24 September 2015

Why does Michelle Mone need a taxpayer-owned chauffeur-driven Jaguar?


There’s a curious story in a number of newspapers about Michelle Mone, the “lingerie tycoon”. She tweeted a picture from inside the rather nice Jaguar she has been lent – with driver – by the taxpayer. This prompted complaints that she was showing off and all the rest of it. The tweet, or post, on Twitter was then taken down.

Put to one side the “fantasy capitalism” aspect of the row, in which the government drives a business person to visit poor neighbourhoods and write a report for the Department of Work and Pensions on why it is difficult to start a business if you are from a deprived background. It’s bananas, when you think about it. The government employs thousands of civil servants and there are plenty of academics who could be commissioned to conduct a serious study of these important questions that might then shape policy. But no, in this celebrity age, the government wants a shiny name to do it, who then gets driven around in a Jaguar, paid for by you and me, the poor old taxpayer. Of course Mone was also awarded a peerage (I wrote about the background to that appointment here).

The Tory leadership is so in thrall to this celebrity business stuff that I’m told they even got Karen Brady (ex-Sport newspapers, ally of David Sullivan, ex-Apprentice, now Baroness Brady) to give a speech on how to run a business, in a room in which sat astonished Conservative-supporting business people who have made squillions by running many highly successful businesses.

But what baffles me most about the Mone Jaguar story is this. Why does the new Tory peer even need to borrow such a car paid for by the taxpayer? She was made a peer and a business “Tsar” on the strength of her extraordinary success which is said by the tabloids to have brought untold riches. The tabloids say she is worth tens of millions of pounds.Well, she must have a nice car and a driver of her own, surely? Mustn’t she? Why not use that instead?

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX