Join the campaign to Shred John Prescott’s £1.5m Pension

by Stephen Tall on March 1, 2009

Today the Government, in the person of Harriet Harman, announced it would legislate retrospectively to terminate Sir Fred Goodwin’s £650,000 a year pension, five months after Labour business minister Lord Myners agreed to the deal. I don’t always agree with the Telegraph’s Jeff Randall, but I think he’s bang-on-the-money with this judgement, written even before Ms Harman’s latest desperate attempts to extricate Labour from the hole into which they’ve dug themselves:

Once we set off down the road to annulling pension contracts, who knows where the journey will end. Nobody, to my knowledge, is claiming that Sir Fred had his hands in the till. His crime, if it can be so described, was one of vainglorious incompetence, embroidered with insufficient contrition.

Yes, he ran one proud institution into the ground. But no one died. If he is to be stripped of his pension, what should happen to those of ministers who have driven a whole country into the ditch, while sanctioning a futile adventure in Iraq that has cost the lives of at least 179 British servicemen?

If Treasury lawyers are going to be examining the legality of Sir Fred’s bonanza, perhaps they could apply the same level of rigour to the retirement entitlements of the entire Cabinet and many who have left it, including Tony Blair.

John Prescott is demanding that there should be no reward for failure. Quite right, too. So might we, the taxpayers, expect a partial refund of his pension pot, worth the equivalent of more than £1.5 million?

Sounds like an idea to me, to which end I’ve created a new Facebook group, Shred John Prescott’s Pension:

The Labour Government, of which John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister for 10 years, has for the last six years waged a war in Iraq which has cost the lives of 179 members of the British armed forces. It has also cost the British taxpayer over £1 billion a year. The Government went to war claiming Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destructon, which have yet to be found.

This same Labour Government of which John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister for 10 years, was also reponsible for creating a failed financial services regulatory body which did nothing to stop the current banking crisis. With the taxpayer forced to pick up the tab for the Government’s failures, the UK’s national debt is some £2.2 trillion, almost 150% of GDP, the worst since the 1950s.

As Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott had the power and responsibility to speak out against his Government’s craven mishandling of domestic and foreign affairs. He failed to do so.

Yet Mr Prescott will benefit from a taxpayer-funded pension pot of £1.5 million. How an earth can Mr Prescott claim without a guilty conscience such a pension?

His ignorance and unquestioning loyalty to party-over-public have plunged Britain into this mess. It is time Mr Prescott’s pension was shredded, and the money used to help pay off the catastrophes which his Government has created.

Let’s show Mr Prescott what people power can do.

You can join Shred John Prescott’s Pension here.

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No comments

Evidently you missed Vince Cable saying that RBS should simply refuse to pay Goodwin’s pension, and make him take the company to court if he wanted it.

by Anonymous on March 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm. Reply #

“Sounds like an idea to me, to which end I’ve created a new Facebook group, Shred John Prescott’s Pension”

This really is quite dangerous and rather pathetic.

Both Prescott and Goodwin are getting what it was AGREED they were entitled to – certainly in Goodwin’s case when his incompetence was known. Prescott got what it was agreed he would get for doing his job – targeting him like this is purely vindictive based on his politics.

by Hywel on March 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm. Reply #

Prescott was kept in a non job for 2 years after using his office as a place to have sex with his mistress – conveniently his secretary.

He should still be in jail. Needless to say I shall be adding my name to the campaign.

The point by the way Hywell, of demanding the odious Prescott be stripped of his pension, is that he is now attacking Goodwin’s.

And RBS is in enough trouble without breaking the law.

by TrevorsDen on March 1, 2009 at 9:27 pm. Reply #

You agree with Jeff Randall’s judgement that “Once we set off down the road to annulling pension contracts, who knows where the journey will end.”

So you have “created a new Facebook group, Shred John Prescott’s Pension”.

Can you run that by me one more time please?

by Jonathan Calder on March 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm. Reply #

“Shred John Prescott’s Pension.” This clearly implies, “Support Sir Fred’s Valiant Fight to Keep his £650,000”.

Do we want to finish behind the Natural Law Party in the next election, or something?

by David Allen on March 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm. Reply #

I think it needs a better logo.

Hywel is missing the point, it is highlighting the vindictiveness by reflecting it. Embrace your vindictiveness.

by Guido Fawkes on March 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm. Reply #

I think coming out in favour of letting lynch mob justice prevail over the rule of law is a bad thing, no matter how tempting the approval of this particular lynch mob might be. Popularity at what price exactly?

