A week is a long time in politics and a day is a long time in banking. On Tuesday afternoon, NatWest chief Dame Alison Rose admitted that she had ‘made a serious error of judgment’ and was the BBC source who discussed Nigel Farage’s bank details with Simon Jack at a charity dinner.
The senior journalist had left the dinner with the impression that the Coutts bank account closure was down to a lack of funds rather than politically motivated. It later transpired through a subject access request by Farage that this was wide of the mark and the bank had been discussing his political views and the ‘reputational damage’ associated with keeping him as a customer.
Despite admitting being the source, Rose appeared last night to believe that she could cling on. The NatWest board had insisted that, despite the furore that has been going for well over a week, they still had full confidence in Rose, who has been with the bank for more than three decades. As I understand it, when her statement broke on Tuesday, jaws hit the floor in government. Senior ministers felt her position at the taxpayer-backed lender was untenable if she had been discussing the private details of an account holder with journalists.
Figures in Downing Street and the Treasury expressed significant concerns at the situation. Speaking this morning, City minister Andrew Griffith said it was ‘right’ that Rose had resigned: ‘This would never have happened if NatWest had not taken it upon itself to withdraw a bank account due to someone’s lawful political views . . . I hope the whole financial sector learns from this incident.’ ‘I think the reality was realised upon her,’ adds one government figure of the past twelve hours.