Thursday, February 14, 2008

What does Amanda Platell tell us about the state of journalism today?

Amanda Platell turns her attention to the question of divorce this morning in the Daily Mail, seeing divorce law through the prism of the McCartney-Mills settlement:

[T]he truth is that this carnival of bile, this showbiz showdown, demonstrates everything that is wrong with the divorce laws of Britain today.

You might be scratching your head here, wondering if you've missed details of an agreement or a judgement. When you went to bed last night, they were still in the middle of the court process, weren't they?

Erm... yes. And, indeed, still are. Platell is writing her view about what the divorce tells us about divorce law before the law has actually come to a judgement. Which seems a little bit unfair. Sure, the courts could hand Heather everything McCartney owns, but equally at this point could give her nothing, or thirty pounds three shillings and sixpence a month. How can you berate a legal system for an opinion we can only guess at?

Instead, Platell is basing her piece on what Heather has asked for:
Let's step back and take stock of the settlement that Heather is said to be seeking.

Well, yes, we can do that. But as with Owen Glendower's monsters, anyone can demand anything - what matters is if they get what they ask for. Heather's demands might tell us something about the demands in divorce cases, but not anything about the law itself.

Still, at least Platell's working from knowledge of what exactly it is that Mills is seeking, then?

No - like the rest of us, she doesn't have a clue:
The sums differ wildly, according to which of the warring camps you believe.

The differing sums arise not from Mills or McCartney, but from different newspaper groups - although, yes, the Mail, Sun and Mirror are warring parties, so we'll let her have that one.
But the most reliable estimate thus far is that the former Ms Mills is in line for roughly £55 million, made up of a £20 million lump sum, plus £2.5million a year for the next 14 years, until their daughter Bea turns 18.

The "most reliable estimate"? As Platell doesn't bother to source this - it seems to have come from The Times last week - we've got no way of telling why she believes this figure to be any more accurate than, say, the thirty million claimed by this morning's Mirror. Other than it fits her purpose:
By any reckoning, that's an astronomical return on a marriage that lasted just four short and unhappy years.

Well, yes. If she has sought it, if she gets it, it would be quite a lot of money. But there are a load of ifs in there, aren't there?

Still, let's assume that Amanda has got all the details of the case correct, and rightly second-guessed the legal judgement. Would, then, this case tell us anything about the divorce laws in the UK?
For if this bitter case has served one purpose, it has been to send a powerful message that divorce is a bonanza for women, however badly they behave, and especially if they choose to give up work the moment they marry.

But Amanda, the mere fact you're writing about this divorce would suggest that this is an atypical case rather than an archetype. Fifty million quid does sound like a lot, but when put into the context of what McCartney is worth, it starts to look less astronomical - that Times report points out:
the deal [is] worth 7 per cent of Sir Paul’s £825 million fortune

The actual cash amounts are enormous because of the silly money in McCartney's world - but if you scale it down to a marriage ending where the assets are more normal, say, a two hundred grand house and fifty grand in savings, that equates to a divorce settlement of £17,500 - quite modest. And let's not forget that much of the settlement is due to Heather bringing up Paul's child.

No, if anything, the story tells us nothing about divorce laws, and everything about how obscenely rich the very, very rich are. The scandal is not that Macca is going to shunt the equivalent of small change over to Mills' accounts; it's that people can be so rich a fifty million payment is so trivial.


5 comments:

M.C. Glammer said...

I read part of the reason for the big settlement is so Bea doesn't see a massive discrepancy between parents - "Daddy, why do you let mummy live in a skip?" sort of thing.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

It's a plausible explanation - although how will the settlement stop Bea from getting confused having one parent who is a national treasure, and one who is a national pariah?

Anonymous said...

I think that sounds plausible too...that whole "ability to live in the style to which (s)he has become accustomed" bit. Because heaven forbid that people only live on, say, one million a year when they're used to so much more.

Anonymous said...

"four short and unhappy years"? How does Platell know they were all unhappy? For all she knows the first three could have been one glorious continuous shagathon. And by my reckoning what you'd have to pay for that down Kings Cross x 365 x 3 = not that far off £55 million. Bargain.

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