Many moons ago, when I had the stamina and was young enough to stay out until 3am, I found myself on the end of an excoriating phone call from Sir Philip Green.
It was full of expletives. Eff this and eff that. The billionaire retail boss was fuming because our showbiz column in the Daily Mirror had revealed the details of his secret 55th birthday party in the Maldives.
The exclusive bash cost an estimated £20million and the surprise guest was superstar George Michael. Not one of the 100 guests was supposed to know. Oops.
He ended the call screaming: “You better figure out how you’re going to f***ing fix this”, before slamming down the phone.
Talk about first world problems!
I was reminded of that call on Monday when the news broke that his company Arcadia had gone into administration, putting 13,000 jobs in jeopardy.
Phil, according to reports, was holed up on his £100m superyacht, Lionheart, in Monaco. Was he trying everything he could to “f***ing fix things?” As a regular on the Sunday Times Rich List, goodness knows he could afford to. I don’t know.
What we do know is that Arcadia –which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis, among others – has gone bust. The bleak news also saw the end of Debenhams, which had been in talks with JD Sports over a £300m takeover, but those collapsed for good this week.
The loss of these retail giants is a huge tragedy for the thousands of people facing a Christmas with no work.
But it’s also a tragedy for a generation of young people, so many of whom would have got their first jobs in the retail sector working in many of these stores.
I got my first Saturday job at 16 and it was so important financially – my family didn’t have a lot of money – and it also was an important first step into the world of work.
With jobs being lost at an alarming rate, and thousands of people applying for the few jobs out there, what chance have young people got of getting their feet in the door?
Between 2007 and 2009 the Government spent £136.6billion rescuing failed banks during the financial crisis, a crisis caused by the financial industry itself.
From March to the end of July, the Government has spent £18bn alone awarding contracts to support its response to Covid-19.
Those contracts and their lack of transparency are now being investigated by the National Audit Office.
With tens of thousands of jobs at stake here, I can’t understand why the Government isn’t doing everything it can to rescue these businesses and keep them afloat until we’re through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic? Especially when none of this is the fault of the workers.
It’s a national disgrace.