Ted Heath goes everywhere

How a newstatesman.com exclusive by Tory Brian Coleman about Ted Heath cottaging got picked up every

A few days ago a US Magazine decided to out a couple of well known Americans. Outing's been a contentious issue for a number of years now here in Britain so I asked Peter Tatchell of Outrage and Conservative politician Brian Coleman to put their views.

Tatchell is well known for his stance on queer rights and has, in the past, outed people whom he feels have been hypocritical. You can read his case by clicking here.

Openly gay politician Coleman meanwhile was to argue that people in the public eye were entitled to a private life. In the course of making his case he outed a couple of former colleagues (deleted for legal reasons), dropped in a tiny aside about George Michael (ditto) and then went on to say that former Tory PM Ted Heath used to go cruising.

It was one of those stories that got picked up everywhere - which as you can imagine was quite pleasing from where I sit.

It's only right therefore that I thank Brian for deciding to launch his bid to become the Tory candidate for London Mayor on this website. More from him later I suspect...

There's been plenty of other stuff going on here at Terminal House - where newstatesman.com is based. We've had articles from Kate Hudson, the chairwoman of CND and from Elijah Zarwan of Human Rights Watch.

We've had children from all over the world writing about Global Education Action Week

Plus incisive commentary on the French elections on Le Blog and our British version, Election 2007, is up now too. It's written by journalists, politicians, academics and New Statesman readers from across the UK. It's a comprehensive guide to the key battles on 3 May and we'll have multiple daily updates from Scotland, Wales and the English regions.

You can't have missed coverage of Boris Yeltsin's passing but you may have missed this quote:

The dead president's former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin apparently said: "We hoped for the best, but things turned out as usual."

Well Viktor let's face it, you don't get immortal on that quantity of vodka...

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.