Mark Andrews on Saturday: Why it's time we learned to love Mike Ashley

Read the latest musings from Mark Andrews.

Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

A few years ago Mike Ashley shattered our illusions by revealing he was not Father Christmas. And when asked about his approach to public relations, he declared: "I can't be house trained."

Well in a week when our towns and cities finally reopened after what seems like a never-ending period of hibernation, one of the few bright spots on the horizon has been Mr Ashley's willingness to invest in retail.

Not only has he saved the House of Fraser store in Telford after the chain went into administration, his company also this week opened its new Frasers store in Wolverhampton, replacing Beatties.

Of course, there will be many who say you can't replace Beatties, but the truth is it had been in a state of miserable decline for more than a decade, ever since it was taken over by the previous House of Fraser management. The new Frasers might not compare with Beatties in its pomp, but Mr Ashley has saved hundreds of jobs at a time of grave economic turmoil –5 and also staked a large portion of his personal fortune on preserving our high streets.

Frasers department store in Wolverhampton

And this matters. Not only are our towns and cities vital to the fabric of our civilisation, for many of us they will be crucial to funding our pensions, given that most of them are invested heavily in commercial property.

It is too easy to portray Mr Ashley as some sort of Dickensian mill owner, but ask the people employed by House of Fraser if they would sooner its stores had closed down, and their jobs gone forever. There are plenty of people who would be a lot poorer were it not for his hard work and enterprise.

This might come as a bitter pill for Newcastle United fans, but house trained or not, it is time we learned to love Mike Ashley.

There has been a lot of debate over the past few days about so-called 'vaccine passports', but surely it all depends on what such a passport actually entails.

Now if a vaccine passport meant flashing the small card I was given when I received the jab a few weeks ago, I would say that is a small price to pay for a return to some semblance of normality.

But of course, it won't be. It's going to be a phone app, isn't it? Which means it will only be available to people with expensive smartphones, it will probably harvest all sorts of data. And it almost certainly won't work.

Building on the barnstorming success of his general election campaign in West Bromwich, the cat in the hat George Galloway is now spreading his Midas touch north of the border.

His new All For Unity Party has been set up to save Scotland from Nicola Sturgeon and the forces of separatism. He reckons his warmth, wit, and Arthur Daley dress sense will save the UK, bringing peace, harmony and reconciliation to the Union, just as it did in Bethnal Green, Talk Radio and the Big Brother House.

Probably time to start building that wall, then.

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