SKETCH: Paul Flowers in Rehab on Newsnight

This Neo-Paxman, the non-judgmental, chastened, gently inquisitive human being – what late-life crisis produced him? Did Russell Brand overthrow him so completely?

His interview with Rev Flowers last night – it must be why people don’t watch Newsnight any more.

The nitwits who run the programme thought, “Let’s go beneath the media caricature of a drug-taking, bank-wrecking Labour supporter and find what’s really there. A martyr, probably.”

“What’s the last year been like for you?” Paxman probed.

Portly, plausible uncle Paul said: “There have been certain moments when it has been …” pause to consider, to contain himself, quietly to choose his word: “Hellish.”

Cutaway to Paxman flinching back, with an intake of breath.

“To find some professional support for the issues I was facing,” (issues, in his words last year, of being “trollied” on ketamine and rentboys,) “I booked myself into a very well-known hospital for four weeks,” to discover not just the superficial but “the deeper issues why people resort to addiction.”

That’s the penance over with.

“What made you think you were qualified to run a bank?”

“I didn’t,” he said. Everyone else did.

He “took full responsibility” for everything, as fallen leaders do these days, but nothing was his fault. It was the panel that chose him, the Board that approved him, the FSA that interviewed him, the due diligence people, the Government, “mainly Conservatives”, junior minister Hoban, Chancellor Osborne in the background, the aggression of political point-scorers on the Treasury select committee, avaricious bankers, the obscene banking industry, and the “pseudo-fascist” Daily Mail publishing “a considerable amount of pure and utter fiction”.

So, he was pressured into bad decisions by Conservatives and resigned “albeit that the decisions were taken by the Board as a whole.”

“Do you think you have sinned?”

“Forgive me, it’s always more complex than that,” he said quickly.

Then realising that might sound evasive, he began a second evasion: “Of course I have, and I am in company with every other human being for having my frailty and some of my fragilities exposed.”

Not so much the sinning, then, as the being caught. And then: “I am no better and no worse than any number of other people . . . ”

Is that for him to say?

And finally, the third evasion, “But yes, of course I have . . . ‘sinned’ in that old-fashioned term I would rarely use, I have to say.”

Rent boys and drugs, Methodist minister, people want to know how that all comes about, Paxman asked sympathetically. “Other pressures in my life,” he said. Did he want to talk about them? Well, only a little. “My mother was dying.”

That’s about as low as it goes. Class A drugs and street prostitutes because my mother was dying.

And finally, he had been “set up to fail” by the Co-op itself. “They suck you dry and then spit you out at the end of it.’ Yes, leaving a nasty taste in the mouth.

But a pretty impressive piece of rehabilitation, courtesy of Newsnight. He’s just been on the Today programme now.

It’s not what rehab is supposed to be!



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