Mike Ashram, owner of Dalston’s leading chain of sports retailers, Sports Erect, has defended his firm’s treatment of staff, saying he had no knowledge of alleged ‘Victorian’ working practices.
‘I have no idea how those urchins got up that chimney,’ he told the Mercury, ‘we have immigrants for that kind of thing.’
‘Those poor kiddies should’ve been stitching footballs together in our luxuriously appointed Gateshead sweatshop. Gruel served twice a week at my expense.’
Mr Ashram admits that conditions in his company’s warehouses have been less than ideal but claims he has not been personally responsible for any cases of untreated smallpox or zero-hours contracts that may have been imposed of staff.
‘Look, we have had some odd isolated instances,’ he said fingering the ends of his waxed moustache in a villainous manner, ‘when the occasional rotten apple among our management may have inadvertently forced hundreds and hundreds of our valued employees to live in squalor, penury and fear of summary execution.’
‘And yes,’ he went on, ‘now and then a child might have been dismembered by a malfunctioning loom or crushed beneath the unyielding wheels of a steam locomotive or even forced by an ageing Jewish gentleman to join his gang of juvenile pickpockets for less than the minimum wage.’
‘But I, personally, had absolutely no idea any of this was going on, you bastards. I’m a decent, hard-working, totally legitimate business man and I’ll smash your face in if you print any different.’
Mr Ashram’s heartfelt and totally unscripted charm offensive will continue through several other media outlets this week. Sir Philip Green is booked to appear as his warm-up man.
Late breaking news: It has been confirmed that Mr Ashram has commissioned a new yacht from Isambard Kingdom Brunel and plans to unveil a Sports Erect Pavilion at the Great Exhibition of 1851.