Is it because Fortnum & Mason’s is the “Queen’s grocer”? No. Is it because it is a very posh supermarket? No. To hear the Tories, you’d think that UKUncut’s occupation of F&M constituted a form of grievous bodily harm on the Tory body-politic. So many Tories got into a funk about it. George Pitcher of the Telegraph, wrote
Now, pay attention at the back, especially the youth that I spotted in the Fortnums atrium holding a sign saying “Share the Wealth” without any apparent sense of irony. The Garfield Weston Foundation owns nearly 80 per cent of Wittington Investments, a company registered in the UK, which is the ultimate holding company of Associated British Foods, Fortnum & Mason and interior stylist Heal’s. Dividends flow upwards to the Foundation, principally from ABF given that retail is having a tough time and Fortnums has just been through a major investment programme, which then distributes grants (a word students may still be familiar with).
It’s bad neough that Pitcher associates UKUncut with students, even though plenty of non-students participate in the protests. But enough of that. Here’s George again,
Typically, the Foundation distributes about £40 million a year, though in good times much more. A glance at the trustees’ report – I presume UKUncut’s organisers know how to use the internet – would reveal that the Foundation gives grants to schools and universities, as well as to hospitals and housing associations. The Weston Foundation gave £25 million, for instance, to Oxford University last year alone for the development of the Bodleian Library, so I hope any Oxford students who “occupied” Fortnums will honourably refrain out of shame from using that facility for the remainder of their studies, out of respect for the Westons.
Uh huh. The Weston Foundation distributes largesse to educational institutions too. But what George failed to tell anyone was that last year, the foundation was in hot water with the Charity Commission. This article from the Times says
The Charity Commission has found that some of the family members who run the Garfield Weston Foundation allowed an investment company it controlled to make political donations between 1993 and 2007. Wittington Investments Ltd gave £100,000 to the Conservative Party each year from 1993 to 1999, except in 1995 when it donated £200,000. The payments stopped when a new law required shareholders to give approval for political donations, but it made a further £100,000 donation in 2004. Between 2000 and 2007 Wittington donated £70,000 to the Centre for Policy Studies, a think-tank with close links to the Conservative Party. It also gave £305,000 to the anti-EU European Foundation and £45,000 to the anti-single currency Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign.
Oops! Now you know why the Tories got into a tizzy about the occupation of F&M. But this is only one reason why F&M was targetted. Funny how George kept quiet about it.
Associated British Foods, the company that owns F&M also owns Primark. In 2008 Primark was accused of making use of sweatshop labour. Nice people, those Westons.