Teresa Hunter: Private affairs that have consequences for all of us

IT TAKES some believing. Middle-aged men with faces craggier than the peaks of the Munros fancying themselves as lotharios.

Whatever would Dad's Army bank manager Captain Mainwaring have made of it? Obsessed by petty rules, he may have seemed ludicrous as our last front against the Nazis. But when it came to managing a bank, he fitted the bill rather nicely.

The latest sex scandals involving highly placed financiers serve as a reminder, in the unlikely event we needed one, of how our bank managers have changed since the Captain's day. Not only did top bosses behave in a cavalier fashion with our money, it seems they were out of control in their private lives as well.

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Here, I must stress, we do not know the rights or wrongs of the two sex sagas developing over past days. Personally, I would never entirely rule out that IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn was set up.

Unfortunately, it has also emerged that Strauss-Kahn, ridiculous though it sounds, was a womaniser with form. Other women have come forward complaining of unwanted and forceful sexual advances.

Closer to home, we do not yet know whether former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin broke any company rules when he embarked on an affair with a member of staff.

Many big employers discourage married couples, let alone lovers, from working together because of the conflict of interest. When it involves the boss, with such powers over the future of all his staff, this must raise questions about corporate governance.

Captain Mainwaring was right that sticking to the rules matters, because money and power corrupt. I don't mean corrupt in the sense that it encourages an inherently honest person to steal. But it can corrupt judgment.

This is important when you and I can end up paying for those mistakes. Some will say Goodwin's affair is nothing to do with the rest of us, and is simply a private tragedy for his family, which must have already suffered so much.

But when their private affairs affect our private lives, then it is our business.

Goodwin was head of one of the world's biggest banks when it went bust, leaving UK taxpayers to pick up the bill through higher taxes and inflation, falling house prices and a significant drop in living standards.

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No, he isn't single-handedly responsible for all our woes, but he played his part. We have a right to know exactly what was going on during the last days of his empire.

Back at the IMF, changes following a new appointment could mean higher borrowing costs for the UK if the incomer decides to be more malleable and generous to the troubled nations. For us, this could trigger interest rate and tax rises.

If a harsher line is taken and nations are cut adrift, our banks could find themselves deeper in the mire and require even more bailing out.

Which could mean, you guessed it, interest rate and tax rises.

Hector Sants, incoming boss of the new Prudential Regulation Authority and head of the Financial Services Authority, says the days of cavaliers and buccaneers running our biggest institutions are over. As he launched the new supervisor, he said it would never again take the judgment and integrity of top bosses on trust.

Quite right too. Sants is sounding more like Mainwaring by the day.

"You know, Wilson, over the years, as I've come to know the members of this platoon, I've grown quite fond of them. But I can't help feeling I'm in charge of a bunch of idiots."

Minister for fraud

TALKING about idiots, former environment minister at Westminster Elliot Morley was jailed for 18 months on Friday for dishonestly claiming more than 30,000 in parliamentary expenses.

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In all, he wrongly filled out 40 forms claiming 16,800 towards a fictitious mortgage and 15,200 towards other claims for which he was entitled to only 1,500. Sentencing him, Mr Justice Saunders said he had "thrown away his good name and good character".

Looking back, it seems a strange madness took hold of certain sections of society during the first decade of the millennium. For some it was a time of every excess. History, I suspect, will be cruel.

It was a new age of entitlement, where some grabbed whatever tickled their fancy, thanks to a job with a bank, the government or a wallet full of credit cards.

Don't be afraid of that screaming noise you can hear. It is the sound of chickens coming home to roost.