Regular readers of this column know that I don’t go a bundle on
conspiracy theory. But Michael Cole’s early retirement from Harrods and
his six-figure salary without a cross word, but with reputedly a pounds
50,000 pension, just doesn’t add up. Indeed, the old Royal TV
correspondent went without giving us even so much as a glimpse of
himself, explaining his amazing decision, on the box. Instead, he took
himself off on ’holiday’, leaving behind only the usual thoughtful,
crafted expressions of mutual admiration when master and faithful
retainer presentationally part company.
It looked contrived and furtive.
In any case, had Mr Cole always intended, as he says, to retire at 55,
we would surely have heard of it long ago. Anyone in his position has to
manage their departure carefully. Few are blessed with a firm intention
to spend more time with their family five years before normal retirement
age. When they are, it can help to let it be known well in advance.
Second, an energetic director of public affairs just doesn’t abruptly
and prematurely enter God’s waiting room - which is what retirement is -
when his boss has recently spent the week regaling us with his
fantasies, via the Mirror, about the death of his playboy son, Dodi and
Princess Diana. Or, at least he doesn’t unless he has had a bust up with
his employer, Mr Mohamed Al Fayed for making another fool of himself,
especially when he has countenanced, defended and vigorously supported
so many other tales of Araby.
It could be that Mr Cole is preparing himself for other things since the
Mirror’s astonishing hospitality to Mr Al Fayed’s inner thoughts has
prompted speculation that this is the preliminary to the Mirror-owned
Independent as well as Harrods becoming Egyptian-owned. I hope not.
Instead, I would like to think that Mr Cole eventually saw the light and
that is why he has slung his hook, as they say in Hebden Bridge.
Unfortunately, he has chosen to muddy the waters by saying he left ’with
much sadness’ and had ’made many lasting friendships, particularly with
Mohamed Al Fayed and his family’. Most of us think this means that he
has agreed to shut up about the circumstances of his departure. Mr Cole
has thus denied himself the luxury of basking in our unadulterated
admiration for his jacking it in on principle.
I can nonetheless state with absolute authority that nothing more became
the man than the manner of his going because his departure was wreathed
in clouds of incredibility. For all his hyperactive blunderbussery,
spraying even me with his shot, Mr Cole’s strong point was not
credibility. That is Mr Al Fayed’s problem too. Too much PR: too little