'Lord' Alan Sugar: the rudest man in Britain
By RICHARD LITTLEJOHN
Full disclosure. I've never watched The Apprentice, largely because the sight of Alan Sugar churns my stomach. All you need to know is that he's not as nice as he looks.
You should also be aware we've got history. Fifteen years ago, I fronted an unsuccessful attempt to buy Tottenham Hostpur from Sugar, with whom I'd always had a cordial relationship up until that point.
He turned us down, but I didn't hold it against him. It was business, not personal. I had no financial interest in the deal. But it did give me a valuable insight into Sugar's volatile personality and robust business methods.
History: For someone who revels in his 'hard man' persona, Sugar has skin as thin as a Rizla cigarette paper
We fell out spectacularly when I made some disparaging remarks on the wireless about his decision to hire as Spurs manager George Graham, the former Arsenal boss who had been forced to resign over a transfer 'bungs' scandal.
I also wrote a column for The Sun in the same vein, in which I described Sugar as a 'bully, with the manners of a pig'. Whenever the Great Man takes exception to insults or criticism, he speed-dials his tame lawyers, Herbert Smith.
For someone who revels in his 'hard man' persona, Sugar has skin as thin as a Rizla cigarette paper.
In my case, he could have sued the BBC, for whom I was then presenting Radio 5's football phone-in show 6-0-6, and he could also have sued The Sun. The usual practice in libel cases is to pursue the publisher for damages. Sugar didn't sue either of those powerful corporations. Instead, he chose to sue me personally.
This involved sending a process server to my home on a Friday evening. I was out, so they tried to serve the writ on my wife. Classy touch, I thought, as I explained to Sugar in language I thought even he might understand in a subsequent telephone call to his home later that same evening.
To cut a long story short, we spent the best part of two years in litigation, which ended shortly before it was due to go to court. Sugar walked away without any assurance that I wouldn't repeat my remarks.
Elevation to the Establishment: Sugar was rewarded initially with a knighthood and then a peerage - like a rich celebrity being given an upgrade from Business to First on a BA flight to Barbados
This is business: No one can deny that his eye for the main chance and ruthless commercial instincts have made him one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Wealth, it has to be said, that he doesn't wear lightly
As with his recent abortive attempt to bully Quentin Letts into submission over what most people would consider mild teasing, Sugar learned that some of us are immune to his thuggish intimidation.
Since then I've followed Sugar's elevation to the Establishment with astonishment. The Eighties Thatcherite Del Boy character became a New Labour acolyte and substantial financial donor. He was rewarded initially with a knighthood and then a peerage — like a rich celebrity being given an upgrade from Business to First on a BA flight to Barbados.
Mind you, this tells you as much about the modern Establishment as it does about the noble 'Lord' Sugar.
No one can deny that his eye for the main chance and ruthless commercial instincts have made him one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Wealth, it has to be said, that he doesn't wear lightly. But I wouldn't keep him as a pet, let alone put him in the House of Lords. What cerebral qualities and sound judgment does he bring to the Upper Chamber?
Sugar's charm has been on display this week at an industrial tribunal, where former Apprentice winner Stella English is claiming constructive dismissal
He's a nervy, unimpressive public speaker. No one would ever accuse him of having the gift of oratory.
Certainly, he remains oblivious to the traditional code of chivalry expected of a 'verray, parfit, gentil, knyght'.
Thanks, largely, to his clunking, charisma-free 'yore fired!' turn on The Apprentice, Sugar has seized the mantle of 'Rudest Man In Britain' from historian David Starkey, only without the education, elegance and erudition.
The full range of his charm has been on display this week at an industrial tribunal, where a former Apprentice winner is claiming constructive dismissal.
Stella English is unhappy that the one-year contract with Sugar which she won on the BBC show has not been renewed.
Frankly, she was being naive if she thought winning the programme was designed to lead to a long and prosperous career in the Sugar empire. The Apprentice is, from what I can gather, an exploitative freak show for needy narcissists, geared to the greater glory of 'Lord' Sugar.
Miss English should have banked her five minutes of fame, along with the 100 grand which went with it, and put the whole thing down to experience.
But in taking him to a tribunal, she has at least given us another chance to savour the wit and wisdom of Alan Michael Sugar.
Miss English claims he told her: 'Look, if you think Lord Sugar is s****ing himself and that's why you're here, that's where you're mistaken.
'I did it for the BBC . . . and a bit of my own PR and a bit of yours, too. But the fact is that I don't give a s***.'
Miss English also told the tribunal that he dismissed her as a: 'Nice girl, don't do a lot'.
