Sir Martin Sorrell is Chief Executive of WPP, the largest advertising group in the world. Today, WPP announced profits of £663 million. This morning, Sir Martin Sorell pontificated in an interview on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme. With WPP’s headquarters and main listing in London, you would expect these results to be great news for UK plc. But they are not. Sir Martin Sorrell moved WPP’s domicile to Ireland for tax avoidance purposes in 2008. The move will cost the UK £185 million in 2010 and, most likely, more than £1 billion over the next decade. Of course, Ireland will benefit to the tune of £82 million, but Ireland did not provide Sir Martin Sorrell with his knighthood for ‘commercial services’, his Cambridge education, the professional and financial services infrastructure which allowed him to make his name with Saatchi & Saatchi, or the education, healthcare, transport, legal and social security systems on which his Company and its employees depend.
Cantankerous frequently condemns the wastefulness of the British state. However, Sir Martin Sorrell’s actions are clearly deeply unpatriotic and ungrateful and would be condemned as such without hesitation in other major economies such as France, Germany, Japan or the United States. While the size of the UK state is in urgent need of reduction, we still face a fiscal crisis, in part as a result of the huge state-funded stimulus package of which WPP has been a significant beneficiary. Sir Martin Sorrell knows all about financial crises from the near-collapse of WPP. The UK needs to maximise its income and minimise its expenditure. Sir Martin Sorrell has ensured that WPP will be contributing to the cost of Irish roads, schools, courts and banking system bailout when Ireland has invested virtually nothing in his, or WPP’s, success.
In earlier times, Martin Sorrell’s betrayal would have been called treason, and the Knight would have ended his life in the Tower of London. Today, we need to remember how to condemn such behaviour. Sir Martin Sorrell should be stripped of his knighthood and ostracised. Sir Martin Sorrell’s treachery should be as unacceptable as that of Anthony Blunt who did lose his knighthood. Sorrell’s actions have real consequences – life-saving treatments unavailable, decent equipment for the armed forces unaffordable. He should not be able to appear on the Today programme without being challenged. Why is the BBC interviewing the Chief Executive of a Jersey registered company domiciled in the Irish Republic in any case? Let RTE do the job instead.
While Allied troops were liberating Majdandek in July 1944, Ireland was busy doing nothing. When Auschwitz was liberated by Allied soldiers in January 1945, Ireland was busy maintaining its moral and legal neutrality. Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau were liberated by British and American soldiers in April 1945. How is it possible to be neutral about the Holocaust? Yet worse was to come. On 30 April 1945, well aware of the barbaric horrors of the Final Solution, and against advice of many of his advisers, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, de Valera, visited the Nazi ambassador to Dublin, Edouard Hemple, to express his condolences on the death of Hitler. The Prime Minister of Ireland signed the book of condolence in full knowledge of the death of millions in the concentration and extermination camps. This could be dismissed as an individual repugnant error of judgement had the President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, not visited the Nazi ambassador to do the same on 3 May 1945. More than two weeks earlier, on 15 April 1945, Richard Dimbleby reported on the liberation of Bergen-Belsen for the BBC:
Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which … The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms … He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.
The Irish State’s policy was repugnant and unique. Even ally Japan did not send condolences. No Irish head of state has ever apologised despite worldwide condemnation at the time and ever since. Cantankerous wonders what the British Jewish community must make of Sorrell’s morally ambiguous search for a lower corporation tax rate. Surely some things are more important than money. Holocaust survivor, Hadassah Rosensaft, certainly never forgot the role of the British state in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen:
We heard a loud voice repeating the same words in English and in German: “Hello, hello. You are free. We are British soldiers and have come to liberate you.” These words still resound in my ears.
Shame on you, Sir.