Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


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Monday 20 October 2008

Two Gentlemen

It has been said that one definition of a gentleman is "someone who can play the bagpipes but doesn't."
I have no information concerning the two gentlemen I am writing about today in this regard, and my awarding them the accolade - and indeed writing about the matter - is my whim of course; I should mention perhaps a third (but fictional) gentleman in this connexion since his family motto was "As my whimsy takes me."*

So, to my two real-life gentlemen.

The first earned his spurs (that is in my own experience) in 1982, when he resigned as British Foreign Secretary. This was following the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina. The Rt Hon Lord Carrington, for it was he, took full responsibility for the complacency that resulted in the withdrawal of the minimal naval force in the area allowing the disgusting General Galtieri to proceed with the invasion which he hoped would distract the Argentinian population from his appalling regime. It is my understanding that Lord Carrington resigned on a matter of principle (as the Secretary of State responsible) and that it was in reality his underlings (the Ministers of State at the Foreign Office) who should have gone.
Lord Carrington. Picture Source: NATO

I have mentioned this 26-year old event because it was brought to mind today by another gentlemanly act (at least in the light of the information I have): the resignation of the President of the French Bank Caisse d'Epargne, M. Charles Milhaud.
M. Milhaud resigned following the loss last week of €600,000,000 owing to "unauthorised derivatives trading" by a team at the Bank. In his statement, M. Milhaud pointed out that these trades were made despite specific instructions to the contrary, issued by Milhaud himself and some of his co-directors. The bank is in no danger whatever of collapse, by all accounts unlike certain others not so far from France - that is until their government bailed them out (or effectively nationalised them).

However M. Milhaud after a 45-year career** at the Caisse d'Epargne opted to take responsibility; two of his fellow directors have also resigned.

It is true that we are living in exceptional times, but M. Milhaud's behaviour in this affair reminded me of Lord Carrington and contrasts pleasantly with some of the rather unattractive characters in certain banking communities that have cropped up in the news recently.

It would be depressing to discover that M. Milhaud was obliged by pressure from the French government to fall on his sword. I hope I don't.

Until the next time.
*Lord Peter Wimsey of course.
** Just imagine: a career banker in charge of a bank these days - I prefer this idea to some of those spivs running other institutions!
BLOODY HTML! The link to the picture source under Lord Carrington's picture does not appear. I have been obliged to place it above the picture. Apologies, but not my fault.

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