Wednesday, 2 June 2010

What's in a million?

Some years ago thee was an article in the Times which suggested few children can grasp the concept of a million. It was, the article argued, such a massive number that the only way to try to make them see its reality was to have a board in the classroom with a million dots on.

Today's children, however, are learning in an era when a million isn't that much anymore.   A lottery winner who only scooped a million would feel hard done by; a country with a population of one million hardly qualifies as a country and how many people d'you know with a 1 Mb disc drive?  The billion has become the unit of choice, making it easy to see just how awful a mess the banks' mismanagement  has left us in, terabyte hard drives are becoming commonplace and our entire approach to thinking about quantity has changed.

All of which made it a little sad when the Torygraph fixed its sights on a leading Liberal coalition partner for a rule infringement that  - in the scheme of things - amounted to almost nothing. Of course, the DT and its owners know all about rule infringing, loopholes and bullying.

The DT is owned by the Barclay brothers, who bought the island of Brecqhou, one of the Channel Islands, located just west of Sark. Their own mock-Gothic castle on Brecqhou, designed by Quinlan Terry, features 3 ft granite walls, battlements, two swimming pools and a helicopter pad. The brothers are tax exiles, and give their address as Le Montaigne, 7 Avenue de Grande Bretagne, 98000 Monaco.
Although they make their money from the UK, they pay not one penny in income tax, which makes it rather odd that they should choose to hound those who do and those who can be seen to be infringing rules. Their respect for the democratic process is well documented.  On 11 December 2008, they were in the news for pulling out their investments (which include hotels) from the island of Sark, causing 100 staff to be made redundant (one sixth of the population) and threatening the economic stability of the island after local voters did not support candidates championed by the Barclay brothers. The brothers had previously warned that if the voters chose to bring back the 'establishment' Sark leaders that are still aligned with the feudal lord then they would pull out of Sark.

Perhaps those who so avidly devour the pages of that august organ should know more about where their money is headed.

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