Philip Green: why was he ever knighted?
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