At long last the bullet has been bitten. Northern Rock is to be nationalised.
The BBC's Robert Peston comments:
It's a momentous moment. Nationalisation has become a dirty word associated with industrial failures of the past. Financial services, by contrast, have been considered the great British success story - so for such a seemingly growing bank to end up being nationalised is a big moment for the City and a big moment for the government.
In many ways, this problem (using a charitable phrase) is the responsibility of the whole international banking system. Northern Rock just happened to be holding the parcel when the music stopped. There was a general shortage of credit and Northern Rock just happened to be the unlucky bank that was first in the queue when the easy money ran out.
Looking at it from another angle, it is a failure of Northern Rock's management.
It is perhaps a relief that the company is not be given on a silver plate to Richard Branson.
But it would be interesting to know how much extra taxpayers' money has been wasted in this protracted scramble to find a buyer, which could have been avoided by a brisk decision early on.