(1) Mike Ashley

Squire Mike Ashley helicopters in to the Sports Direct mega-warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire….

Brookin Mike Ashley allus tookin the Mickski ’cos half of them in there are Polish and we’re all brookin idiots for pootin up with it but what the brookin else is there to brookin do but work f’rim in brookin Shirebrook?

Big Story: baby born in toilet abandoned as mother goes straight back to work fearing another strike on her employment record and afterwards the sack.

But headlines don’t tell half of it. Dickensian, Victorian, Scrooge, workhouse, Gradgrind – large scale descriptions are too grand to gauge the ugly, petty thing of present-day human resources practice.

Contract in to ‘zero hours’ and you can become less than that.  It’s a small world.

Hardly call them ‘workers’ because their current situation can’t carry the connotations. Thirty years ago the National Union of Mineworkers lost its last battle right here in ‘England’s Belfast’ where the entire population was split between miners clocking in at Shirebrook colliery and those out on strike (no, not managers marking your card; workers making a mark by withdrawing their labour).

Now no proof survives of any prior conviction; previous resonance no longer rings true.

A pleasant day’s walk from Shirebrook (you’ll need sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer), Chatsworth is the real house that Jane Austen re-named Pemberley for her novel Pride and Prejudice (1813). Approaching house and grounds for the first time, it occurred to Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet that she ‘had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.’

Giving evidence before the Business Select Committee in Westminster last week, Mike Ashley appeared slightly awkward. He admitted far more than he needed to – that business of his business growing uncontrollably from dinghy to oil tanker.

When some of his sentences trailed off and got lost, he seemed to be trying to connect them to another one along any minute.

In view of Mr Ashley’s unpolished parliamentary performance, perhaps he should take instruction from Miss Bennet on matters of taste and deportment.

But cynics – or realists – have claimed it was all an act designed to disarm committee members and diminish criticism directed at the billionaire chief exec of Sports Direct.