The Left was all too ready to amplify false narratives
Dame Alison Rose was doomed from the moment that the NatWest Group board expressed “full confidence” in her as CEO. The context was her own admission that she’d “made a serious error of judgement” in talking to BBC journalist Simon Jack about Nigel Farage’s relationship with Coutts bank.
Sir Howard Davies, the NatWest Group chairman, agreed — adding that the “handling” of Farage’s abrupt cancellation as a Coutts customer “has been unsatisfactory, with serious consequences for the bank”. And yet despite these acknowledgements, he then said that the board “retains full confidence in Ms Rose as CEO of the bank”.
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It was a jaw-dropping non sequitur — and if Sir Howard really thought it would go unchallenged, then his judgement ought to be questioned too. Yet this multi-layered farce goes well beyond the NatWest Group. For instance, our national broadcaster has had to apologise to Farage for its part in misreporting the facts of this affair.
The circle of shame also takes in the Labour front bench. Just look at this toe-curling whataboutery from the Shadow Cabinet minister Nick Thomas-Symonds. He seemed less worried about the actual scandal than the fact that the Government intervened on the matter (which as the largest NatWest shareholder it is perfectly entitled to do).
And then there’s the former Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron. Following the revelations of recent days he’s admitted that “now we know what we know […] NatWest/Coutts behaved very badly towards Farage.”
It was big of him say so. Less commendable, however, was his previous tweet on the matter: “Weirdo that I am, I’m hugely tempted to demonstrate my ultra-liberalism and support Farage’s rights here… but I’m increasingly of the view that this is mostly confected nonsense, that he is not a victim and is just playing politics.”
I suspect the reason Farron was so quick to side with the bankers against Farage was because of his “ultra-liberalism”, not despite it. The fact is that this affair has exposed establishment liberalism for what it is. That’s why we’ve seen so many commentators twist and turn on this story, doing anything not to catch a glimpse of their own side in the mirror.
And yet there’s no denying it: many of the accusations levelled at the establishment by the populist Right have been shown to be true. Three in particular stand out: firstly, that cancel culture and the threat to free speech are real. That Nigel Farage’s bank account was terminated because of his political opinions serves as a prime example.
Secondly, that wokeness isn’t some fringe phenomenon, but has sunk deep into our institutions. You don’t get much more established or institutional than Coutts — but that didn’t stop the bank from purging a customer on ideological grounds.
And thirdly, that the BBC can’t be trusted to hold the establishment to account. In this matter, the broadcaster has shown itself all too ready to amplify false narratives — despite its own grandstanding on the dangers of misinformation.
The Farage-Coutts affair is what the American’s call a “teachable moment“. In particular, it is an opportunity for liberals to learn the valuable lesson that not all threats to democracy come from the extremes.