Whatever happened with PPE, Michelle Mone has been an inspiration for women - Sarah Todd

Looking people up is a perennial chore not just reserved for finding out about contestants on Strictly Come Dancing. Pretty much everybody (apart from Nigel Farage and Frankie Dettori) in the recently concluded jungle reality television programme, I’m a Celebrity, had to have their moniker run through Google.

On Sunday a lady called Michelle Mone was interviewed by the BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg. She too had to be looked up. Turns out Baroness Mone stands to benefit from £60m PPE profit.

It all stems back to a company led by her husband Doug Barrowman being awarded government contracts to supply gowns and masks to the NHS during the Covid pandemic through a so-called ‘VIP lane’, introduced to help speed up the choice between such a huge number of supplier offers.

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In November 2021, the government revealed that Baroness Mone was the "source of referral" for the company getting the leg-up into this priority procurement lane. As an aside, it turns out millions of the gowns the company supplied were never even used, rejected for not being up to scratch.

Baroness Michelle Mone ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in 2017. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireBaroness Michelle Mone ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in 2017. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Baroness Michelle Mone ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in 2017. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Fast-forward to the other day and, having for three years denied it with much vigour and legal threats, Ms Mone has now admitted that her and her children were beneficiaries of financial trusts in which the money is held.

It’s all such a shame. In typing this lady’s name into the computer, it instantly became apparent that the success of her lingerie business made her a perfect poster girl for entrepreneurship. With a generation of young girls who never really seem to lift their yard brush eye lashes up from their phones, strong women are vital to inspire the next generation. Ms Mone’s Glasgow childhood was punctuated with both poverty and tragedy, with her mother holding down three jobs and her brother, who suffered from spina bifida, dying aged nine.

Married at 18 she had to put her house up as security to the bank four times and the rest, including divorce and a battle for control of the business, could be a plot in a mini-series. Whatever has happened with the PPE, she’s been one heck of a woman.

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For me, this fall from grace somehow seemed to put the tin hat on a year that has involved an awful lot of revelations and recriminations.

From Prince Harry’s lawsuit against the tabloid press through to the ongoing Covid Inquiry, the airing of dirty laundry in public seems to be everywhere. Estimates are that the Covid Inquiry will have cost a total of over £156m by the time witnesses conclude giving evidence come June 2026. Apart from backstabbing and blaming each other it’s interesting to wonder whether any lessons are being learned. Surely the one question that needs asking is, if something similar was to happen again would our country be any better prepared? For all the foul-mouthed rantings of Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings, would anybody else do a better job faced with a similar set of circumstances? Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing.

Anyway, Christmas is almost upon us, and its conspicuous consumerism makes this Scrooge wonder whether our country really is quite as paralysed by a cost of living crisis as some sectors of the population and media make out? Walk by any restaurant or supermarket over the last week or so and they have all been packed to the rafters. On reflection though, maybe there is just a widening of the gap between those who are living life to the full and those who aren’t?

As a last-minute shopper, those who smugly declare in about October that they are ‘all done’ are annually irritating. Is there not something sterile and un-Christmassy about such execution of the event?

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In spite of having raised a brace, small children aren’t an area of expertise. Some were asked if they were doing a Christmas nativity play at school. Shrugged shoulders confirmed how many no longer have even the most basic understanding of the Christmas story; of what it’s all about apart from presents…

Back to where we started, with television programmes. This is the first year a Radio Times hasn’t been bought for the festive viewing guide. Well, this Saturday’s Yorkshire Post will more than do the job and a little bird, let’s say a Christmas robin, let it slip that all episodes of Poldark are available to watch on the BBC’s iPlayer. Once the last sprout has been crossed, this correspondent will be being reconnected with the Cornwall of 1783 and Ross Poldark returning from the battlefield to find his father dead, the estate in ruins and his sweetheart Elizabeth engaged to his cousin.

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