NatWest CEO Alison Rose has resigned after admitting she was the source of incorrect information that led to a false BBC report claiming that Nigel Farage had his account shut down due to financial issues rather than political affiliation.
In an apology to Farage, Rose wrote, “I was wrong to respond to any question raised by the BBC about this case. I want to extend my sincere apologies to Mr Farage for the personal hurt this has caused him and I have written to him today”.
NatWest chairman Howard Davies said it was a “regrettable error of judgement on her part”.
Farage, 59, demanded an investigation into how his financial information was made available to the public, further escalating a situation between himself and Coutts/NatWest.
This led to a BBC report that attempted to undermine Farage’s accusations by claiming his account was shut down for financial reasons rather than political ones.
BBC business editor Simon Jack publicly apologised to Farage.
Farage has now called for Davies and Coutts CEO Peter Flavel to be sacked.
Civil liberties are at stake
Nigel Farage has, inadvertently, done the British public a good service by bringing to light a sad and dangerous truth that many people can no longer deny exists.
Technological political discrimination is here. The attempted undermining of Farage’s version of events proves this.
It is an open secret that many have either denied or secretly agreed with due to their opposition to the views of the ‘guilty’ party.
It’s one thing for a company to not want to associate themselves with an individual or brand. The Visa/MasterCard-Pornhub fiasco shows that companies have legal, ethical and financial decisions to make when deciding who to do business with.
It’s another thing entirely for a company to ‘cancel’ a person for expressing legally-held opinions or beliefs that do not conform to a certain political orthodoxy.
Banking is a part of modern living. It is needed to be able to pay for services and products that people need to survive. Banking is itself an essential service.
Therefore to ‘debank’ a person, for no legal reason, is quite a serious issue. Should banks be able to decide who can use their services based on what they believe?
Freedom of speech would be directly impacted, as many individuals would be intimidated into silence on certain topics and ideas.
Banks could be used as a tool to be weaponised by certain political lobbies against their opponents, thereby restricting freedom of speech by proxy.
This could have implications on other services that are considered ‘essential’, such as energy. Could an energy company refuse to provide a person with water, gas or electricity due to their legally-held political beliefs?
Many people are understandably worried about the implications for such a concept. In fact, the use of cash in itself is seen by some as a political statement, not wanting their financial freedom dictated by private companies.
This could – and probably will, without immediate action from the Government – have implications on the future of freedom of speech.
If freedom of speech is to continue in this country, the Government must act to safeguard it – which could lead to regulatory legislation, applicable to banks and other essential service providers.
After Rose announced her resignation, NatWest shares fell by 2.5%.
Mr Farage has accused Dame Alison of breaking client confidentiality rules and feels as if she had taken ‘too long’ to resign, saying, “The first rule of banking is client confidentiality. She [Dame Alison] clearly broke that.”
He added that anybody in a more junior position at the bank would have been “out of the door”.
Howard Davies said the bank would now conduct an independent review, in cooperation with the financial regulator, who emphasised the importance of “[having] access to all the necessary information and people in order to investigate what happened swiftly and fully”.