If The Apprentice ever ends, there's always a career in human resources awaiting Surallan.
Although, perhaps not.
'Nice girl, don't do a lot,' isn't much of a reference, is it? Interesting, too, that 'Lord' Sugar appears to have taken to referring to himself in the third person.
Straight talk: Miss English told the tribunal that Alan Sugar dismissed her as a: 'Nice girl, don't do a lot'
It is possible that Sugar thought he had only 140 characters in which to tell her she was fired.
He is fond of airing his inane opinions and pathetic squabbles on Twitter — or should that be Squitter? — which could have been designed specifically to accommodate his extensive vocabulary.
Sugar denies Miss English's allegations. But it should be noted that he seems to have a habit of falling out with people he has dealings with, altercations which sometimes end up in court.
Only recently there were reports of a foul-mouthed bust-up between Sugar and Channel 5 boss Richard Desmond at a board meeting of a pay-TV company.
Difficult to take sides in that particular dispute. A bit like the Iran-Iraq war. Or the dilemma faced by Spurs' fans every time Chelsea play Arsenal.
You want them both to lose, although I must point out that in this instance, Sugar is said to have come out on top.
That's just in case he's planning to send another lawyer's legman with a writ to my home tonight.
Don't bother, Alan, I'm going out.
If Dave really wanted to make the Casino analogy, he should have based it on the marvellous 1995 Martin Scorsese movie of the same name set in Las Vegas
Call Me Dave must have thought he had come up with a wizard wheeze at Prime Minister's Questions by describing Ed Miliband as the 'croupier in the casino' when the banks crashed under Labour in 2008.
Cameron was actually giving Mister Ed more credit than he deserves. In banking terms, Miliband Minor would have been Private Pike, the Stupid Boy, to Gordon Brown's Captain Mainwaring.
If Dave really wanted to make the Casino analogy, he should have based it on the marvellous 1995 Martin Scorsese movie of the same name set in Las Vegas.
Gordon Brown would have seen himself in the role of Sam 'Ace' Rothstein, played by Robert De Niro, the Mafia casino boss rigging the roulette wheel in the house's favour and doubling the take.
Balls would be the Joe Pesci character, Nicky Santoro, the out-of-control enforcer, making sure the mug punters kicked back a large portion of their winnings and stealing from the 'skim'.
Balls's missus, Yvette Cooper, would probably fancy herself as Sharon Stone's Ginger, all fur coat and no knickers.
And Miliband? Cloakroom attendant, if he was lucky. Stupid Boy.
The sinister assault on free speech and the criminalisation of all contact between police officers and the Press continues apace.
This week, a distinguished former Assistant Commissioner of the City of London Police, Frank Armstrong, was arrested for passing information to a reporter, even though no money changed hands. He is a decorated officer who ran close protection for Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.
I'm reminded of the final episode of The Sweeney, when Jack Regan is turned back on his way to receive a judge's commendation and banged up on a bogus, historical charge of corruption.
As he walks away for good after being cleared, he tells Chief Inspector Haskins: 'I am utterly and abjectly pissed-off. I've given the best years of my life to the job. I've got 18 bloody commendations.
'And how does this "wonderful" police force show its gratitude for all my years of unstinting effort? It bangs me up in a crummy little cell like some cheap little villain . . .'
Frank Armstrong must know exactly how Regan felt.
Vicky Pryce has been convicted of perverting the course of justice by accepting her then husband Chris Huhne's speeding points.
After the travesty of her first trial, she will now face a jail sentence along with Huhne.
Pryce's obscure defence of 'marital coercion' was an insult to our intelligence.
Fortunately, the second jury had the good sense to see through it. If she'd had admitted the offence earlier, she may have escaped with a suspended sentence.
Facing jail: Vicky Pryce has been convicted of perverting the course of justice by accepting her then husband Chris Huhne's speeding points
Heaven knows how much this case has cost us, but we won't see much change out of seven figures. Now it's over, the prosecution should seek to recover their costs, in full.
Multi-millionaire Huhne knew he was guilty all along but stretched out the proceedings at public expense for two years. He should be made to pay — and not just with his liberty.
In my recent column imagining how we'd have got on in World War II if the present-day Coalition had been in charge, I had the War Office handing out redundancy notices to the Desert Rats.
This week, the Ministry of Defence announced plans to strip today's Desert Rats of their tanks to save money.
You couldn't make it up.
Last year the BBC resurrected Engelbert Humperdinck. This year, Bonnie Tyler. At this rate they'll be digging up Jimmy Savile to host the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.
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