The price of a knighthood

Philip Green

“Philly no mates”: has he done enough to be rehabilitated?

Money may not buy you love, but it does help if you want to hang on to your fancy title. Faced with losing his knighthood, Sir Philip Green has reluctantly agreed to pay £363m to help to fill the black hole in the pension fund of BHS, the company he sold for £1 to asset strippers headed by a former bankrupt. This gesture seems to have won over some of his critics. Initially, Green “seemed set on rubbing his victims’ noses in his wealth, swanning off on long holidays aboard his superyachts, while they struggled to make ends meet”, says the Daily Mail. However, his change of mind “will greatly ease the plight of BHS pensioners, leaving them better off than many others abandoned by former employers”.

I suppose we should be grateful that he’s repaying some of the money. Still, why stop at £363m, given that he took far more in dividends from BHS? If he had any sort of conscience he’d follow Janice Turner’s advice in The Times and “transfer £571m, the whole shortfall right there… you are worth £3bn: you have two yachts, countless houses, as many tasselled loafers as you can ever wear. Why not buy a little virtue?” Indeed, Green’s grudging behaviour actually strengthens the case for having the “establishment epaulettes” ripped from his shoulders and for making “him change his gilt letterhead, the monograms on his towels and silk robe”.

BHS pensioners will now get a better deal than if the fund had been left in the “pension lifeboat” Pension Protection Fund, says Nils Pratley in The Guardian. But it is still only “on average” 88% of the full scheme’s benefits – a figure that includes assumptions about future inflation rates and covers differences in the age of pensioners, their length of service and when that service occurred. Green has probably done enough to save his knighthood – MPs may still regard him as a “billionaire spiv”, but that in itself has never been an impediment to getting a gong or a reason for losing one. But he has hardly “pushed the boat out”.

Green and his family will now presumably focus on what they do best – finding ever more elaborate ways to spend his fortune. The Sunday Mirror says that the retail tycoon has spent £10.6m on renovating a six-bedroom property for his daughter Chloe, who recently turned 26. Located “in one of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods”, and “registered to an offshore firm linked to [her mother] Tina Green”, it has “a rooftop bar, super-sized basement and glass roof, as well as staff quarters”.

The pension settlement may allow Green to resume rubbing shoulders with celebrity chums, who have recently found that they are too busy to see the disgraced knight. A few weeks ago The Sun noted that, instead of the usual “glitzy New Year party at the lavish Sandy Lane resort in Barbados”, which he has held for the past two decades, Green “was forced to book a more low-key getaway this year”. Past guests at Sandy Lane have included Kate Moss, Rod Stewart and Rihanna. Now “Philly no mates” is to be seen “plodding around” Miami Beach in a “tatty blue T-shirt”. It remains to be seen whether the “unacceptable face of capitalism” will be fully rehabilitated.


Tabloid money… finders keepers?

“My worst habit by far, as terrified family members and other road users will confirm, is using my mobile at the wheel,” says Rachel Johnson in The Mail on Sunday. On 1 March, the government cracked down on this “national epidemic of fatal bad manners”, upping the penalty to a £200 fine, six points and a possible ban. “Serious stuff.” These “penalties are long overdue, but I’m terrified”, says Johnson (pictured), who got stopped by the police for just such an offence and ultimately was let off. (“It was my lucky day – but maybe, I allow, not yours.”) “My name is Rachel Johnson and I am a mobile-phone addict, and therefore a danger to society… It won’t happen again, officer, I swear.”

Nicole Bailey from Stoke was not so lucky when she was caught infringing the law. Indeed, says Saira Khan in the Sunday Mirror, the “days of finders keepers are gone”. Bailey was seen on CCTV pocketing a £20 note she’d found in a supermarket freezer cabinet. The next thing she knew, she’d been hauled into court where magistrates handed her a six-month conditional discharge and ordered her to pay £175 costs and charges. “What a waste of taxpayers’ money and police time! Whatever happened to teaching someone a lesson with a telling off and a warning?”

“Nearly one in ten of us has admitted to initiating a DIY disaster which ended up in the dreaded ‘calling a man in’ and a bill of up to £2,000”, says Vanessa Feltz in the Daily Express. “Yes, we think we ought to give it a go. Sure, we can’t see why something that looks pretty simple should fox us. And boy, do we resent shelling out to rectify our own incompetence.” But what if it’s to fix something a professional broke? Feltz got a man in to mend her stairs and ended up with a cracked mirror in her coat cupboard. “When I managed to track him down” to confront him over the mirror, “he denied all knowledge” of it. “How I wish I’d had a crack at those stairs with a bit of chewing gum and a staple gun myself.”