5 May 2019
I’ve been missing the spring sound of cuckoos and the thought of their parasitic lifestyle inevitably made me think of Philip Green’s latest activities. He’s now reported to have offered landlords a stake in his business and to invest £100m in revamping what’s left of it if they back a deal. One expert commentator said “Particularly with Green, they are not going to look kindly on him saying: ‘I can’t afford the rent’ when he is sailing around in a £100m yacht.”
He now wants to halve payments into Arcadia’s staff pension fund although Green had recently, when BHS collapsed under his ‘leadership’, agreed to pay £300m (about half the shortfall) back into their pension fund just after a serious proposal to remove his knighthood emerged.
People know that Taveta (Arcadia’s parent company) paid £25m in 2017 to his wife in connection with loan notes linked to BHS; and landlords can remember when the Green family stripped £1.2bn out of Arcadia back in 2005 when it was the largest payout in corporate history.
(The huge difference between millions and billions is often misunderestimated (well, it was good enough for George W Bush and I rather like it) but is easy to explain: if you save £1 every second, it’ll take you just over 11½ days to save £1m. If you carry on saving £1 every second, it’ll take almost 32 years to reach £1bn.)
Let’s hope this week’s election results lead to a fundamental reform of our electoral system: in East Devon, the Conservatives lost 15 seats and the independents gained 13 so they now control the district council. Our local independent candidate got 956 votes against the Conservative’s 285. The Conservative is actually a nice man who has played his part in village life but his manifesto claimed that the Conservative-led council had already “accrued” (his word, not mine) over 4,000 houses for the rental market (or, in English, they concreted over a lot of local fields and woods and farmland).
Nationally, Jeremy Hunt, who might see himself as the next prime minister (presumably because he thinks he wouldn’t be quite as unacceptable as either Johnson or Gove), said after the results were known that “It is actually in both parties’ interests to resolve this because we will both be punished equally hard by our core voters.” Or, in English, a lot of us will lose our seats and we’ll have to go back to stacking shelves in Tesco.
Despite being considerably uninterested in sport, I was concerned about this week’s decision in Caster Semenya’s case against the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, which has rules about differences in sexual development (DSDs). We all know that gender doesn’t just mean male or female but covers a whole spectrum of different shades of femininity and masculinity and some sports, including athletics, are divided into male events and female events. Semenya has been breaking records in women’s races but the IAAF have now decided that her DSDs are too skewed towards the male end of gender so, if she wants to compete again, she must take potentially harmful chemicals to reduce her testosterone levels.
In effect, the IAAF have introduced a third gender into their events: high testosterone people (normally male), low testosterone people (normally female) and people with middling testosterone levels who they consider are neither male nor female, regardless of the gender the athletes concerned have chosen for themselves, who therefore need to be ‘adjusted’ to be one or the other.
I understand they want to make things ‘fairer’ but where do you draw the line? I haven’t the foggiest how they measure testosterone but let’s say it’s on a scale of 0-100. Let’s also say that ‘women’ are supposed to have 0-40 and ‘men’ 60-100, leaving people having 41-59 needing medication if they want to compete as ‘women’. Supposing you score 40 and I score 41 – how fair is that?
And why is it fair that people with longer legs or bigger lungs are allowed to get away with their advantages? Shouldn’t there be a maximum leg length, with longer-legged people requiring leg-shortening surgery if they want to compete, and compulsory smoking for those with larger lungs?
Interestingly, the IAAF don’t segregate women and men over longer distances so it’s been suggested that Semenya could start running in 5,000 metre races instead. Perhaps they’re only unequal over shorter distances because women are better at keeping going for longer while men are only good for short spurts.