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City diary
Wednesday November 27, 2002

  • The Ed and Merv Confusion Tour stopped off at parliament yesterday, with the Bank of England's top men telling the Treasury select committee they still didn't know what was going on. It seems only a week ago they told us they hadn't lowered interest rates because of the housing boom (which may soon collapse or maybe just continue, they can't be sure). Oh, it was a week ago? Anyway, now it seems interest rates may actually go up to slow consumer spending. Or maybe not. Merv "King of the 180s" was keen to point out that the monetary policy committee enters every monthly meeting with a "completely open mind" - whether that's open as in "full of small openings or gaps" or open "any wide or unobstructed space or expanse", we can't be sure. The pressure was obviously getting to Ed as well, whose request for a quick fag was turned down since parliament is non-smoking.

  • Meanwhile in Manchester, CBI top nob Digby Jones is not even sure how much he earns. Following on from newspaper ads taken out by the firefighters' union that asked, "which one deserves a pay increase?" over a picture of a fireman and Digby (he has urged Tony Blair to block any wage increase), Mr Jones told one newspaper he earned £280,000 and another £285,000. So which is it? £285,000, it turns out, but only after Digby was forced to send a lackey to find out for sure.

  • With its usual immaculate timing, the EU last week adopted a new strategy for dealing with leaks from ships. But while the Prestige was pumping oil on to the Spanish coast, the EU was more concerned with atmospheric emissions of sulphur dioxide. "The new strategy sets out a number of actions to reduce acidification, ground-level ozone, eutrophication, health, climate change and ozone depletion." Spanish fishermen are said to be delighted with the cleaner air they can now breathe on the way to the dole office.

  • Today will see top French emissary, former finance minister, former senate president and senator René Monory return from his begging visit to Silicon Valley, where he pleaded with Microsoft boss Bill Gates to save the Futuroscope entertainment park in Poitiers. Screwed by EuroDisney and situated in the prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's constituency, Futuroscope is on the brink of bankruptcy, leaving the authorities no choice but to swallow the traditional hatred for all things americain, and ask Big Bill for a bailout. Or a few dozen Xboxes, anyway. We shall see if he was successful.

  • Barclays boss Matt Barrett is Swiss Tony from The Fast Show. Let us make that clear right now. "Lending money to Enron is very much like making love to a beautiful woman ..."

  • Passengers on the incessantly delayed First Great Western train from London to Cardiff this week were over the moon to receive a goody bag containing wine, sweets and a first-person self-flagellating confessional from commercial services manager Elaine Holt. The kids seemed to have enjoyed the wine, although the adult consensus appeared to be that they would just prefer the sodding trains to run on time.

  • Just 299 days after Austin Mitchell MP's official request and one day since it was mentioned in this column, the Ministry of Defence has finally revealed what meetings it has had with Enron executives in the past two years. Well, it has revealed that "in order to preserve confidentiality" it's not going to tell us a damn thing. Democracy in action truly is a wondrous thing.

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