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What the papers say about the former Sir Fred Goodwin…

Most of today’s front pages were devoted to the removal of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood, with three choosing mild puns on his nickname.

The Daily Telegraph gave us “Goodwin is shredded”, the Financial Times ran “Sir Fred’s honour shredded”, and The Guardian came up with “A reputation shredded: Sir Fred loses his knighthood”.

The Independent looked rather red-toppish with a single word: “Dishonoured” while its little sister, i, went for “Shredded”.

By far the best headline of the day was Metro’s “Fred the pleb!” The Daily Mail’s headline, “Humbling of Mister Goodwin”, had the Mister rather unnecessarily underlined.

The Times changed its mind between editions. In one, it carried the straightforward: “Dishonoured: Goodwin stripped of knighthood”. In another, it said: “Disgraced Goodwin is stripped of knighthood.”

The Sun preferred, as is its wont, a sexual pun: “Once a knight Fred: Love-rat stripped of gong”. Surprisingly, the Daily Mirror didn’t lead with the story, carrying only a blurb on page one, “Orf with his Fred!”

But there was a significant split among papers over the wisdom of removing the honorary title from the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The Times, in a leader headlined The dishonours system, considered it “a mistake” to have given Goodwin a knighthood in the first place. But it argued that taking it away “was cheap.” It continued:

“This is the first time it has been done for, effectively, commercial incompetence. And the setting of such a precedent is worrying…

It is the selection of an individual for public humiliation, and the changing of the rules just for him in order to make sure he is properly humiliated. Due process is replaced by the rule of the mob.”

The argument that it was the rule of the mob was echoed by two other titles.

The Telegraph’s leader, Who’s next in line for ritual humiliation? thought the decision set “a new benchmark, whereby anyone identified as a convenient scapegoat for the country’s woes can be similarly disparaged.” It went on:

“David Cameron and the other leading politicians who have encouraged this populist bloodlust should be ashamed of themselves. Now that the precedent has been set, the mob will want more, because it always does.”

The Independent was particularly critical, arguing that the removal of Goodwin’s knighthood “is exceptional only in his totemic value to a mob baying for vengeance.”

It accepted that Goodwin’s “hubris and bad judgement drove RBS almost to bankruptcy”, but added:

“Although undoubtedly incompetent, Mr Goodwin broke no law… Stripping Mr Goodwin of his knighthood is crass, childish, and wholly counter-productive.”

By contrast, the Financial Times, while conceding that there was “more than a whiff of rough justice and political calculation” involved, it was Goodwin’s “professional failings… that have driven the committee’s decision.”

He had “contributed to his own misfortune by his unrepentant demeanour since the collapse of RBS.”

The FT leader continued: “Having disdained public opinion, he cannot complain about becoming a target for public opprobrium and for a prime minister eager to deflect attention to still-outsized bankers’ bonuses.”

Goodwin’s humbling, it added, “is a reminder that there has never been a proper accounting for the crisis, and very few prosecutions, unlike in the US.”

The Daily Mail was also supportive of the decision. Its leading article, Bankers’ greed and a matter of dishonour, argued that “a manifest wrong has been put right.”

It saw it as a warning to other bankers “looking forward to stuffing their pockets with another round of massive bonuses,” adding:

“Mr Goodwin’s fate should teach them that today they have a clear choice. It lies between the dishonour of selfish greed – and their duty to help this nation out of the crisis they caused.”

The Mail’s columnist, Stephen Glover, also thought it “a fitting punishment” for Goodwin’s arrogance:

“He enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with a private aircraft and access to a fleet of limousines, as well as a suite at the Savoy for his visits to London…

“So far was this giant above ordinary mortals that he felt able to conduct an extra-marital affair with a senior RBS colleague…

He has become the symbol of all that is wrong with incompetent, unfettered capitalism.”

The Sun was pleased that the poster boy for reckless, greedy gamblers has been “finally stripped of the knighthood Labour gave him.

“His much-lauded ‘services to banking’ proved to be services to bankruptcy,” it said. “But with a £6,500-A-WEEK pension to fall back on, he’s still laughing all the way to the bonk, sorry, bank.”

The Mirror saw it very differently, heaping ordure over Cameron for engaging in the “decidedly suspicious” timing of the announcement which reeked “of a ­diversionary tactic by a rattled PM.

But the Mirror did agree that “Goodwin deserved to lose his knighthood” and believed – in company with several other papers – that others should lose their honours too.

The Telegraph also raised a tangential point that struck a couple of other papers about the “shadowy and allegedly independent body” known as the Honours Forfeiture Committee. Who knew that existed? © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds