All The More Reason

On Getting Your Knickers in a Twist
June 21, 2007, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Iraq, Joseph Corre

The absurdly pious emissions of lingerie magnate Joseph Corre, spunked all over the front page of today’s Independent, serve as an object lesson in self-importance and, as such, I think that they deserve a (very marginally) wider audience.

Mr Corre has decided, after a period of reflection, to return the MBE afforded to him in the Queen’s birthday honours list. Although his inclusion on the list of the great and good was only announced last week he had, like all those receiving honours, a considerable amount of advance notice of his award. Ample time, one would think, in which to ‘wrestle with his conscience’ over the morality of accepting the honour on the recommendation of a Prime Minister for whose foreign policy he has so much distaste. We shall have to take his word for it that it was some unidentifiable epiphany after the official list was published – and not, say, the incredulous bleating of his fashionista chums in the queue for the toilet at Soho House – that eventually tipped the bout in favour of his scruples.

What’s not to like about this piece? There’s the gloriously saccharine humility of the whole thing, which begins to cloy after the very first paragraph in which he introduces himself as “simply a businessman who co-founded a company called Agent Provocateur, which makes knickers and has had the good fortune to be successful”. Aw, shucks! It would be churlish of me to suggest that this diffidence has been undermined to some extent by his decision to print his unexceptional opinions on the front page of a national newspaper, beneath a picture of his own face.

We are treated to fabulous glimpses of the monstrous ego that lurks beneath his immaculately tailored hairshirt at reassuringly regular intervals. Joseph Corre would be – and in fact is – the first to admit that he is a man of ‘cultural importance’. He could have taken the coward’s way out and written “a private letter to Tony Blair” but opted, like Zola before him, to declaim his target in the increasingly yellow glare of the Independent’s ‘Page One’ spotlight. J’accuse!

There’s a telling piece of praise for ‘a tax regime which created an environment in which my business could thrive’, and then it’s on with the main course. Tony Blair is to blame for everything from torture to the corrosion of democracy itself (the evidence for which, ironically enough, is the Prime Minister’s refusal to submit to the demands of hundreds of thousands of protesters). We learn that the war (based on a lie- natch) was cooked up for ‘economic reasons’- all of which, we are told in the most morally chaotic section of his screed, would have been fair enough –‘admirable’ even- so long as he had owned up to the fact beforehand. These sound more like the words of a businessman ruing the loss of the all important Najaf crotchless thong market than the anguished cries of a bold humanitarian.

Indeed, the more parochial concerns of his own organisation are allowed to intrude, briefly, when he is at strange pains to emphasise that his actions are made in a ‘personal’ capacity and are ‘ nothing to do with my company’- a qualification which leaves the door ajar to the tantalising prospect of Agent Provocateur coming out in favour of extraordinary rendition, water boarding or American imperialism (so long as the tax environment allows them to thrive).

His article, like his line of business, tries, and fails, to conceal a load of old fanny. But for all Joseph Corre’s arm-waving and attention seeking, you can’t help but feel that the bigger fool in all of this is the Independent. I don’t know how common full page adverts on the front of their newspaper are, but I would wager one tenth of Corre’s fee that this is the first time the Independent has paid for one itself.

Michael P


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