Former Co-op Bank boss Paul Flowers, who was exposed for alleged drugs use in a newspaper sting, has admitted he has “sinned” in his first interview since the furore erupted.
The Reverend Flowers, a Methodist Minister in Bradford, was bailed in connection with alleged drugs supply offences in January after being arrested by West Yorkshire Police officers in the Liverpool area last year.
He stepped down as the bank’s chairman in June, amid claims of illegal drug use and inappropriate expenses payments.
In an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight screened last night, he said: “I am in company with every other human being for having my frailties and some fragility exposed.
“Most people get through life without that ever coming into the public domain. But, of course I have sinned in that old-fashioned term, which I would rarely use, I have to say.”
Mr Flowers said he had come under intense pressure from former Treasury Minister Mark Hoban, and indirectly Chancellor George Osborne, to push through a deal for the bank to takeover around 600 branches Lloyds bank, which ultimately collapsed.
Asked how much pressure he had come under, Mr Flowers said: “Considerable from the present Govern-ment, mainly from Conservatives.
“They wanted a deal. Remember that the Government was, still is, the major shareholder of that bank because of the structural support that it had need of back in 2008.
“Clearly they wanted a deal which would help them in terms of public finances. They actually said that they were keen on this Co-op becoming a much more significant player with more scale.
“We would have had about seven or eight per cent of the market if this had gone through and there was pressure, certainly from Mark Hoban, but I believe and know that that originated much higher up with the Chancellor himself.
“Regular calls, regular checks to see whether or not we were progressing well and I mean two or three times a week calls from the junior minister.
“They wanted a deal and they wanted us to do it. They might say now, ‘no’, but I know that that was what they wanted and that was the pressure they were applying."
Mr Flowers, who has been suspended on full pay by the Methodist Church pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings against him, said he had suffered some “hellish” months and had been abandoned by a number of friends.
“For me personally there have been several months when it has been hellish. But, during that process, I have actually been very well supported by a raft of very good friends.
“You certainly find out who your friends are because a significant number of people in politics and in the Coop and some in the church have been noticeable by their silence.”