The news of The former Chairman of the Co-op's staggering fall from grace came as a huge shock to me personally - as I knew Paul Flowers back in my Bradford days. He was a local Labour Councillor and the Methodist Minister up the road at Great Horton, and had even had me up to preach in his Church. Over the last 5 years though, he had become increasingly elusive, and I had given up calling him an ally in any progressive Bradford campaigns I was involved in .
I knew that he was working with the co-operative group, but I had no idea he had risen to the rank of Chairman! As far as I know, he didn't have a background in banking at all, so it is of no surprise that he allowed such poor oversight of the banking activities of the Co-op.
The last time I had seen him, he was being picked up in a 'work related' chauffeur driven limousine, which at the time made me furious about how my co-operative money was being spent!
It is such a shame, as Paul used to be a great Methodist minister, with a particular concern for asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups. He had overcome some serious homophobia from neighbouring churches following his appointment, and in the early days was usually affable and helpful when you went to him in his role as a local councillor.
But he was always far too full of his own self importance, and his famous dinner parties were always occasions for him to boast of his connections and his travels. He was a classic champagne socialist, though it was increasingly hard to work out what was socialist in his activities and outlook.
I liked Paul, despite him publicly chastising me when I stood for the Green party against corrupt members of the local Labour mafia. If he has genuinely learnt something from this experience, then I sincerely believe he will go on to be a good minister again.
Hedonists need to curb their desires for self gratification, especially when it comes at the expense of the trust that others have placed in them. Having heard the stories of drug taking and excessive partying, I am now even more aghast at what happen to the centre of the Co-op Bank, as it began to act as if it were owned by an elite, and not by its members.
This story may have been one of personal tragedy for Paul Flowers, but it has also been a historic catastrophe for all of us dedicated to the co-operative cause.