The billionaire Barclay brothers shut down their operations in Sark last night after they were unceremoniously rejected by the voters in the first full election in the last bastion of feudalism in the Western world.Which they are quite entitled to do, legally. But it’s a nice glimpse into the mindset of these two, isn’t it?
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, owners of the Telegraph newspapers and the Ritz, responded by announcing the closure of their hotels, shops, a restaurant and other businesses. Building work was suspended.In other words, the islanders said ‘No thanks’, despite the huge amount of money spent on persuading, cajoling and bullying them into giving the pair their own way.
The brothers did not stand in the election, but not one of their favoured candidates secured a seat on Chief Pleas, the island’s parliament, which is presided over by the hereditary Seigneur.
And this was a fight they sought out themselves:
They had brought the end of nearly 450 years of feudalism when they challenged the island’s law of primogeniture — the right of the firstborn to inherit an estate — prompting the island to review its constitution. A majority favoured a fully elected parliament but there was strong opposition to the Barclays, who wanted to make the Seigneur a ceremonial position, to have tractors replaced by electric vehicles and to build a helipad.The islanders didn’t. And they had the final say.
Epic fail, Barclay brothers!
So now they are throwing all their toys out of the pram, and despatched a hired mouthpiece who could give Bob Mugabe a lesson in aggrieved petulance:
“There’s no point, as they see it, to continue spending £5 million per annum investing in the economy when the electorate have plainly said that they neither want nor are interested in that investment being made,” Gordon Dawes, the Barclays’ lawyer, said.‘Waaahh, boo hoo! I want that toy, gimmie!!’ Are these two brothers really adults? It’s hard to say….
“They have devoted a lot of time, energy, effort and money to Sark, for not only no thanks but positive insult and rebuff. Nobody in their right mind would carry on spending money on such a community.”
It seems that this is the first time they’ve ever been told ‘No!’ by anyone, and they are reacting precisely as toddlers do. But it seems that it was partly their own mishandling of the PR around this issue that caused the vote to go against them:
The Sark News, a pithy pamphlet published by a company owned by the Barclays, savaged those who opposed their goals and issued a list of candidates it believed could not be entrusted with the future of the island. This so enraged islanders that it appeared to have achieved the opposite of the desired effect. The Barclays were left with even less of a voice than they had under the feudal system.Oops! I guess they never did learn that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Also that money doesn’t buy everything…
Diana Beaumont (the Seigneur’s wife) said: “They were the ones that started all this democracy business, now they don’t like it because they haven’t won.” She said that that the Barclays’ attempt to negotiate for a seat on committees was “like saying, ‘We’ve lost the race and we want the cup’.”They like democracy only when they get their own way? Sounds a lot like some other people I know….
She added: “It’s very sad. Some people are going to lose their jobs. But maybe somebody else can come and run their hotels without threatening to close them.”