Government hypocrisy isn’t the main concern about harman’s comments. Thinking Brown should be able to personally override the courts? Hmmm that’ll end well.

by Charlotte Gore on March 2, 2009 at 1:18 am. Reply #

Has the world gone stark raving bonkers? Here I am with the same natural viewpoint as Guido, while all my friends have turned temporarily (one hopes) soft in the head.

C’mon! It’s a deliberately perverse campaigning stunt. A proving of a point by reductio ad absurdam. Since when do we have to spell these things out round here? What have you done with the real Charlotte/Jonathan/David/Hywel?

by Alix on March 2, 2009 at 9:01 am. Reply #

@Jonathan Calder – Can you run that by me one more time please?

Yes, Jonathan: it’s called irony.

by Stephen Tall on March 2, 2009 at 9:06 am. Reply #


The trouble is that Vince Cable is calling for the pension simply to be withheld from Goodwin. If this is a reductio ad absurdum, it is reducing the Lib Dems’ policy to absurdity as much as anything John Prescott has said.

by Anonymous on March 2, 2009 at 9:09 am. Reply #

Performance-related pensions in Parliament would save the taxpayer a hell of a lot of money, so I’m all for it.

by Letters From A Tory on March 2, 2009 at 9:45 am. Reply #

“C’mon! It’s a deliberately perverse campaigning stunt. A proving of a point by reductio ad absurdam.”

That would be fine if it were supporting a basically liberal point of view – or was so ridiculous that it exposed the fallacy of the argument being made.

This doesn’t do either.

by Hywel on March 2, 2009 at 10:55 am. Reply #

You don’t turn a silly idea into a good one by calling it “ironic”.

This is known in formal logic as the Morrisette Fallacy.

by Jonathan Calder on March 2, 2009 at 11:27 am. Reply #

I didn’t hear what Vince Cable said, but I heard a report of it, which was that Goodwin should be treated in the same way as anyone else whose pension scheme is closed when a company closes. That sounds fair enough to me. The man has caused the problem and should pay the penalty.

I am without a job and the situation looks gloomy, mainly because of people like Goodwin taking risks. The income I have from inheritance savings has plummeted because of people like Goodwin.

Why shouldn’t he suffer in the same way as others?

by David from W5 on March 2, 2009 at 11:59 am. Reply #

David from W5

It may indeed “sound fair”, but the fact is that RBS hasn’t closed, and there seems to be no doubt that Goodwin is legally entitled to this pension, unless he can be proved to be guilty of professional negligence.

Cable isn’t even suggesting trying to do that. He is suggesting that the man’s pension should simply be withheld, with no question of any legal process being involved.

Whatever one thinks of Goodwin and his pension, it’s a disgraceful thing for any politician to say, and it really makes me wonder about his instincts.

by Anonymous on March 2, 2009 at 12:14 pm. Reply #

Has anyone noticed how alike are Jacqui Smith and Fred Godwin. Neither has broken any rule, neither knows the difference between right and wrong. It is just different degrees of Greed Greed and yet more Greed. A plague on both their houses !!

by anonymous on March 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm. Reply #

@Hywel –

That would be fine if it were supporting a basically liberal point of view – or was so ridiculous that it exposed the fallacy of the argument being made. This doesn’t do either.

I get that you’re not likely to sign up to the group, Hywel. You’re wrong, though, to say there are no liberal principles at issues, however ironically I’ve chosen to make them. Here’s two:

1. Standing up to the hypocrisy of those in power. John Prescott supports a government which signed-off Fred Goodwin’s pension. Now, mortified that they didn’t spot the rank unfairness of Sir Fred’s pension at the time, they’re threatening to resort to ad hominem retrospective legisaltion to cover up their mistake. Mr Prescott’s spurious campaign is emblematic of a government which cocks up and then casts round for the easiest target to victimise. That’s the kind of odious hypocrisy up with which I think liberals should not put.

2. Equality before the law. Another good liberal principle, but one which Mr Prescott gives scant regard to. In my post I itemised two of Labour’s most catactrophic blunders: invading another country on dubious legal grounds, and setting up a financial regulatory system which proved unfit-for-purpose. I think it’s fair to say Mr Prescott was a failed minister in a failed government. Yet Mr Prescott is banging the drum of “No rewards for failure”! It seems perfectly llberal to highlight just how far short Mr Prescott falls of his own standard.

To repeat, for avoidance of doubt:

Sir Fred Goodwin should not be getting £650,000 a year. Whose fault is that? The government’s for failing to do their due diligence back in October. John Prescott (and Harriet Harman) are desperately buck-passing to deflect attention from Labour’s stunning failures. Setting up a Facebook group to highlight all this seems a fairly modest way of getting this liberal message across.

Over 100 have joined the Shred John Prescott’s Pension group: here’s the link

by Stephen Tall on March 2, 2009 at 1:25 pm. Reply #

“To repeat, for avoidance of doubt..”

