MPs had planned to hold a vote on whether Sir Philip Green should be stripped of his knighthood. In the event, they didn’t – because they didn’t need to. The motion was approved without opposition. Not a single MP disagreed.
For two and a half hours they’d debated it. Well, I say “debated”, but a debate needs two sides. This was more like a queue on the village green, with MPs taking turns to pelt the former boss of BHS with oratorical fruit.
David Winnick (Lab, Walsall North) called Sir Philip “a billionaire spiv” who had “shamed British capitalism”. Frank Field (Lab, Birkenhead) called him a “very successful traditional asset stripper”. Ian Blackford (SNP, Ross, Skye & Lochaber) said Sir Philip’s “paws are filthy”, and that “he lined his pockets and didn’t stop to think about his employees”.
At one point, they even discussed which historical tyrant he most reminded them of. Mr Field suggested Napoleon. Dennis Skinner (Lab, Bolsover) disagreed; Sir Philip was much more like Robert Maxwell. (As a matter of fact, they were both wrong. The correct answer is Baron Greenback, the villainous cartoon toad in the 1980s children’s TV series Danger Mouse. Disappointingly no MP made the comparison.)
The most blistering condemnation of all, though, came from Iain Wright, Labour MP for Hartlepool and chairman of the business select committee. Sir Philip, he said coldly, “took the rings from BHS’s fingers, beat it black and blue, starved it of food and water, put it on life support – and then wanted credit for keeping it alive.”
A brutally vivid image. But I suspect the line most likely to get under Sir Philip’s skin was another of Mr Wright’s. At BHS, he said, we learnt that the so-called King of Retail “wasn’t particularly good at retail at all”.
Stripping him of his knighthood, though: what would that actually achieve? Mr Winnick – who acted as if it had already happened, by referring to Sir Philip throughout simply as “Green” – acknowledged that it wouldn’t “make any financial difference to those who have been affected”. On the other hand, he said with satisfaction, Sir Philip “would intensely dislike it”. So it was at least worth it for that.
After the clobbering was over, the deputy speaker asked MPs whether they were in favour of the motion. Normally in these circumstances, some MPs shout “Aye!”, some “No!”, and the matter is put to a vote. This time, though, there were no noes. The Commons had decreed Sir Philip should go back to being plain old Mr Green. Strictly, MPs don’t have the power to carry out this punishment; that’s a decision for a body called the honours forfeiture committee. But it would be a surprise if the committee defied the will of the Commons.
In this article I’ve used the words “Sir Philip” 10 times. Perhaps he should print it out to keep as a memento. Just in case he doesn’t see them written down again.
H/t reader squodgy:
“Amazing how with all the evidence available, nobody dare join the words JEW and SPIV together in one sentence.
Bloody Jew over-representation, liberal political correctness and fear of the yid.
What.a gutless bunch of girls.”