If the Brewster’s Millions remake ever does make it off the ground, we must hope its writer had their eyes on the House of Lords at precisely 2.43pm on Thursday afternoon.
In case you don’t know, the jeopardy in the old Richard Pryor classic is that an ordinary guy has to blow $30m in thirty days in order to win an even larger cash prize, and, crucially, have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. No possessions, no assets, nothing.
And what better way to set fire to your cash, right here in 2018, than to pay some lawyers to gag a newspaper so that it can’t print a series of sexual harassment allegations against you.
On Thursday morning, there was a fair bit of mirth about regarding Facebook’s derisory £500,00 fine over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It takes the company, apparently, a full six minutes to earn that much cash.
But six minutes, it turns out, is a very long time in the life cycle of five-hundred grand. Because that’s the same amount, we are led to believe, that Sir Philip Green paid his lawyers to prevent the Daily Telegraph from naming him as the subject of sexual harassment allegations they had intended to publish.
And it took former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain, now Lord Hain of Neath, around twenty eight seconds to send that not inconsiderable sum up in flames, burnt on the altar of parliamentary privilege.
The Lords was switching between a debate on Brexit to another on immigration when Lord Hain just stood up, rather unassumingly, and read out the following words:
“My Lords, having been contacted by someone intimately involved in the case of a powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying, which is compulsively continuing, I feel it’s my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of this story which is clearly in the public interest.”
Scarcely a murmur was heard. He sat down again and the house returned to business as usual. There’d been eighteen months of journalistic inquiry. There’d been lengthy legal battles.
Back in 1985, Brewster rightly worked out that costly political campaigns from which you then stand down, rare stamps that you post in the mail, and unwise investment in your favourite sports teams were the best way to blow your money up the wall.
Here in 2018, it could hardly be clearer that the smart move for those wishing to relieve themselves of vast sums of money for absolutely no gain whatsoever, is to invest it in censorship right in the middle of the age of information.
It’s fair to assume Sir Philip still has a fair few hundreds of thousands left to console himself with. Still, for the next rich guy that comes along with his army of lawyers, £500,000 in twenty eight seconds – that’s a record that could stand for a while.
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