Please let the Kate Moss/Paltrow thing be true
The late John Mortimer famously divided the world into cavaliers and roundheads. Today, let us divide it into people who would attend Topshop boss Philip Green's 60th birthday party in Mexico, and people for whom one could retain any admiration. In truth, there is simply no one alive whose theoretical attendance at last week's extravaganza would not diminish them in some way. Were Nelson Mandela to have turned up, and swapped one of his idiosyncratic shirts for the PG60-branded ones guests were required to wear, even he could surely have not shaken off all charges of a tarnished legacy.
But before we run away with ourselves, the facts. Green – the "efficiency tsar" David Cameron hired to rail against government profligacy – turned 60 the other day, and raised the curtain on budget week with a four-day party in Mexico estimated to have cost £6m. Sir Phil's wife Tina instructed the 150 guests to turn up with their passports and warm-weather clothes to Luton airport last Tuesday, where they were loaded into private jets and whisked off to a sw***y beach resort in Cancun, hired by Phil in its entirety. Various modifications were required – for instance, the construction of a nightclub.
Naturally, what the Greens do with their money is nothing to do with us – indeed, it's way above the paygrade of the chancellor, what with 92% of Philip's Arcadia Group being in Tina's name, and her being resident in Monaco. But we shall come to the many boons of the couple's tax avoidance later.
In the meantime, the event underscored nothing so much as the instinctive sociability of the super-rich. Joining Sir Phil to celebrate were dear old friends such as Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Campbell, and all manner of others who'd adore him even if he were an ordinary Joe. Alas, any perusal of such a guest list is bound to bring its personal disappointments – Lost in Showbiz had thought better of Leonardo DiCaprio, but is obviously going to have to make its peace with the fact that the actor must think Phil is a complete card. Indeed, pictures of DiCaprio and Green laughing it up a couple of years ago in Flavio Briatore's Sardinian nightclub Billionaire would appear to confirm that special relationship.
As for how the guests disported themselves, it seems a riot of different events were on offer. Music at two soirees came courtesy of hired acts Stevie Wonder and Robbie Williams, while a beach barbecue was serenaded by the Beach Boys. Obviously.
And a good time was had by all, no doubt, with the only discordant note to emerge courtesy of an anonymously sourced story [edited], sadly denied by one of the participants. Still, if it is not literally true, it certainly has psychological truth, and finds Gwyneth Paltrow exercising on the resort's beach, only to be spotted by Kate Moss, who was apparently "eating crisps". "Oi," quoth Mossy, according to the report. "What are you out jogging for?" Gwyneth's reply? "So I don't look like you when I'm old." (For the record, she is 39, while Moss is 38.) Kate is said to have retaliated by throwing crisps and inquiring: "Why don't you eat some f***ing carbs?"
Well, Joan and Bette it ain't – although, it's not the hardest feud on which to pick a side. Your choice is between Kate, who always looks to be having an admirably good time and won't be lying on her deathbed wishing she'd done more detoxing cleanses; and Gwyneth, who will continue to lecture the world with the cocktail of cod-spirituality and junk science that she apparently imagines to pass for a philosophy.
But we must leave such gilded spats, for it is, of course, the timing of Phil's shindig that is so eye-catching. What better moment than this very week for the country to be reminded of Sir Phil – a chap whom Cameron's government did not wish merely to associate with, but to charge with lecturing Whitehall on how to spend its money?
And so to Green's fabled efficiency review, which was published more than a year ago, but acquires new resonance in this week of tax debate. What, we must ask ourselves once again, was the thinking behind his appointment? Perhaps the coalition went for Sir Phil to avoid any charges of a conflict of interest – after all, given where Tina lives, no one could accuse Sir Phil of having any influence over how her taxes should be spent. Perhaps they were working on the wildly misplaced assumption that Sir Phil is some kind of national treasure.
Whatever they were going for, what they got was roundly criticised. Green's conclusions were either so obvious that they had been suggested by at least three previous reports, or so naive as to have been apparently inserted for comic effect. Delaying payment to suppliers was one gem, which might be fine for Topshop, but would be less so for a state in tough times when credit is tight. But the standout was Phil suddenly deciding government needed "centralised procurement" – an idea that would mark him out as an unlikely Marxist were it anything else than the logical conclusion of someone so imaginatively limited they assumed that retail and the massive, complex and necessarily more flexible apparatus of any state were analogous.
The government did not pay for Sir Phil's expert advice in material terms, but it should surely pay for it in reputational terms, this being one of its most telling appointments. To this end, let us salute the efficiency tsar for serendipitously holding his £6m party in the very week that the chancellor cut the top rate of income tax for the rich schmucks who even deign to pay it. We can only await the opportunity to press our noses up against the glass of his 65th birthday bash – safe in the knowledge that Tina's party-planning budget will be unaffected by the granny tax.
Edited by Macca, 23 March 2012 - 06:56 pm.