Sunday 12 June 2016

Green Grow The Retailers Ho

The latest about Sir Philip Green, erstwhile premier retailer, goodbye BHS and pension fund, is that he feels hurt about comments made by Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs the joint Parliamentary committee looking into the collapse of retailer BHS.  Sir Green cries bias and shan't attend, so there.

This might not be so much about Frank Field, it might be more to do with the questions that might be asked by the committee.  "Private Eye" this week, as well as a splendid cover on the England soccer team, has a long piece in the "In The City" section at the back about Sir Green that suggests what might be asked about which matters.

It makes grim reading and not just for those who have lost their jobs, their futures and possibly most of their pensions, never mind those who followed the Green dream and lost out.  Among them appear to be most of our current media experts on finance and business.  You name him, Peston of the BBC etc., and they are there.  Reputations and more are at stake.

Along with Blair and Cameron, their fellow politicians and other "experts", they all knelt starry eyed at the feet of the master of retailing, hoping for a cut of the deal as well as for pleasing the media and their friends.  Just who, we may ask, has benefited from a little help from Sir Green at key points in their careers?

One of the staples of disagreement about tax matters is the fine distinction between "avoidance", when you can cite a legal reason for moving money that way, and "evasion" where it is argued that there is no legal basis or at least a questionable one.  Go the web and read a few million words on the subject.

If you have real money, then hire a team of crack lawyers to make your case and take care of the detail.  Better still, much better, is to assist leading members of government and their immediate support echelons to arrange tax laws in such a way as to favour your preferred methods of operation.

This has been part of Sir Green's skill set.  The trouble is he seems to have lost sight of the detail and BHS went bust in a way that was bound to attraction attention.  The question then is, is this an extreme and rare case or is it more common than we think?

Worse is that it is not simply common, but as so many money men like their golf, par for the course and maybe typical?  It appears that as you look around the more recent arrivals in the House of Commons , then who are selected as candidates number many about whom there are questions on financial matters.

Given that both the Conservative and Labour Party have imposed increasingly central control over the listing and choice candidates financial and other probity seems to have slipped down, if not off, the list of required qualifications.

I think it was Mrs. Thatcher who sixty years ago struggled to get nomination for parliamentary candidacy who complained that unless you had a good MC (Military Cross) and the right other medals on your chest it was hopeless in the then days when constituency parties did the choosing.

Sir John Nott, formerly Royal Scots and Gurkhas who served in the Malayan Emergency with distinction and later in Mrs. Thatcher's government had stopped his subscription to the Conservative Party on the grounds that Cameron's utterings on the EU Referendum are specious and unwarranted, that is untrue and grossly misleading.

More to the point, after the Army he then went into banking and finance and did well.  He also points out that the national membership around the country of the Conservative Party has gone down from two and a half million to 250,000 or so.  So if the national party is not paying the piper any more, the Gurkhas have an excellent pipe band, who is and to what purpose?

The electorate may be becoming shy of the two major parties because it is now seen that they have been bought and it is becoming more widely known who are the people who did the buying and now expect the parties to pay the price, both in terms of tax easing and use of power.

It is not the UK alone that has been bought, it is integral across Europe and especially in the halls of mirrors in Brussels where so many have vastly profited with so little benefit for the rest of us.

The result is not simply an ongoing financial and taxation crisis, coupled with serious and increasing debt risks, it is a constitutional crisis that does not bode well for either sensible decision making or sound government.

1 comment:

  1. I read the Private Eye piece too - very disturbing. It wouldn't be quite so disturbing if there were not so many other issues popping up as well. Particularly our lax UK attitude to dubious money and powerful people who look more and more like international criminals than business leaders.