Philip Green deserves to be held to account – but probably won't be

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Monday 25 July 2016 14:33
Philip Green
Philip Green

It’s strange that no one seems to be asking Sir Philip Green the obvious question over why he sold BHS for £1. Was it because that's all it was worth? In which case, this titan of retail had somehow managed to turn a business he paid £200m for into a business that was worthless.

If that was the case, perhaps he could explain why he thought a purchaser with no retail experience whatsoever, and very little if any of the required finance, could turn the business around thereby achieving what Sir Philip – with his extensive retail experience and management team – failed to do.

I believe the answer to these questions potentially leads us to the real reason the business was sold. Had it not been sold, Sir Philip and his companies would have had to invest money into the company and its pension scheme or face its failing whilst in his ownership and control.

Richard Colla

Bushey Heath, Hertforshire

So some MPs are calling for Sir Philip Green to be stripped of his knighthood? Don't make me laugh. It’ll never happen. He's wealthy and supports the Conservative Party, and we all know what happens if you have those credentials. Why, you can show your utter contempt for the laws of this country, commit perjury, see an innocent person reviled by the press, go to jail and still remain a Lord of this country.

I suspect Sir Philip really doesn't care about anyone but himself and the money he can cream from a company via his wife and her non-domicile status. The thousands of people who'll lose their jobs and pensions won't give him one minute of sleeplessness. In fact, if he ever was on his uppers and down to his last billion, he can pop into the Lords for his daily £300 quid and a subsidised lunch.

Ken Twiss


The report into the collapse of BHS calls to mind the dictum of the late Willi Schlamm, a Viennese ex-communist economist: "The trouble with socialism is socialism, but the trouble with capitalism is capitalists.”

Dr John Doherty

Vienna, Austria

Questioning what one's relationship should be with Israel

Whether or not the spokesman for the Campaign Against Antisemitism accepts my sincere and heartfelt warnings about the effect of Israel’s brutal occupation or not, he has to be corrected on one very important point.

During the Haiti earthquake disaster, I was contacted by the Jewish Chronicle about my reaction to an item which they had seen accusing the IDF of organ harvesting from victims. A pretty spurious claim in that circumstance.

I congratulated the IDF on the swift response and suggested that if they were worried about such allegations, they should launch an independent inquiry to clear the matter up – a pretty logical response from someone who has worked in the NHS for more than 30 years and had to deal with complaints.

The spokesman then goes on to say that Israel organ harvesting is the “modern day incarnation of the medieval anti-Semitic blood libel”. What nonsense. Try telling that to all the patients who have benefited from organ donation in Israel today, or the people desperately needing new organs and who languish on waiting lists. It is an insult to all the brilliant doctors and surgeons in Israel.

As for his assertion that “dictating to Jews what their relationship should be with the Jewish State of Israel is unacceptable”, I dictate to no one. I merely ask that they travel more widely and hear the opinions of Muslims and non-Muslims all over the world, as I do in my international development work, and they will find that my interpretation of the effect of Israeli government policies is absolutely true. It is fuelling terrorism.

As stated by my party, I no longer take the whip in the House of Lords, nor am I a party spokesperson, but I am still a Liberal Democrat; the party that has always campaigned for justice, human rights and international law.

Baroness Tonge

House of Lords

Olympics should have been harder on Russia

It comes as no surprise that the guardians of the Olympic organisation have taken the very cowardly way of avoiding the actual making of a decision that the rest of the world (except of course, the Russians) might have expected a committee, with just a hint of a backbone, to make.

From what has been reported previously, there can be no mistake that the Russian decision to embark on a deliberate course of ignoring the rules and regulations concerning the taking of noxious substances whilst taking part in the last Games came from Russian Government and their own Olympic overseers, plus all their individual trainers and managers.

Quite plainly, none of them have any idea about fairness in sport. Russia should be banned totally from all sporting activity for the foreseeable future because that is the only way they will learn that sport must be fair to be of any use. If the IOC cannot take the correct decision, instead of passing the buck to the individual sport committees, then I strongly feel that all those athletes that take their sport seriously enough should withdraw their services to the milk train that the IOC has now become.

