Unilever’s former boss is in turmoil over government plans to give police new powers to crush protesters
Unilever’s former boss has been in turmoil over the government’s plans to give police new powers to take control of the protesters this weekend.
Paul Polman, 65, says he is deeply concerned about Home Secretary Prieta Patel’s policing bill, which “threatens the right to peaceful protest.”
He called on friends to unseal parts of the bill that would restrict people’s ‘most fundamental rights’ to stand up for their beliefs in the House of Lords vote on Monday.
Paul Polman says he is ‘deeply concerned’ about Home Secretary Preity Patel’s policing bill, which ‘threatens the right to peaceful protest’.
Dutch industrialist FTSE held the helm of the consumer goods giant, which at the time was one of the most alarmed businesses in Britain.
For the former leader of the industry, his involvement in UK politics is extremely unusual. It came just days after Unilever was vandalized by major shareholder Terry Smith for waking up to profit. Deborah Meaden, Dragon’s Den star and entrepreneur is also campaigning against the proposed clampdown, claiming it is bad for business.
The bill has been prompted by public frustration and disruptive protests by Insulate Britain, BLM and other groups over the statues’ toppling.
Its opponents include the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Church of England and other faith leaders who have urged the government to ‘think again’. Faith leaders argue that the bill could criminalize many religious activities, including street teaching and chanting.
‘Kill the Bill’ shows are planned across Britain before voting at the Lord’s today. A letter signed by Pollman, Meaden and 200 business owners calls on the Lords to amend the bill by eliminating any ‘anti-protest’ provisions.
Pollman, who earned a total of nearly £ 70m during his tenure as head of Unilever, said: ‘No mature business should support an unequal breach of this right. If our customers and employees don’t insist that we pay attention, is Unilever going to wake itself up with a plastic crisis? The honest answer is no, we don’t.
‘Companies benefit from having channels that civil society can listen to themselves.’
Pollman and Meaden are opposing the law change, which sets the start and finish times and noise limits for protests. He faces up to 10 years in prison for damaging monuments.
Critics say the bill is an attack on the right to protest and will effectively criminalize any demonstration that police think is disruptive. Campaigners argue that it gives police the power to stop and search for anyone they think is participating in the protest. Meaden argued that the right to protest is a ‘necessary part’ of the business and that it promotes innovation. The government argues that the bill upholds the right to peaceful protest and gives the police the power to prevent disruption and violence.
Unilever did not sign the protest letter. However, it is endorsed by one of its best brands, Ben & Jerry’s. Ice cream makers have already attacked Patel on Twitter about the 2020 Channel crossing.
And Terry Smith’s refusal to sell his luggage in the ‘occupied Palestinian Territory’ is cited as an example of ‘ridiculous’ waking behavior.