by Dominic Lawson, Mailonline
[...] The organisation (which this year has finally been split up and stripped of its banking regulation role) had become obsessed with the fashionable issue of ‘diversity’.
This did not mean that its staff were interested in differences of opinions on financial regulation: the term, in its bureaucratic meaning, refers only to sexual and ethnic identity. It was New Labour, under Gordon Brown’s chancellorship, which had foolishly moved banking regulation from the Bank of England to the FSA: as if in gratitude the FSA slavishly endorsed the so-called ‘equalities agenda’ which that government regarded as its social mission.
So the FSA began sending out voluminous questionnaires to banks, demanding to know about the sexual identities of their employees, and what they were doing to ensure that an appropriate proportion of their staff could be regarded as members of the ‘LGBT community’ — that is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, for those unfamiliar with the terminology.
It was determined to set an example itself: its most recent (and exhaustive) ‘annual diversity report’ exults that ‘on sexual orientation, we rose to 109th out of the 376 employers across Britain who entered Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index. We were at 138th place the previous year and are pleased to have been recognised for the improvements we continue to make for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff.’
In this context, it is easy to imagine that the FSA would see the appointment of the Rev Paul Flowers as a wonderful example to set to the insufficiently socially aware financial services industry: the first openly gay chairman of a significant British bank.
The chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie, expressed incredulity when Flowers, appearing before him a few weeks ago, seemed to have no clue about the scale of the assets for which he had fiduciary responsibility.
Perhaps, instead of apologising, Flowers should have declared that although he had been wrong to say they had amounted to around £3 billion — approximately £44 billion below the true figure — he could answer any question Tyrie might like to put about the Co-op Bank’s stellar performance in responding to the FSA’s demand for greater ‘diversity’. On second thoughts, it was better that he didn’t.
The austere and forensic Tyrie is one of those old-fashioned types who thinks that banks should be run by those best qualified to do so, regardless of how many ‘equalities’ boxes might be ticked by the directors who have fouled things up enough to require interrogation by his committee.
In other forums, however, Flowers’s sexuality does seem to have afforded him some protection. I wonder if the Left-of-Centre press (not to mention the Reverend’s former colleagues in the Labour Party-affiliated Co-operative movement) would have been be so reluctant to criticise him if it had been female teenage prostitutes he had been cavorting with; or if it had been pornographic pictures of women that he had been ogling on his official laptop.
But as a member of the ‘LGBT community’, Flowers can somehow be seen as part of an oppressed minority, whom it would be politically incorrect to denounce as a sexual predator.