“British Lord Vestey, and Vincent Lingari”… and Phillip Knightley

There’s a great Paul Kelly song From Little Things, Big Things Grow, about an Aboriginal Land Rights struggle.

It opens thus-

Gather round people let me tell you’re a story
An eight year long story of power and pride
British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiarri
Were opposite men on opposite sides

Vestey was fat with money and muscle
Beef was his business, broad was his door
Vincent was lean and spoke very little
He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor

Vestey of course was a self-made man.  No imperialist invasion by the state to set the conditions for his wealth.  No tax dodging by him to keep it. Absolutely not.

This leapt out at me from the good obituary of Phlllip Knightly.

A more individual triumph happened accidentally in 1979, when he took the time to listen to a Canadian economist visiting the office to speak to another journalist, who had gone to lunch. The result, after more than a year of research, was a piece that showed how the Vesteys, who were then one of Britain’s richest and best-connected families, ran a business empire that had been entirely structured to avoid tax. At its peak, Vestey cattle, Vestey ships and Vestey butcher’s shops supplied Britain with most of its beef, and yet, to take the example of the family’s Dewhurst butcher’s chain, a profit of £2.3m in one year yielded a tax bill of £10.

It was a fascinating life (took in the thalidomide investigation, and much much else.) Here’s how the obituary ends;

He was twice made journalist of the year in the British Press Awards. “I know now that the influence journalists can exercise is limited and that what we achieved is not always what we intended,” he concluded in his autobiography. “It is the fight that counts.”

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