SOMEWHAT predictably the recent appointment of Sir Philip Green to the post of efficiency tsar is turning out to be one of the most ill-judged moves of the government’s (reasonably successful) first 100 days.
The tycoon’s call-up has cruelly exposed the differences in policy between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on tax avoidance.
This in itself made it a risky appointment. But because of the cack-handed way in which the affair has been managed, it has a kamikaze look about it.
In a smoothly functioning government machine the business secretary Vince Cable should not have heard of Green’s appointment from the political editor of City A.M.
Then those in the government who were in the know, such as Danny Alexander, should have been more proactive in arguing why it thinks Sir Green’s own tax arrangements are not relevant to the task he has in hand. Any fool could have told him this question was going to be high on most people’s agendas.
Next, the government’s spin machine – sorry, but I’m sure I knew the Prime Minister himself when he was a spin doctor – should have primed Green to expect the kind of question that our political editor put to him (“did your tax affairs come up in discussion with government prior to your appointment?”) and he should have been able to respond in a calm and measured way.
It was naive of him and the government not to have done such preparation. Especially when the Lib Dems prior to the election campaigned so vociferously against British business people avoiding tax.
Green himself has gone from strength to strength since leaving the public company arena in the early 1990s. But he is a businessman better suited to the private company arena and, by the evidence of the last few days, will struggle to cope with the goldfish bowl world of government.
He may well be a retail genius. Certainly few others in the sector appear to rival him.
But he is thin-skinned; his four letter word outbursts are legendary and, with his family based in Monaco and his lavish parties, he is probably the last person one thinks of when hearing chancellor George Osborne’s well-worn phrase: “We’re all in this together.”
Many Lib Dems rightly feel they were sidelined over the appointment of Green.?It is unlikely they will let this one rest.
Those who have just come back from their holiday will probably be wishing they had a few more days by the poolside.
Well, those kind people at the City law firm Allen & Overy have come up with a scheme whereby partners can get an extra 52 days a year off to help them juggle their family commitments – or sit by the poolside.
The main reason for the move is to encourage women on the verge of becoming partners to stay on with the firm.
Allen & Overy says 62 per cent of its recent graduate intake was female but only 16 per cent of its current partners are of the fairer sex. The scheme will apply to men and women equally and for those who take it up their pay will be adjusted accordingly.
It’s a scheme that will be difficult to put into practice but it deserves to work. Have a great weekend.
Allister Heath is away.