Skeletons in the Closet: A Week of Tricks & Treats
Halloween was not the only terrifying (k)night this week, as Sir Philip Green once again reared his greasy head. You may remember the Topshop-owning tycoon from such scandals as the recent collapse of British Home Stores (BHS), which Green sold for £1 in 2015 as it began to fail – but only after he had sucked £586 million from the pension fund. Thus when BHS finally shut down there was a £571 million hole in the pockets of the now unemployed workforce. After much public outcry Sir Philip may have eventually put his hand into his pocket, but only to the tune of around £300 million, leaving many of his old employees struggling to make ends meet.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
Sounds lovely, doesn’t he? Over the last eight months the Telegraph has been investigating accusations of sexual harassment by a leading UK businessman who, due to court injunction, could not be named. This week, however, Lord Hain used the ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card of Parliamentary privilege to reveal that these accusations were the skeletons in the wardrobe of (surprise surprise) Sir Philip Green! And just when we all thought he was such a nice guy! Green, of course, denies the allegations, but I for one am pleased that Lord Hain has outed him. The courts should not have the right to curtail the right to freedom of speech from our national press. Just because Sir Philip has nicked enough pension cash to afford a legal team to hide his secrets does not mean that he should get away with his misdeeds. I support those who would like to see Green’s knighthood revoked due to his continuing unchivalrous behaviour – although considering he and his wife are estimated to be worth a combined £3.8 billion I’m not sure he’d be too worried. Investigations continue.
Two influential figures have announced their departures from the world of politics. The iron woman of Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was joined by that MAGA hat wearing nuisance, the artist formally known as Kanye West. One feels that the former’s departure may be felt somewhat more than the latter’s. Merkel, Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and at the helm of her party since 2000, announced this week that she would not be seeking re-election when her fourth term as Chancellor comes to an end in 2021, setting her leadership at a whopping 16 years. Recently her party, the Christian Democratic Union, has lost ground as more and more Germans turn towards the right-wing AFD party, coinciding with the worrying rise of pseudo-fascist parties across Europe. The announcement of the exit of this enduring Chancellor, who has stood firm as a moderating influence in European politics and in recent years come effectively to lead the EU, may further destabilise the EU, particularly when considering the ever-looming spectre of Brexit.
Meanwhile over in the US, Kanye West tweeted that his “eyes are now wide open” and that he’d been “used to spread messages [he] didn’t believe in.” Clearly his eyes aren’t quite open enough to realise he ended that sentence with a preposition, but let’s keep to baby steps for now. He went on to say that he would now be staying away from the world of politics, which can only give Trump a sigh of relief that he will not have to sit through another nonsensical meeting in the Oval Office… well, at least not with Kanye. Or should I say Ye, which is presumably short for ‘Yet another publicity stunt’?
Back in the UK it was Budget week (please try to contain your excitement). Yes, Chancellor Philip Hammond stood in front of the Commons for a full 70 minutes in what was promised to be an exciting cocktail of the last Budget before Brexit and the first since the Prime Minister announced the “end of austerity” at the party’s conference last month. However, it appears spreadsheet Phil lived up to his cabinet nickname by presenting the dullest speech in years, managing to pull the spooky Halloween trick of speaking for over an hour without actually saying anything.
This baffled the newspapers, who couldn’t quite reach a verdict on the Chancellor’s performance: the Express, Times, and Guardian seemed to agree that it was generally positive while the Mirror ran with the headline “Is that it?” The Metro decided that it was a Halloween Budget of “Tricks and Treats” whereas the Sun decided that there were “no tricks, just treats.” Despite the mixed messages, we should surely all be thankful that the UK press have the freedom to say as they wish, a fact that Sir Philip Green would do well to remember…
Next week, the results of the US Midterm elections: what Americans really think of Trump so far.