The yellow envelope came through the door. I recognised it at once. It came from the Co-op and in it would be coupons - I estimated at least £40 worth - based on how much I'd spent in their store. It’s historic. It’s the Co op dividend; the 'Divvy' as my mother called it, and now a small part of my Christmas budget.
I opened the envelope and saw the letter at once – the ominous headline:
Your membership is important to us - the first inkling that something was wrong.
The inkling became a felt-tipped pen:
'You may have heard about the challenges The Co-operative Group is facing. I can assure you that your new management team is developing a comprehensive plan to tackle them. At this time of year, as a member, you’d normally' (You’d normally. Bugger. What are they telling me, the bastards. Yes, yes, go on) 'you’d normally receive a share of the profits based on your spend with us. For the period January to June 2013 we made a loss, so we don’t have profits to distribute.'
We made a loss? The co–op bank made a loss - £700 million in the first half of this year. But I don’t shop at the bloody bank. I don’t have an account there. And to my knowledge the various branches of the Co-op haven’t made a loss: its supermarkets and funeral parlours, its chemists and electrical stores. No, their ‘loss’ is mere book-keeping trickery. They have come to the aid of the troubled bank by ‘lending’ them £559 million just to tide them through. And somewhere in those millions is my £40 ‘Divvy’.
I continued to read:
'I understand that times are tough for us all, and how disappointed you will feel about this news, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your continued support.' Continued support – is that irony?
I raised my fist to the ceiling and invoked Moloch and Baal and the Seven Lords of Hell. 'Damn you Co-op group,' I cursed. 'Damn you the man in charge of the bank Damn you to Eternal Perdition.'
Well, blow me. They listened. I hadn’t expected such a rapid response, nor that my curse would prove so effective. A week later Paul Flowers, Methodist Minister and Head of the Co-op Bank was caught paying £300 for ketamine and Crystal Meth, as well as being embroiled in stories concerning rent boys and hard core pornography. Better still a week later Len Wardle, chairman of the Co-op group and the man who appointed him also resigned.
I had a momentary twinge as to what the Seven Lords of Hell would want of me in return and pondered the wisdom of curses.
The bottom line is that I don’t care that Paul Flowers was caught with his trousers down in a phone box in the eighties.
I don’t care that he was dismissed as a Labour Councillor in Bradford some years later for hard core pornography on his works computer, and then nominated by the same council as governor of a primary school.
I don’t care how this totally unqualified man came to be head of a major British Bank and that shortly afterwards he lent the Labour Party millions on low terms of interest.
I don’t care about the rent boys, his boast that he was going to ‘get wasted’ after a Parliamentary Committee * established he hadn’t the faintest idea how much money his bank had. I’m not ageist. 63 year old men are allowed to ‘get wasted’. He can twerk stark naked, consume Crystal Meth and Ketamine by the bucket load, and preach on Sunday. I don’t care.
I can even manage a wry smile at the invariable damage control: ‘I am seeking professional help’. Prison would be a start. He wont serve long. His kind never do. The question is what happens when he comes out?
So two questions:
Is Toronto in need of another mayor?
And what do I do with an ‘ethical’ Co-op card that subsidises ineptitude and/or corruption with my ‘Divvy’?
PS * ie the Parliamentary Committe is slow but devastating theatre.