When You're Wrong

Created on 12/2/2009

It is human nature to let others know when you predicted something and it turned out as you forecast. I managed this feat with quite a few things that modesty forbids me mentioning here if I was modest. OK, you forced me; I did predict the recession and the busted flush in the property market etc. But I am not here to boast; too much.

It also does us good to admit when we have made a mistake. Having taken some credit above I shall point out a very recent error on my part. On the day prior to the Israeli elections my prediction was for a narrow Benjamin Netanyahu right wing Likud victory over Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party. In fact she won the battle between these two parties by one seat. It being Israel, and therefore very politically complex, his potential right wing partnerships are potentially just a little more likely to work than any combination of the centre and left, and therefore it will probably be Bibi (Netanyahu) who is called upon by President Shimon Peres to form a government coalition, if he can.

This is made even more difficult by the fact that the leader of the third largest party, Y’Israel Beytenu, Avigdor Lieberman, detests the religious parties who would normally form a natural part of any Nehatanyahu coalition.

So, it being a very Israeli business, I was wrong but I might yet turn out to be right, although I admit that my head hurts thinking about the possible permutations.
For the sake of peace a broad based coalition of national unity would be the best solution but we’re probably several weeks from the answers.

What is clear from the voting in Israel is that security and how to deal with the Palestinians is the paramount question, even in these parlous economic times; financial issues barely warranted a mention during the elections.

I also stated that during Israel’s brief and stormy history it is their strong, right wing leaders, not the well-intentioned liberals, who do the best peace deals with their Arab neighbors. This is a paradox I ascribed to the national characteristics and histories of those at the negotiating tables. I remain convinced that this is the case but I didn’t mean to include Avigdor Lieberman in the category of strong leaders. He, and his supporters are potentially nearly as big a danger to the future of peace as the extreme Arab and Muslim leaders he seems happy to confront.

So there you have it, a fulsome admission that I was in error, and I don’t feel blemished or diminished by my act of public contrition.

In the last few days we also witnessed a series of bankers and other financial titans admitting that they made mistakes. President Obama also owned up to a minor gaffe. The head of the Bank of England also admitted that the bank’s reading of the financial tealeaves had been severely at fault.
It seems the time when it is fashionable, as well as desirable to hold up one’s hands and utter the words, “I screwed up, and I got it wrong, I am sorry!”

So why does Prime Minister Gordon Brown find it so difficult?

He hired Sir James Crosby as deputy chairman of the financial watchdog, the Financial Service Authority, which is created to oversee the running and well being our financial institutions. During his tenure of this office, Crosby, while also Chief Executive of HBOS apparently personally fired that own bank’s most senior risk expert for predicting that Crosby’s risk taking stewardship of HBOS could lead to huge future problems for that company.
When this was exposed Sir James Crosby almost immediately resigned his post as deputy chairman. Did he fall or was he pushed? The answer is that he was pushed, very quickly and very ignominiously and almost certainly from the direction of Number 10 Downing Street.

This situation is rendered surreal when it became clear that the FSA had also issued warnings about the risks HBOS was taking. It is more than strange that the man effectively running both was Sir James Crosby.

Today there was a parliamentary inquiry into all these dealings that personally questioned the Prime Minister. As ever our dour leader failed to show any contrition. As ever none of this is his fault in any way. He didn’t apologize for any of it.

For those with short memories you will recall that Mister Brown accepted all the praise for everything that seemed to be going right in the British economy for the last dozen years or so. Now that our recently mighty financial ship has hit stormy weather he must accept culpability and blame or he will be consigned to the dustbin of history along with all the other fakes and phonies.