• Gone for a Burton!

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    Above, today’s image is a montage of the Royal Arms of the now defunct Kingdom of the Two Sicilies over an image of the Elizabeth Tower of the Palace of Westminster. Whilst the heraldic achievement is known only to a small number, the image below it is world famous. The name of this world famous tower in which Big Ben is located was originally the Clock Tower; it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

    Those of us over a certain age will recall the expression “Gone for a Burton”. It was invented by some unknown person in or known to somebody in the RAF during World War II. It referred to a visit to the then well known high street tailors Montagu-Burton and was the British equivalent to the American expression “bought the farm” – in other words; missing in action. After 1945 it quickly became an expression to mean someone or something had met their/it’s end. Unlike the US expression this did not always mean the death of a person. I feel I have to describe this because many of our younger readers will have no idea about the expression or it’s origin.

    The reason for the use of the montage and the post’s title is the collapse of the retail empire of Sir Philip Green. The news service for the BSPC (British Society of the Politically Correct): Channel 4, report that Sir Philip has been described as “the unacceptable face of capitalism.”

    Of course, what really sticks in the British Left’s craw is that Sir Philip was made a Knight Bachelor (the lowest order of British knighthood) in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours, “For services to the Retail Industry” – during a period a Labour government was in office!

    Thus in 2016, the House of Commons approved a motion asking the Honours Forfeiture Committee to recommend Sir Philip’s knighthood be “cancelled and annulled”. 100 MPs voted in favour of the motion, the first time MPs have proposed someone be stripped of a knighthood. The vote was not binding on the government. Following Sir Philip paying £363m into the BHS pension scheme in 2017 nobody was surprised to learn that following a decision in 2018 not to ban Sir Philip from being a company director, Sir Philip was not be stripped of his knighthood.

    As night follows day, we can be sure that the British Left will again be calling for Sir Philip to loose his “K”! The Tories are likely to do nothing before all the issues relating to Sir Philip’s retail empire have been sorted out – which will take some time. A crucial factor of course will be up to Sir Philip himself! Ensconced in the sunnier climes of Monte Carlo, he has a decision to make. Not as serious as “Your money or your life?” but the considerably less serious “Your money or your K?” You see, Sir Philip has a decision to make. Does he make a voluntary contribution of around £350M into the pension scheme of his empire or not? If he does not, the scheme will enter government (taxpayer funded) protection and the beneficiaries of the scheme will receive reduced benefits – possibly a cut of around 10%. If he does he will be poorer by £350M. He is still a very wealthy man but his fortune has been reduced and £350M will make a very deep inroad on his now reduced net worth. Sir Philip knows what is at stake! His K! If he wants to keep being called “Sir Philip” it is going to cost him in the order of £350M! If he wishes to retain £350M of his reduced fortune, he will soon be back to being “Mr Green”!

    This of course is a decision for Sir Philip. Putting myself in his position, I would reflect on how the British Honours system has been changing for a long time now.

    Knighthoods have traditionally been awarded to senior public servants in both the civil service and the armed services. In the 1960s keen to show a new modern face the Labour government began to award honours to pop stars (some of whom had had run ins with the police). Since then this trend has accelerated. Sportsmen and sportswomen have for some time now being a popular choice for the politicians when it comes to handing out honours. Not only that but the class (grade) of honour has gone up. Whereas a sports person could have expected to receive a MBE, they receive an OBE. Whereas a sports person could have expected to receive an OBE, they receive a CBE. Whereas a sports person could have expected to receive a CBE, they receive a Knight Bachelor or the higher DBE in the case of women. Sometimes a very prominent sports person will receive a knighthood where in earlier times they would actually have received either a MBE or an OBE!

    This, like printing money eventually debases the system. This has happened before in monarchies. Back in the 19th Century the monarchs of the now defunct Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were in great difficulties and it’s monarchs found a splendid way of raising the cash they needed: This was by the simple and very cheap expedient of selling honours! As a result large numbers of knighthoods and hereditary titles of nobility were handed over for varying amounts of cash! Of course, the essential element of retailing – one which Sir Philip is of course extremely well acquainted with – is, “the more you pay, the more you get”! As a result, those social climbers on a budget were able to acquire a non hereditary knighthood whilst those social climbers able to and desirous of “splashing the cash” could acquire a hereditary dukedom! This resulted in two things: The coffers of the kingdom became full and their honours system became valueless.

    Of course in the UK selling honours is now an offence. However the modern practise of handing knighthoods admittedly to persons deserving an honour - because they happen to be persons with attributes (generally not associated with their achievement/s) admired by the politically correct such as belonging to a certain ethnic or faith group or having a particular sexual orientation - if sustained, eventually devalues the whole honours system.

    Doubtless, Sir Philip Green will take these things into his consideration as he ponders his situation.

    The advice the BG will give to Sir Philip is this: Stay safe! Which for Sir Philip means staying where he is – on his yacht in Monte! He is the wrong side of 60 and the wrong side of a healthy BMI to risk catching COVID-19!