Lionel Barber’s pick of the week

Two big stories dominated: the wave of street protests in Iran and the Obama administration’s plans for overhauling financial regulation. But there were some spicy runners-up: the break-up of Formula
, Sir Fred Goodwin’s sudden display of remorse when he handed back part of his generous pension settlement, Mervyn King’s eloquent power grab on banking reform, Lord Carter’s blueprint for a Digital Britain, and British Airways’s artful pay cut, via a plea for staff to (temporarily) work for nothing to save

First, a very special mention to Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Roula Khalaf in Tehran who provided expert coverage in print and online in a dangerous and unpredictable environment. Roula Khalaf wrote a splendid analysis.

Second, we provided strong coverage on the financial regulation story in the US. On the day of the announcement, we explored the possibility that the plan would give the Federal Reserve the power to regulate an industrial company such as General Electric and the differences between the new regulatory thinking in the US and Europe.

Third, we produced extensive print and online coverage, including a video package, of our (fifth) Business of Luxury Summit, this time located in Monte Carlo. We had more than 400 guests, including Bernard Arnault of LMVH, Angela Ahrendts of Burberry and Malcolm McLaren, founder of the Sex Pistols, pop icon, cultural commentator and artiste. And if you missed the FT this past week, you would have missed the following special items:

1) Glencore, the publicity-adverse trading house with far-reaching influence on world commodity markets, is considering a stock market flotation. William McNamara broke an important story that was widely read among commodity cognoscenti.

2) Martin Wolf’s column – the recession tracks the Great Depression - was among the best read on for several days. His Friday column skewering Gordon Brown (and Ed Balls) - Honesty is the best fiscal policy - was cited at length by Martin Ivens in his own op-ed column in the Sunday Times.

3) George Soros’ column on the best way forward for financial regulation was among the most read on

4) Andrew Clark’s Lunch with the FT with Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, was a sumptuous blend of art, history and politics which penetrated the German soul.

5) Richards Waters delivered double scoops: on the return of Credit Suisse banker Frank Quattrone to Silicon Valley and the other on European regulatory challenges to Facebook’s hopes for profitability.

6) Jonathan Birchall produced, a detailed exploration of the new frontier in men’s shaving.

7) Paul Taylor’s column on the best in beach-proof technology for the summer was a good example of how we are getting better at consumer journalism.

8) Chris Giles wrote an excellent news feature explaining why the UK labour market is proving more flexible than might have been expected during the recession. Pay-cuts or de facto pay-cuts through reduced working time are an important factor.

9) Richard Milne wrote an eye-catching analysis on how Norway’s equality law has produced a revolution in the boardroom, triggering interest and scrutiny in other countries.  The feature attracted plenty of letters.

10) Kevin Done’s swan song from the Paris air show included the true reason why Ryanair won’t be charging people to visit the toilet mid-flight.

Humour watch: Best column by a mile by Robert Shrimsley on Mervyn King’s Mansion House speech in which he likened the Bank of England to a church which could draw the congregation to weddings and funerals but has proved unable to compel people to listen to its sermons.  Here is an excerpt…

“Across the City, Mervyn saw a great storm brewing. He saw the Royal Bank of Nineveh with its 125 per cent mortgages and doubtful hedging strategy. He saw the low capital adequacy ratios at the Banks of
Sodom and Gommorah.  Mervyn became angry and stormed over the City and with mighty voice and much fury said: “Steady on a bit, would you.”

Europe watch: Tony Barber and George Parker covered the EU summit with skill and judgment, focusing on differences over the management of systemic risk and the reappointment of José Manuel Barroso as Commission president, albeit amid ructions in the European Parliament.  Nikki Tait wrote a very good analysis on state aid in the recession and the challenge for EU competition authorities.

Trend to watch: Sam Knight’s arresting feature in the Weekend FT magazine on how climate change is about to trigger the biggest migration in history.

Graphics watch: We are becoming more and more confident about innovating in design and producing graphic imagery. The best example this week was the splendid graphic on the global car industry, supporting John Reed’s feature.

Comment watch: A magisterial contribution from Philip Stephens on how Iran has exposed the gap between idealism and realism for Barack Obama. Max Hastings wrote the last word on the UK government’s
decision to hold another public inquiry into the Iraq war in private, sorry partly in public, sorry…..please contact Downing street for the latest developments.

UK companies watch: Dan Thomas produced a great scoop about retail property gloom and also provided a well-written and timely interview with Vincent Tchenguiz ahead of the Bramdean showdown. Gill Plimmer delivered a strong exclusive on National Express’s debt talks.  Plus a scoop from Matt “Mr Hollywood” Garrahan and London’s Salamander Davoudi on a possible bid by ESPN for English Premier League football television rights.

And finally, please note Mrs Moneypenny’s campaign for a place for Sir Keith Park, the New Zealand air ace and Defender of Britain in 1940 has paid off.  A statue of Sir Keith will appear for six months on the fourth
plinth of Trafalgar Square – and he will gain a permanent berth elsewhere soon thereafter. Well done, Mrs M – ably supported by Mr Terry Smith and many other FT readers.

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