Philip Hennessy


How much do Dover queues have to do with Brexit?

Thank you for your leading article on the Dover situation. As a resident in the area, I am affected when there is gridlock in the town and its approach roads. You echo my fears that this is merely a foretaste of what might be an everyday situation if we leave the EU without an agreement that allows for continuing free trade. Can someone in Government please spell out clearly, and in simple terms, just what the worst case scenario will be if this becomes a border crossing comparable with Turkey-Greece or Belarus-Poland?

Leon Williams


Regarding the travellers queuing in Kent, you are not the only ones affected by heightened security in France. The Friday after the Nice atrocity, there was a traffic jam 30km long on the A9 auto route into Spain from Narbonne, caused by security checks by French gendarmes at the frontier. Normally we drive across that border at 90km/h.

I note the usual British antipathy towards the French coming out. We are now in our fourth year living in France, having moved from Kent, and we've been made very welcome in the village where we live. Our French friends are amazed by Brexit and ask us what happened and why, to which we have no sane answer. The idea that the French are causing border chaos in order to teach Britain a lesson is ludicrous. No government can be that organised.

Richard Romain

Montolieu, France

As the reality of Brexit sinks in, attitudes change

Is it not time that the Brexit bunch in the Conservative Party piped down a bit? They won the referendum on a combination of wild promises that were swiftly retracted (£350m extra a week to the NHS) and lies (Turkey is hardly about to join the EU in its current state). Given this, you would expect them to be grateful. But no such luck.

This group of MPs made claims about “taking back control” without ever answering a single question on levels of immigration to expect when we leave the EU. Now they want to take us out of the single market at all costs just to reduce immigration to zero. It is they who want to lock businesses and people in the boot of a car and take us where we do not want to go.

Luckily their cheerleader Andrea Leadsom is not Prime Minister, but who knows what lengths they will go to in order to achieve their self-serving ends?

Chris Key


The great thing about us Brits over the centuries has been our ability to adapt to changing circumstances. To roll up our sleeves and get on with it, whatever gets thrown at us. So please can The Independent get over it and move on from all this 'woe is me' stuff over Brexit.

It was the wrong decision and we are not where sensible folks would want us to be, but it is done now. Let's knuckle down and make the best of it.

Bernard Cudd


The recent Brexit vote was welcomed by many with great rejoicing. However, it has rapidly been followed by disappointing economic news. One is tempted to recall the words of Sir Robert Walpole on the declaration of war against Spain in 1739, an event of which he disapproved: “They may ring their bells now, before long they will be wringing their hands.”

Rev Andrew McLuskey


The US presidential election is taking place in the same post-fact, anti-expert climate of near-hysteria as the UK’s Brexit referendum. Donald Trump may succeed precisely because he represents a rejection of mainstream American thought.

Remainers were blind to the scale of resentment in the industrial graveyards of the English provinces or the capacity of Brexiteers to exploit it and couldn’t conceive that a populist campaign based on lies and led by bigots could triumph. And yet it did.

Boris Johnson is just as much a parody as Trump and as “uniquely unqualified” to be Foreign Secretary, as The Donald is to be US President. But now he “gaffes for Britain”, and the West should be very afraid.

Rev Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Corbyn's supporters aren't who Janet Street-Porter thinks

Janet Street-Porter joins the many columnists across the media to patronise the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. She thinks she understands the attraction but sees it as a manifestation of the immaturity of youth. Many of those who support Corbyn may not be as well-connected as Street-Porter but are, like me, in their 50s and 60s.

Corbyn was the first Labour leader to recognize that it is time to move on from Thatcherism and its child, the austerity agenda. Whatever happens to Corbyn, if Labour survives his lead this will now continue to exert an influence on the party’s future. That is in itself a worthwhile achievement, and one that should be celebrated.

But the flames of our support for the man who sought first to give us a genuine alternative have been further fanned by the appalling treatment he received from his first cabinet from day one. Street-Porter’s use of the conventional slurs on Corbyn’s politics – the pretense that his interests are limited to obscure issues that ordinary people do not care about, along with the fiction that, pre-Corbyn, Labour was well placed to win the next election despite losing Scotland to a party that openly espouses Cobyn-like policies – exposes her inability to come up with an objective or fair assessment of the situation and renders her piece unhelpful at best.

