannot just be pooh-poohed into oblivion.


Limerigg 6:41am on Friday, 29 November 2013

The collapse of RBS and HBOS might have warned the Financial Services Authority of the dangers of chairmen with no understanding of banking, far less debt instruments. Yet Gordon Brown’s FSA proceeded to approve the Rev Flowers as head of the Co-op bank – a man whose ignorance of things financial was so total it was almost a thing of wonder. Of course he did resemble the conqueror of boom and bust, the Edinburgh history graduate and part-time temporary lecturer in politics at Caly Poly who destroyed the UK economy. So I suppose it was predictable that the FSA would inquire if banks had the correct proportion of LGBT staff rather than if anyone on the board could count to ten.