Comment: Right of Reply - Mohamed Al Fayed

The owner of Harrods responds to a leading article on his application for British citizenship
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The Independent Culture
HAVING A British passport would not make much practical difference to me. I might got through UK airports a bit faster, but that's about all. But it would mean a lot: I have lived here for 35 years now and have come to love this country, its way of life, and, most of all, its people, I feel British.

Though I have never been charged with any offence, nor even had a parking ticket, my application for citizenship has been treated by successive governments is if it were a live grenade. Why? Well it seems that making a successful bid for the House of Fraser group in 1985 was somehow not cricket. Nor indeed was blowing the gaff on cash-for-questions at Westminster. The Independent, of course, knows all about cricket and citizenship ("...rarified, precious stuff, its form abstract and amorphous, its definition ambiguous" - leading article, 7 May 1999). The newspaper argues that, because of my "bribery", "tactics against business rivals" and "lying" about where I got the money from to buy Harrods, my application was justly refused.

Well the fact is, I didn't bribe anyone. On expert advice I retained a highly respected firm of Parliamentary lobbyists. They assured me that making payments to MPs was accepted custom and practice at Westminster. I had no reason to doubt their professional judgement.

I am not sure what The Independent has in mind when it refers to my "tactics against business rivals". Perhaps this is some reference to the way I bought House of Fraser shares from Tiny Rowland. If so, I think I need only make the point that Tiny actually approached me to buy the shares.

I like to think I have been good for Britain. I still want to be British. I shall not give up.

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