Hugo Rifkind Hugo Rifkind

Thank God for Sir Philip Green, the perfect modern hate figure

Hating him is easy. It’s rather harder to see what he’s done that isn’t basically business as usual

Good old Sir Philip Green. Where would we be without him? So often, those national hate figures let you down. That lady who put a cat in a bin in 2010, for example. Bit of a tragic loony, in the end. Likewise Tony Blair. Not this one. His diamond has no flaw, and we can all join in. He’s perfectly awful in every way.

He looks the part, too. Rich-guy hair, of the sort most rich guys don’t deign to have any more. Nonexistent at the front, lacquered and far too long at the back. Brilliant. Clothes that don’t quite fit, because he clearly pays a stylist to tell him they do. Graydon Carter’s description of Donald Trump — ‘short-fingered vulgarian’ — fits him like, well, a glove.

There is snobbery in the debasement of Sir Philip. Yes, I know he rode BHS into the ground and then scarpered, and all the rest, but come on, you know it’s there. Were he a tall, clear-skinned, Brylcreemed Old Etonian rampaging capitalist vampire bastard, then the hate would have a wholly different shape. He’d sit in our minds as a Bond villain or an oligarch. Instead, he’s there as a sort of counter-jumping ITV2 cash-hoovering spiv; less Goldfinger, more Doshfinger. Gloriously though, that’s all validated, because he seems to have no social-climbing pretensions at all. He acts, shouts and lives like a yobbo done good, and so class-ridden Britain gets to call him one and not feel bad about it.

Nobody has his back. And while in other circumstances this might make him the plucky outsider, the guy who soared and soared despite the establishment never giving him a break, that’s clearly not true either, what with the knighthood.

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