Should Philip Green be stripped of his knighthood?
John Oxley, an expert in law, history, and Conservative politics, says YES.
Knighthoods are honours, tied to historic notions of chivalry. They are awarded not just for achievement, but for character. Removing them is a public repudiation of bad behaviour. Leaving them in place is tacit approval.
As honours are symbolic, so too is confiscating them. It may be petty – but such pettiness also makes it possible. Legal sanctions require high levels of proof. Debasement of a knight, a more ephemeral punishment, does not mandate such onerous evidence.
A knight’s record should be spotless. Philip Green’s behaviour, both in the BHS scandal and concerning the allegations of sexual misconduct, has been far from exemplary. Chivalry is rooted in respect and magnanimity – virtues that Green seems to have little of. He satisfies neither modern nor ancient notions of how to behave.
Medieval debasement saw the villain’s spurs and sword broken in public, denounced as “not knight but knave”. Green’s behaviour is of the latter – his vanity should not be flattered with the title of the former.
Alex Deane, a Conservative commentator, says NO.
Perhaps it is useless in the age of high-frequency trading to expect people in the City to take a long view, or to refrain from rushing to judgment. But the presumption of innocence exists in our country, and for those whose cases look the worst it is needed the most.
Institutions such as the various orders of knighthood have existed for centuries. They mean something – and they look silly if awards are given and taken away on an ad hoc basis.
Certainly, withdraw a knighthood if someone is actually convicted. But damnation on the basis of a sniff test or unproven allegations is little better than a lynch mob, and the state should hold itself to higher standards.
If it hadn’t been obvious previously, after his repulsive Select Committee appearance in 2016, Philip Green was evidently someone with whom we might not wish to have a pint. But our own personal attitudes are very different to the objective tests required for this question.
Green’s alleged conduct may point to more robust tests before an award is made. But without a conviction, it is not an argument for stripping someone of it.