Philip Green: why was he ever knighted?

The Week Middle East - - News -

It’s rare that our MPs speak with one voice. Yet last week, they found some­thing they could all agree on, said Michael Dea­con in The Daily Tele­graph: Sir Philip Green, for­mer owner of the now de­funct re­tail chain BHS, is a rot­ter. De­bat­ing a mo­tion to strip the ty­coon of his knight­hood, MPs from all par­ties laid into Green as an “as­set strip­per”, a “cor­po­rate raider” and a “spiv”. In the “bru­tally vivid” words of Labour’s Iain Wright, who co-chaired an in­quiry into BHS, Green took “the rings from its fin­gers, beat it black and blue, starved it of food and water, put it on life sup­port, and then wanted credit for keep­ing it alive”. The “King of Re­tail” wasn’t all that “good at re­tail”, added Wright, twist­ing the knife. With not one dis­sent­ing voice among the 114 MPs present, there was no need for a vote, and the res­o­lu­tion was passed by ac­cla­ma­tion. Green de­served it, said Labour MP Clive Lewis, in The Guardian. Dur­ing his time at BHS, he ran down its pen­sion scheme and took hun­dreds of mil­lions out of the busi­ness. “Then, when years of woe­ful – some would say wil­ful – mis­man­age­ment made them­selves felt, he jumped ship”, and sold the com­pany for £1 to a group of in­vestors led by a for­mer bank­rupt. “It would be laugh­able for him to re­tain his hon­our for ‘ser­vices to re­tail’ in the face of such con­duct.” But this vote – “purely sym­bolic”, since the de­ci­sion rests not with MPs, but with a body called the Hon­ours For­fei­ture Com­mit­tee – was a head­line-grab­bing dis­trac­tion from the far more trou­bling fact that, legally, Green did noth­ing wrong. “As re­pug­nant as it seems, he was act­ing within the let­ter of the law.” Green has done a huge dis­ser­vice to Bri­tish busi­ness, said James Moore in The In­de­pen­dent, dam­ag­ing its rep­u­ta­tion, and erod­ing the pub­lic’s trust in it. The MPs were right to call him to ac­count, and to de­mand the re­moval of a ti­tle that “adds in­sult to in­jury to the thou­sands of BHS work­ers” who have lost their jobs and pen­sions. But that is just the start. Our politi­cians must now work to iden­tify and rem­edy the fail­ures in the le­gal and reg­u­la­tory frame­work that made Green’s greedy be­hav­iour pos­si­ble. In the mean­time, I’d like to know how he came to be knighted in the first place, said Bry­ony Gor­don in The Daily Tele­graph: when Tony Blair’s govern­ment gave him the gong, in 2006, he was al­ready known to be a tax avoider of epic pro­por­tions, and a bully to boot. Why did Labour MPs not block the move at the time? There is some­thing sick­en­ing about MPs try­ing to cover them­selves in glory by de­mand­ing Green be stripped of his ti­tle, when if they had done their jobs, he’d never have got one.

Show­ing off his medal in 2006

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