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Happy Sunday: 21 March

Posted on Mar 21, 2021. by NTI

If you are waking up as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon this morning (or, much worse, waking up beside him) you are also, rather curiously, stirring as Tommy Robinson, Andrew McMaster, Paul Harris and Wayne King. These are not just voices in Yaxley-Lennon's head, they are pseudonyms under which the man, who photographs like a bad cross between a rottweiler and Jabba The Hutt, passes.

You may not think you know him, but you will recognise his antecedents, as the British far-right and anti-Islam activist, co-founder and former leader of the English Defence League. However, his neighbours know him unaffectionately as 'Chubby' and remember times when he set light to the sofa in his front garden. The Individual Insolvency Register know him as Stephen Christopher Lennon and report his Bankruptcy on 3 March 2021 under the number 5120330, stating his address in Bedford, which you would think would be punishment enough.

Tommy Robinson is having a busy incarnation, as his criminal record includes convictions for violence, financial and immigration frauds, drug possession and public order offences. Outside of a Guy Ritchie movie you are most likely to meet him on a poster in a police station or on the credits of Crimewatch, but at least for a 12 months Stephen Christopher Tommy Andrew Paul Wayne can focus upon being financially as well as morally bankrupt.

Samantha Cameron has also woken up beside a fallen man this morning, Her husband David has hit the headlines of some news websites, the press reporting his multiple attempts to lobby 00 Sunak on his personal phone in support of requests to raise hundreds of millions of pounds of Government grants in an attempt to save Lex Greensill’s eponymous finance firm. We in the NTI newsroom consider neither is it here or even there that at the time our former Prime Minister was an adviser to Greensill and had share options potentially worth up to tens of millions. The very suggestion.

The loans our Dave tried to secure for the company were from the Government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, even though Greensill, the Australian-born financier, son of a watermelon farmer, had already held unsuccessful talks with officials about a taxpayer-funded bailout. Despite the failure of the lobbying, Greensill became involved in another Government bailout fund, the Coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme, and slimy bank became an accredited Government lender, helping the much-in-the-news Sanjeev Gupta and companies close to him raise £400 million of taxpayer-backed loans.

The link is not so tenuous between the above story and that generated by Angela McLaren of City of London Police, who has written to forces to say that officers should be called in only on cases that “involve clear links to serious organised crime and core policing business”. The letter said that “policing will not routinely investigate or prioritise public sector fraud investigation [that is, Covid fraud] at the expense of core business”. Isn't this a bit like leaving prospective burglars a note explaining the location of the back door key to your house and setting out the alarm code, saying they can nick everything except your Gran's wedding ring? Many a minor fraudster will be buoyed by that announcement, as there is still a lot of money to be made from less serious organised crime (which is the number one employer in many parts of East Anglia).

IWG, the name behind office-lease brands such as Regus and Spaces IWG, has filed notice of its intention to appoint Administrators to subsidiaries holding the leases to its offices in Broadgate Tower in the City, Covent Garden, Pall Mall, Chiswick and St Mary Axe. The only possible reason for the move (let's be honest) is to pressure landlords into swallowing inferior terms. It has been a tough time over the past 15 months or so for flexible office providers and IWG are determined to share the pain of operating more than 3,300 centres worldwide. Landlords are a soft and often-hit target whose hands have been made raw writing improved terms and more flexible leases as they struggle to stay afloat in a boiling sea of arrears.

Two doors down, at Virgin Active, landlords are absolutely revolting over a plan to force through rent cuts and wipe out its unpaid rent bill. Big institutional landlords are gearing up for a legal battle with the gym chain, part-owned by Sir Richard Branson, over a controversial new mechanism that would compel them to accept Virgin Active’s terms, even if they vote against the deal. As reported by the NTI newsroom this month, the gyms owners are seeking a restructuring plan under CIGA 2020 which will permit them to “cram down” a particular group of creditors (well, the landlords, specifically). 

Landlords must be the only people wishing they had woken up as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon this morning.

Happy Sunday.

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