‘Queen of Shops’ Mary Portas has defended herself against criticism of her involvement in the government’s drive to save the high streets.
The self-styled ‘shop saviour’ came under fire last week for ‘misleading’ MPs about how much she made from the TV spin-off about her government role.
Under questioning by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, she denied making half a million from the TV series, saying: ‘If I was getting £500,000 from Channel 4, let me tell you, I would be a happy woman. I am not.’
Portas later remembered that she had in fact made £500,000 ('I thought the MP was saying you got paid half a million for those three programmes and I was like, ‘No’, but, as soon as I realised it was about my two-year contract with Channel 4, I wrote the next day to clear it up') - whether or not it made her happy remained under wraps.
The TV presenter and shop consultant hasn't taken the criticism lying down. In an interview with The Times, she leapt to her own defence, saying she had been called before the committee to be ‘humiliated’, and she blasted the MPs for not supporting her.
‘The cowards,’ she said. ‘You’d think I was a f***ing tax exile, when I was only trying to help.’
Portas was drafted in by the government in 2011 to help save dying high streets. After a consultation she produced a report, which included 27 recommendations such as a ‘National Market Day’ and free town-centre parking. She pinpointed 12 UK towns to act as her guinea pigs and have her ideas introduced in them.
It didn’t take long for the relationship between Portas and the coalition to sour. She soon chastised the government for merely paying lip service to saving the high streets and not acting on her suggestions, especially when Eric Pickles sanctioned a mega-Tesco to be built in Margate, one of Portas’ pilot towns.
‘They want my report to gather dust with all the others on their bookcases, but the high street has been dying for 25 years — we must get on with it,’ she said in the interview.
‘I could crumble and crack, go quietly insane, but I’m not a quitter,’ she insisted. ‘I love the high street. It saved my life.’
The flame-haired shops ‘campaigner’ may have been burned by her partnership with government but at least she knows she has the support of the royal family.
‘Prince Charles wrote to me when I started being attacked and said, ‘Bless you.’ That made me feel a bit emotional,’ she told The Times. Lucky her.
Which ‘expert’ celebrity David Cameron and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will turn to now to save the high street is anyone’s guess. MT doesn’t think Jamie Oliver does shops.