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Journalism - The Guardian

City diary
Tuesday November 26, 2002

  • The winner of this year's Prince Philip gaffe award goes to the fat man of British industry, Digby Jones. Speaking at the CBI conference in Manchester yesterday, Mr Jones told of a recent visit to a BT call centre in Newcastle. Impressed by the number of deaf and dumb employees there, he confidently told reporters - without a shred of forethought: "It's very important that people like that make their voices heard." Soon afterwards, he demonstrated his legendary ability to get to the core of the issue. Speaking with his Tourist Alliance chairman's hat on, he revealed: "Tourism is a very important market which never gets its time in the sun." Despite an 80,000 advertising campaign this week telling businesses that office costs in London are nearly 350% higher than in Manchester, we suspect Rigby has hit the nail on the head.

  • When you hear someone described as a "rat", you'd normally expect some Ulrika Jonsson-style revelations to follow. But proving that tax accountants see the world in a very different way to the rest of us, the recent Baker Tilly Vat Rat of the Year ceremony was an altogether different affair. Nuala Brice was actually delighted to receive the award. Being branded a "vat rat" is a good thing, it would seem, with accountants concentrating on the more oriental view of our rodent relatives. "Restless and inquisitive, those born under the influence of the Rat are active, both physically and mentally ... challenge is essential to them for they love the thrill of living dangerously," says a website devoted to such matters. This still doesn't explain, however, why a company of accountants would want to honour somebody who has made their jobs harder.

  • What has the Ministry of Defence got to hide with regard to Enron? On January 31, Austin Mitchell MP asked in a written parliamentary question what meetings the MoD had had with Enron executives in the past two years. Fast forward 10 months, and the question remains unanswered, sparking another question today from Llew Smith MP. "What is the longest gap between the submission of a written question in the last parliamentary session and [the MoD] providing a reply," he asks. We're opening a book on just how long this one is likely to take.

  • London Underground did not suggest that an employee hop on a train to check out reports of a fire between stations during Friday's firefighters' strike. It had no need. The source of the "smoke" had been tracked down to a passenger using nature's own fire extinguisher at the end of the platform.

  • The refusal of meat traders at Smithfields market to pay the £5 central London congestion charge may prove academic if a new report into London's markets has its way. The London Wholesale Markets Review, commissioned by the government and the Corporation of London earlier this year, has concluded that only one central London market can be supported in future. The report argues this should be the expandable New Covent Garden market in Nine Elms, just outside the congestion zone, with Smithfields and Billingsgate sold to developers and some of the proceeds used to relocate them. The plan will please mayor Ken Livingstone, but we suspect market traders will take a more robust line.

  • Imagine our surprise when we read in London's Evening Standard that City PR man George Pitcher is not only studying theology but plans to take holy orders. Only last week, the Right Reverend Pitcher regaled us with his use of Anglo Saxon when we suggested his book, The Death of Spin, was not exactly the leap in communication it purported to be. Good to see the church remains such an open-minded institution.

Link to copy on Guardian

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