Alf has never been too fond of bankers (and he hopes Mrs Grumble shares his aversion to the buggers).
But when he said they were bonkers, he was referring to their feeble grasp of his finances when they turned down his application for a loan.
It seems they are bonkers in more ways than one.
In recent days the news media hacks have been in a lather over allegations of naughtiness against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, on suspicion of attempted rape in New York.
And in Britain, a judge has partially lifted an order granting anonymity to ex-Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin related to a “sexual relationship”.
This is the same Sir Fred who became a national pariah after it emerged he was allowed to retire at 50 with a £703,000-a-year pension, despite RBS needing a £ 20 billion taxpayers’ bailout after his time in charge.
Alf nevertheless tried to lure him to Eketahuna to join our golf club (but not to run a bank).
The loftier British newspapers are pontificating on the concept of public interest in their commentaries on Sir Fred and his mistress.
A Financial Times editorial, for example, is saying Britain has developed a legal process that allows people to defend their privacy from the media. But the country has never had a proper discussion about where the line is to be drawn between the private and public spheres.
That this has eroded respect for privacy law is clear. Recent events have seen it both flouted online and undermined in parliament. A privacy order relating to Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, was lifted this week by the High Court following disclosures made under parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords. It is now widely known, thanks to Lord Stoneham, that the injunction was granted to restrain disclosure of details concerning an “alleged relationship between Sir Fred and a senior colleague” at the bank.
The FT says it does not condone parliamentarians’ use of their privileges to challenge judicial rulings.
But it questions why the privacy order was made.
Sir Fred’s poor stewardship of RBS led to the need for a huge taxpayer bail-out of the bank. His conduct at its helm is therefore surely a matter of legitimate public interest. The order – which seems to have arisen out of a desire to protect Sir Fred’s children – should never have been granted.
It goes on to argue –
The Goodwin case points to the need for a stronger definition of public interest reporting. The government seems to grasp this and the press has a role to play in articulating that interest. The culture secretary Jeremy Hunt believes the profusion of gagging orders stems from a misapplication of the Human Rights Act.
The government has sensibly ruled out a privacy law. A more clearly defined public interest would allow the courts to step back and give industry self-regulation a chance to work. The current system of regulation must be made to function better, and newspapers themselves should take action to curb abuses.
Privacy defined by judges should always be a last resort, and only when there is no other way that justice can be done. Judicial practice should reflect this.
The Daily Mirror is more Alf’s cup of tea on this matter, noting that Fred “The Shred” Goodwin has a new nickname – Fred The Bed.
Jokes about the scale of his cock-up seem certain to follow.
But his attempts to gag the media and hide his behaviour from City watchdogs – as well as his wife – raise serious issues that go far beyond the inevitable sniggering about bonking bankers.
While Goodwin was being handsomely paid to run one of the country’s biggest businesses, much of his focus was clearly on a different bottom line.
Could this have clouded his judgement?
The Mirror’s business editor, a bloke named Clinton Manning, reasonably points out that Sir Fred promoted his mistress, a married mother with a young child, which begs questions about favouritism and his professionalism.
But, in truth Goodwin’s affair was just one of many mistakes, another example of poor judgement which landed taxpayers with a double bail-out bill of £43 billion.
Insiders say he ran RBS as if it was his own personal fiefdom, spending millions of shareholders’ money on lavish new offices and lining the walls with artwork by Lowry and David Hockney.
He splashed the cash too on sports sponsorship with deals for Formula 1, rugby union and tennis ace Andy Murray.
He surrounded himself with “Yes” men too cowardly to challenge his orders barked out at meetings dubbed “morning prayers”.
He fed his ego by masterminding a series of takeovers including NatWest, then ruthlessly cut costs – hence Fred The Shred.
But, as the old saying goes, “power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And so it was with Goodwin who clealry came to believe he was invincible.
This had been most evident in his takeover battle with Barclays for control of Dutch bank ABN Amro, when RBS paid a whopping £49billion – emptying its coffers – just as the credit crunch hit.
Was this, in part at least, a macho display intended to impress his mistress?
Manning says Sir Fred’s arrogance was also clear in the way he tried to cling to power and, initially, in his huge pay-off and pension despite presiding over the biggest collapse in British business history.
And it manifested itself again in the original gagging order he won.
Now we know a little more of the truth but it wasn’t just his wife and the bank he was cheating – it was the whole of the country.
Let’s not forget that in this country we have a banker-cum-politician who has been embroiled in a sex scandal.
Yep. ACT leader Don Brash raised a few eyebrows at our National caucus meetings when the news media added some colour to his dullish and donnish image with allegations of bedroom hanky-panky.
It transpires that the diplomats were fascinated, too.
National Party MPs were initially panicked at news of “colourless” Don Brash’s alleged extramarital affair, amid concerns that his philandering could cost them the female vote, leaked American cables show.
A cable sent on September 13, 2006, is called: “National leader’s extramarital affair threatens his party’s agenda”
That cable concluded with the comment:
“For months Brash has been under pressure from National Party colleagues, who see him as colourless and incapable of leading the party in overturning Helen Clark’s government.
“Whatever the case, the matter will certainly command the bulk of NZ media attention, wiping the Labour election spending brouhaha off the front pages and undermining months of National Party efforts to cast doubt on the government’s honesty.”
A subsequent cable concluded that the alleged affair had not diminished Dr Brash’s popularity with voters.
“With a fairly relaxed attitude towards sex, Kiwis seem largely unperturbed about Brash’s alleged marital transgression … Kiwis seem to be registering their distaste that their MPs’ private lives are being made public.
“Meanwhile, PM Helen Clark has raised the public mudslinging another notch by accusing National of being behind rumours that her husband is gay,” the cable said.
Mrs Grumble assured Alf then that she still found Don colourless, despite the publicity about his private life, and she says she doesn’t much fancy Sir Fred and the IMF feller, either.