Sustainability. Tick! Inclusivity. Tick! Fairtrade. Tick! All that mattered to Labour was the Crystal Methodist’s show of liberal piety.
Yet again, one particular question has formed on lips up and down the land. How in heaven’s name could so many people have failed to spot such a spectacular abuse of a public position?
We heard it first in the Jimmy Savile scandal, when the posthumous discovery of half a century of predation left people incredulous that so many had known about but done nothing to stop his serial depravities. Now a similar question needs to be asked about the Revd Paul Flowers, the disgraced Methodist minister and former chairman of the Co-op Bank who was filmed apparently handing over £300 to buy a stash of cocaine and crystal meth and also boasted of using ketamine, cannabis and a club drug, GHB.
The real scandal, though, is not just that he was a staggeringly incompetent bank chief who knew next to nothing about banking and presided over a bank that somehow fell into a £1.5 billion black hole. It is not even his predilection for cocaine, crystal meth and the occasional ‘two-day, drug-fuelled gay orgy’ (to use his words). The scandal is that no one spotted that he was spectacularly unsuited to the jobs he was given — or if they did, they chose to do nothing about it. Yet again, a public figure with his ethics pinned to his sleeve somehow existed beyond proper scrutiny.
In the frame alongside the deeply un-fragrant Flowers are various institutions which now have questions to answer. The Co-op Bank, which elected him chairman. The Labour party, which banked his donations. Ed Miliband, who dined with him and appointed him to Labour’s financial and industrial advisory board. And the Methodist Church, which appointed him a ‘superintendent’ minister and designated him a trustee for its investment funds and property — even though he had next to no expertise in business.
Oh — and he has also been a member of the Advertising Standards Authority, vice-chairman of the National Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and chairman of Manchester Camerata, the city’s chamber orchestra, not to mention chairman of the drug abuse charity Lifeline and the Terrence Higgins Trust. He is an icon of our time.
So how come none of these bodies ever spotted his spectacular unsuitability to be a member of the Great and the Good?
His striking unfitness to advise anyone on economic matters was demonstrated at the Treasury select committee earlier this month. Asked to state the Co-op Bank’s total assets, he guessed £3 billion; it was actually £47 billion. His performance may well have caused onlookers to scratch their heads and ask themselves: just what exotic substances is he on?
Read on and listen to the audio: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9082571/an-icon-of-our-time/