ONE of the greatest con tricks ever perpetrated on a credulous public was the myth of the “self-made” billionaire. The Great British entrepreneur.
Individuals who pulled themselves up by their boot straps and by dint of hard work and acumen rose to the top of the heap.
“That is the capitalist dream,” they intone with dewy-eyed admiration, conveniently ignoring the fact that when it comes to capitalism one man’s dream is invariably a nightmare for thousands of others.
This was brought home rather forcibly this week with the cases of erstwhile BHS owner and Topshop tycoon Sir Philip Green and Sports Direct lard-bucket-in-chief and Newcastle United dictator Mike Ashley.
Both are the very embodiment of the grasping fat cat, unprincipled, avaricious, bullying and totally ruthless.
Green of course bled BHS dry to the tune of hundreds of millions, squirrelling it away in his wife’s offshore account to avoid paying tax on it before discarding the husk like so much detritus with thousands of workers’ livelihoods and pensions along with it.
He flogged the business for a quid to what appears to have been the closest thing he could find to a second-hand car salesman, Dominic Chappell, who then proceeded to plunder what was left of the carcass and run the business into the ground.
In the space of less than 12 months between the pair of them they managed to bring a flagship retailer to its knees.
It transpired that Chappell, far from being a “turnaround” specialist as he claimed, had no experience in retail whatsoever and effectively used BHS as his own cash cow, finishing the job Green began.
In testimony before a parliamentary committee this week, former senior figures at BHS branded Chappell a liar, a mythomaniac and basically a moron.
Chappell in turn attacked Green for not doing enough to help, failing to attract sufficient investment and scuppering a buyout deal by Ashley and then demanding the repayment of a £35 million loan, sinking an already listing vessel well below the waterline.
If it wasn’t so disgusting it would be hilarious watching all these money-grubbing bastards fighting like rats in a sack.
It got even more interesting when Ashley himself was hauled before the committee. The Sports Direct boss has been criticised in the past for failing to communicate properly with the media.
If his performance this week was anything to go by you can see why he prefers to keep his gob shut.
His testimony to the committee was a car crash of spectacular proportions.
In the space of a couple of hours he admitted that his firm paid many workers below minimum wage and unlawfully forced them to queue for 15 minutes for invasive security checks, for which time their pay was docked.
As the Unite union accurately put it, these are the conditions of the Victorian workhouse, not 21st-century retail.
Then things got really bizarre. In a feeble attempt at mitigation Ashley told the committee: “I’m not Father Christmas, I’m not saying I’ll make the world wonderful.”
No, you’re more like the anti-Santa: a big fat bastard who goes around stealing food from the mouths of children.
On the issue of ending sexual harassment in the workplace, he somewhat unconvincingly suggested to the committee that he would do just that before blotting his copy book yet again by adding: “Simple as that fellas. Not just fellas. Girls. Sorry.”
And this idiot is in charge of a multibillion-pound business empire.
But he wasn’t finished yet: “I can’t be responsible for everything that goes on at Sport Direct. I can’t be,” he wheedled.
Er, yes you can. That’s what being the boss means you parasitical scumbag.
And, speaking of parasites in charge of multibillion-pound empires, yesterday saw the usual insufferably fawning tributes to the Queen on the occasion of her “official” birthday.
Nicholas Witchell was exhumed yet again from whatever cryogenic lab they keep him in the rest of the time to lead the hagiographies.
Swiftly followed by the traditional conga line of sycophants, hangers-on and nationalistic nutjobs who always crawl out from their union flag-painted rocks at such junctures.
The workshy idler only had her other birthday a few weeks ago yet once more we are informed it is our patriotic duty to celebrate our continued subjugation by a family of unreconstructed German fascists.
Three whole days of “celebrations” have been announced, which is only slightly longer than it took English thugs to start fighting the locals in Marseille in the build-up to the European Championships.
It makes you proud to be British doesn’t it?
Historically, three days is also usually only slightly less time than it takes the English team to be sent home in ignominy.
Enjoy your jingoistic jamboree — this column is going into hibernation until it’s all over.