Meet Merchant Venturer Trevor Smallwood, a very wealthy man indeed. Like a number of Venturers, Smallwood obtained the majority of his wealth courtesy of Thatcherite privatisation policies and ended his career as chairman of First Group, who count Bristol’s buses among a portfolio of public transport service mediocrities run for shareholder benefit. Smallwood, from a fairly ordinary background, has used his wealth to climb the social ladder and has been the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Somerset and the Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers, the top job at the racist cult.
2009: Smallwood finally loses in the Court of Appeal and is forced to pay £2.7m in Corporation Tax to the Inland Revenue after attempting to dodge the tax via a Trust Fund – of which he was a beneficiary – that had been temporarily based in Mauritius. The tax was due on a £6m sale of shares in First Group held by the trust that were sold in 2001. His tax advisors at the Bristol office of big four accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper had encouraged Smallwood’s trust to sell these shares only after its governance had been transferred to Mauritius in a transparent attempt for the share sale to come under the jurisdiction of Mauritian tax law rather than British. A tax dodge that publicly and spectacularly failed.
2014: UWE Bristol awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration to Trevor Smallwood OBE DL in recognition of his, er, “entrepreneurial and charity work”. Tax dodging, apparently, being no bar to gaining the highest honour from one of our city’s universities.
So does it come as any surprise that, also, in 2014 UWE Bristol’s Vice Chancellor, over-promoted podiatrist Prof Steve West, became a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers? But what on earth for? Why would a leader of an allegedly progressive institution wish to join a racist organisation best known among the majority of progressives in the city for openly lying to generations of children for sanctifying and sanitising their hero, the slave trader Edward Colston?
What’s in this bizarre arrangement for West exactly? What’s in it for the public he’s supposed to serve? And how much longer are UWE staff and students going to tolerate their boss hanging out with racists and tax dodgers? His position as both a Venturer and head of a higher education institution that aspires to be anti-racist is surely untenable? Or, like tax dodging, is being a member of a racist cult a cause for public celebration and honours when you’re part of Bristol’s self-styled elite?
“Do as we say. Not as we do.”