SARAH VINE: Banter of any kind might now be seen as ‘abuse’ but going after ogres like Sir Philip Green misses the real villains like Harvey Weinstein

About 700 years ago, when I was an eager young newbie working on a tabloid newspaper, I occasionally had to visit the compositors’ floor in the basement of our Fleet Street building.

This was a wild and smoke-filled place, dominated by bearded blokes whose skills with ‘hot metal’ are long since forgotten.

They were known as the ‘beer monsters’ — both on account of their thirst and their terrifying reputation for ‘monstering’ hapless emissaries from upper floors.

It was something of a rite of passage to be sent down there, into the inky bowels of the building. The language was blue and crude and no one was spared.

But, nerve-racking as that was, I can honestly say I never felt threatened by those men.

Yes, they were rough and rude and smelled like badgers — but sexually intimidating? Not a chance. They would have been utterly bemused by the notion.

I was reminded my earlier days in journalism when Philip Green (pictured in Los Angeles) — who is accused of committing various acts of brutish behaviour by anonymous former employees — attempted to disentangle himself from the web of public outrage by claiming that many of the things he’d said were only ‘banter’, writes SARAH VINE 

I was reminded of those days when Philip Green — who is accused of committing various acts of brutish behaviour by anonymous former employees — attempted to disentangle himself from the web of public outrage by claiming that many of the things he’d said were only ‘banter’.

‘I’ve been in business for more than 40 years,’ he told the Mail on Sunday. 

‘There has obviously from time to time been some banter, but as far as I’m concerned that’s never been offensive.’

Naturally, his protests fell on deaf ears. If anything, he provoked further outrage from feminists who claimed he was belittling the experiences of his ‘victims’: a crime known as ‘second abuse’ (even before the first has been proven).

But, whatever the precise details behind those non-disclosure agreements, I do feel some small shred of sympathy, even for an ogre like Green.


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Banter of any kind is now seen as ‘abuse’. Banter of the kind I learnt to deal with in my 20s; banter of the kind that so many women of my generation grew up with. A bit risque, a bit naughty, a little daring or close to the bone. 

Funny, even, provided you have the same sense of humour. The problem here is that, clearly, some of Sir Philip’s employees did not. Hence the complaints. 

Yet, unless or until he is exposed as something more villainous, I am tempted to conclude that Green’s chief error was in employing one too many snowflakes.

I should say, at this point, that I am by no means an admirer. I thought the way he behaved over the closure of BHS was utterly vile and rapacious.

The fact that he shamelessly flaunts his wealth in the most crass and ostentatious of ways does not help, either. He is vulgar, brash, rude and intensely obnoxious. But is he a career sex pest?

I’d wager he’s more likely just a socially awkward man of a certain age and a certain generation who struggles to communicate with women, especially young ones.

Sir Philip Green is pictured with his wife Lady Christina Green in London in November last year

He’s also clearly a bully with an abrasive style of doing business and is as petulant as he’s childish. All very unpleasant traits. But not the same as being a new Weinstein.

He is, like those ‘beer monsters’ of my youth, a relic of a bygone age. Someone whose past behaviour now leaves him exposed in a fast-evolving post #MeToo climate. 

A piece of rotting, low-hanging fruit ripe for revenge-seeking feminists too wrapped up in their own mission to tackle the real villains. Of which, as we saw again this week with the revelation of yet more grooming gangs targeting underage girls, there are plenty.

When we’re living in our sanitised utopia — mentally cleansed of all impure thoughts, sipping our vegan chai lattes and looking forward to another thrilling weekend of meditation — we may even find ourselves missing the days when we could have a bit of banter.

Or, at least, I will.

Kick off your heels, Victoria  

I know Mrs Beckham has a fashion label to promote, but surely the one place even she might let down her fashion guard is beachside in Sydney.

But no: here Victoria is in bright-red stilettos, snapping stony-faced selfies, while her youngest children, Harper and Cruz, frolic in the waves.

If only she’d kick off those heels occasionally and feel the sand — real and metaphorical — between her toes, who knows . . . she might even enjoy herself.

Here Victoria Beckham is in bright-red stilettos, snapping stony-faced selfies, while her youngest children, Harper and Cruz, frolic in the waves, writes SARAH VINE 

 One of our resident teenagers had her phone confiscated for a week by the school.

Honestly, it was as though they’d removed a limb: howls of anguish, tears, trying to hack into my iPad.

But then, the shock abated and she began to regain the use of her faculties. We have had more meaningful conversations in the past 72 hours than in the past three years.

Turns out she’s actually quite interesting when she’s not glued to Snapchat.

Memo to her long-suffering teachers: I wonder, might you consider making it a permanent arrangement?

Remember to wait  

The MP and former soldier Johnny Mercer is right about white poppies: they are the ultimate in misguided virtue signalling. 

But perhaps just as annoying are the people — mostly celebrities — who wear the red poppy weeks ahead of Remembrance Sunday. At least have the decency to wait until summer time is over.

The MP and former soldier Johnny Mercer (pictured at the Cheltenham Literature Festival earlier this month) is right about white poppies: they are the ultimate in misguided virtue signalling, writes SARAH VINE 

Dog’s dinner Zamira 

Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a convicted fraudster, was spotted wearing £8,500-worth of designer clobber to walk her dog.

What’s so astonishing is not the cost of her outfit — after all, this is a woman who managed to spend £16.3 million in Harrods over the course of a decade.

No, it’s that having splashed all that cash, she still looks like she got dressed in the dark.

Proof not only that money can’t buy style, but also that the so-called ‘sports luxe’ look is just a complete con.

Zamira Hajiyeva (pictured) the wife of a convicted fraudster, was spotted wearing £8,500-worth of designer clobber to walk her dog, writes SARAH VINE 

I enjoyed watching hysterical Momentum supporters round on their former hero John McDonnell for failing to say he would reverse the Chancellor’s new tax cuts.

It was almost as entertaining as Jeremy Corbyn’s team trying to claim that the 32 million people who stand to benefit from those tax breaks somehow fall into the category of ‘rich’.

Are we to infer from this that by ‘rich’, the Labour Party means ’employed’?

I enjoyed watching hysterical Momentum supporters round on their former hero John McDonnell (pictured in the House of Commons for failing to say he would reverse the Chancellor’s new tax cuts, writes SARAH VINE

Och he’s a wee insult 

Now that Hindu shopkeeper Apu has been expunged from TV’s The Simpsons after complaints of cultural stereotyping, surely the days of Willie, the intemperate, oft-inebriated, shack-dwelling Scots groundsman, are numbered. Or perhaps it doesn’t count when the stereotype is white.

Now that Hindu shopkeeper Apu has been expunged from TV’s The Simpsons after complaints of cultural stereotyping, surely the days of Willie (pictured) are numbered, writes SARAH VINE

Scientists have urged parents to wait at least a year between pregnancies. 

Apparently, a gap of less than 12 months increases the risk of premature birth, stillbirth and maternal death. 

I can’t speak for the medical rationale but, as someone whose second child was conceived when the first one was just eight months old, I can say that having two under the age of two did indeed almost kill me. 

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