We have not yet seen Corbyn as a leader of the Labour Party in Parliament. His has been a lone voice without the benefit of a parliamentary team and with very poor media coverage.

Those MPs who betrayed their party and their obligations to the country by putting all their energy into pulling him down will emerge, I suspect, as widely untrusted by those who do or might support Labour, but are not also signed up members of an establishment elite.

Simon Mollison

Frome, Somerset

Re-energising democracy

I agree with Andreas Whittam Smith that the best hope of “clearing out” the dysfunctional career politician class (responsible, amongst other things, for the financial crisis and the EU referendum shambles) is to persuade ordinary people, those who engage so effectively in voluntary work, to stand for Parliament “as a public duty”. Yet we also need a general acceptance that a citizen's right to vote carries with it a duty of understanding: both what any given vote is about and how our voting choice is most likely to affect others, whether immediately or in the longer term. Without such understanding, how could anyone claim a right to influence who should make the rules everyone must live by or how policies should be prioritised?

It is obvious that, in general, this vote-validating understanding is sadly wanting. How could it be otherwise, given the nature of available sources of fact and alternative opinion, the latter's often bewildering complexity, and the absence of even remotely adequate institutional arrangements to promote informed and ongoing political engagement?

Despite this, most commentators have few qualms about referring to general election results, and most recently to Brexit, as “the voice of the people” that democrats must respect. This too readily parroted conventional view is both mistaken and delusory.

Most would think it outrageous for anyone to claim to have a say in determining the fate of an accused other than a juror. And juries are directed to reach their decisions after weighing up only what is relevant to a case, as presented by the various parties, including expert witnesses; and they do this aided by a judge’s summary of the significant issues. We might also note, with special reference to holding a 2nd referendum, that among the reasons for requiring a retrial are: misdirection of the jury, and the emergence of new evidence that renders the original verdict unsafe. What could possibly justify the disparity of our concern (for relevance, truth and basing judgement on all availability evidence) between citizens as jurors and as voters?

The challenge now, surely, is to devise ways of using newly available technology that allow core judicial values and practices to find appropriate expression in the political arena.

Until we achieve some measure of success in this, we cannot expect to revive an inclusive public-interest-oriented notion of citizenship, or attract enough new blood into Parliament and government to clear out the present dysfunctional lot. Only then might we properly begin to regard manifesto pledges as potential mandates and our present so-called “representative” system as democratic.

Richard Bryden


MPs face enough scrutiny

I don’t understand Gavin Lewis's reference to Labour MPs in his letter when he says: “Almost all these people don’t even believe that they should have to face regular democratic electoral scrutiny.” All MPs face regular democratic scrutiny in a general election. If they are not satisfying a majority of their constituency electorate, they will lose.

John Wilkin

Bury St Edmunds

Is the pursuit of independence selfish?

After reading your recent article about how it's finally been proved that generosity of spirit and person will eventually prevail over greed and acquisition to the detriment of others, it led me to ponder. At a time of Trump, Sturgeon, Farage, Wilders and Le Pen is the pursuit of independence (whatever that means to each of them?) selfish or selfless?

Will more division really benefit us? Putting aside the economics for a minute, when did division and separation truly benefit any of us?

In families, in business and in our everyday lives, it is our unity and empathy that strengthens and binds us in mutual benefit. Not every time, but more often than not. Before anymore politicians try to sell us anymore snake oil solutions to our problems or issues. I would ask them to think on. Please.

John Sinclair

East Riding

No use putting the cart before the horse

Economists and business are recommending HS2 be eventually extended to Scotland. I'd like to point out that having travelled up to Aberdeen and back for the past 25 years to work in the offshore oil industry, we're still waiting for a dual carriageway to cover the whole of the route. The funding for this keeps being taken to sort out the M25. When we have a transport minister who classes Birmingham as the North there's not much hope for the rest of the country.

Ken Twiss


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