But nowhere in the original post does it say that Goodwin should not be getting a £650,000 a year pension.

I also think putting all the blame on the government lets RBS off the hook to easily.

There now follows a shameless plug on behalf of a post on my own blog:

by Jonathan Calder on March 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm. Reply #

The liberal point is, I think, this:

1) That a contract cannot be retrospectively broken. If someone was stupid enough to sign an agreement giving Fred Goodwin this amount of money, then it’s clearly their fault for signing it. We can’t force Mr Goodwin to give the money up, since he hasn’t broken any agreements and he has a contract which entitles him to the money. What we can do is force the idiots who signed this agreement to admit that they did something bloody stupid. It’s also worth pointing out that if the government genuinely cared about Fred Goodwin’s pension, they’d have made reducing the pension a condition of the money they gave to the banks. Of course, Fred Goodwin’s pension is a lot more use to Harriet Harman & co. if he actually keeps it, so that they can posture about the issue in the papers.

2) That laws, and the application of state power, should be universal and not arbitrary. Therefore, if we’re going to change the law to go after Goodwin, we might end up going after Prescott and God knows who else. Once we’ve established the principle that “not being very good at your job” is a reason to lose your pension, I imagine a lot of employers would become very interested in the deficiencies of their aging workforces.

The “campaign” to cancel Prescott’s pension fails as satire, unfortunately, because it simply sounds far too much like a good idea. I suppose that, at least, it has got us talking about the rights and wrongs of pensions for people other than Fred Goodwin, which is a good thing.

by Rob Knight on March 2, 2009 at 2:37 pm. Reply #

“1. Standing up to the hypocrisy of those in power.”

It is far from explicit on this point. And is your position that “being hypocritical” is grounds for revoking someone’s agreed, contractual entitlement.

“2. Equality before the law. Another good liberal principle,”

That only holds, in the context of this campaign if you are advocating a position that someone’s agreed, contractual entitlement should be withdrawn based on some post-facto assessment (and in Prescott’s case a pretty biased one) that they had been to some degree a failure. For it to be an “equality before the law” situation to apply you would need to be saying that this should be a general provision rather than targeting one indvidual (who it could be said has been picked because he is an easy target)

The idea of “screw the law I don’t think this is fair” is often used in employment cases with employers refusing to make compensation payments ordered by tribunals. Are you, and it would seem Vince Cable now arguing that that is the right course of action to take?

Actually I did join the FB group – but only to say what a stupid idea this is. Though it’s all getting bit Judean People’s Front really 🙂

by Hywel on March 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm. Reply #

Cable is at it again:
“Either the government will just have to lump it or do what I think is probably more appropriate which is simply to not pay and leave him to challenge it.”

Even if this were an appropriate way to behave, does he not understand that the pension is not paid by the government, or even directly by RBS, but by the trustees of the pension fund, who don’t take their orders from Gordon Brown?

by Anonymous on March 2, 2009 at 4:07 pm. Reply #

Two points:

Firstly this campaign is clearly ironic and squarely aimed at John ‘if we haven’t cut traffic levels in five years we will have failed’ Prescott’s complete and utter hypocrisy.

Secondly, if there is any legal route to cut either of their massive pensions it should be gone down.

by Liberal Neil on March 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm. Reply #

Anonymous (whoever you are) – OK, so the bank hasn’t closed, but it’s only been kept afloat by taxpayers’ money. In any other field the person responsible would have been sacked without a pension or severance pay. Why not here?

by David from W5 on March 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm. Reply #

@David from W5 even when people are sacked for gross incometence then you aren’t allowed to remove their pension rights.

The thing that I’m not sure about is if Goodwin’s pension pot would always have been this big (i.e. he would have been paid more per year if he retired later) or whether an additional amount was added to it by RBS when he left. If the former then we have no real cause for complaint (apart from to the directors of RBS for agreeing to such stupidly large pension contributions). If the latter then as the majority shareholder the government should have blocked any such additional amount

by Peter1919 on March 3, 2009 at 1:01 am. Reply #

David from W5 (whoever you are)

Sorry if I didn’t make it clear before, but if there’s no legal basis for removing Goodwin’s pension – which there appears not to be – then it is obviously wrong for politicians to try to veto it as a matter of political expediency.

Frankly, I’m astonished that anyone calling him/herself a Liberal would defend such an arbitrary abuse of ministerial power.

And if Vince Cable is willing to jettison the rule of law during the routine political rough-and-tumble, it’s frightening to think what he might be capable of if the going really got tough.

by Anonymous on March 3, 2009 at 1:48 am. Reply #

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