Monthly Archives: February 2009

Jim Pickard

I was going to leap to the defence of Britain’s senior civil servants whose 1,700 items of hospitality last year were made up mostly of breakfasts, dinners and lunches.

And then I saw that Michael White at the Guardian has articulated this line of thought already. Worth reading.

It lacks the punch of Sarko. But the French finance minister has clearly made her own bid for a Brit-bashing award. Christine Lagarde’s target for reproach is Alistair Darling, who apparently failed to warn her about Britain’s last rescue package, in spite of all his rhetoric about global co-ordination.

Unlike Darling, Tim Geithner had the manners to consult her before unvieling the US bailout, Lagarde says in an FT interview. She sounds exasperated at Darling’s failure to act on his own pleas for collaboration. Read more

Jim Pickard

Remind you of another country on the other side of the world?

The lack of attention given to the Bank of England’s grim forecast for the economy is bizarre. Mervyn King basically said the recession, from peak to trough, will be two times worse than the Treasury expects. That knocks about £30bn to £40bn off official GDP forecasts, hits the tax take by up to £20bn and raises the deficit from 8 to closer to 10 per cent of national income. You have to wonder why David Cameron decided to raise VAT in the Commons on Wednesday and ignored the big “gloom gap” between Gordon Brown and the Bank.

For those who are interested, the calculations are based on this Bank fan chart. It is not a straight comparison with the Treasury forecasts, so the figures have to be put into a spreadsheet. Read more

Jim Pickard

It is not clear why the Office for National Statistics has chosen to release jobs data by UK-born and non UK-born citizens for the first time. But it has and here is the text. Read more

Jim Pickard

No doubt Thursday’s newspapers will be making hay from Eric Daniels’ comment that he is paid a regular kind of wage. Read more

Jim Pickard

Jim Pickard

The second session of MPs versus bankers has kicked off. This time it’s current chief executives facing the Treasury select committee.

Opening question from John McFall, chairman: Why do the general public hate you?

Cue long-winded non-answers from several bank chiefs.

We’ve now moved on to Stephen Hester of RBS and the question of who decides the bank’s bonuses. (RBS has controversially considered paying up to £1bn of bonuses, some of which are under contractual obligation).

Hester says: “I believe that falls to the RBS board but I could not imagine the RBS board doing something over the violent opposition of the majority of its shareholders and we have one shareholder which is majority so we are looking very carefully with UKFI (a wing of the Treasury) to get the right solution.”

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Jim Pickard

Jim Pickard

News flash: Crosby is walking from his job as deputy chair of the City regulator.

His demise seemed likely after No 10 failed to give him unqualified support earlier this morning. Read more

This year’s Black and White Ball was a strange affair. David Cameron went to great lengths to make the main event of the Tory social calendar as inconspicuous as possible. The Black & White Ball became the Black & White Party. The guests dropped the dinner jackets and cummerbunds for suits and open neck shirts. (Dress code: “Winter Glamorous”.) Champagne was out, sympathy for the poor was in.

Even more strange, though, was the response to Cameron’s speech. This is a captive audience. It usually takes little more than a wink from the Tory leader to have the ball guests lying on their backs and screaming for more. But, somehow, Cameron delivered a damp squib. The obligatory standing ovation was forgone. The crowd stayed seated. Read more

Jim Pickard

Jim Pickard

Jim Pickard

I should point out that Moore was dismissed several years ago and sued the company for unfair dismissal under the whistle-blowing legislation. The claim was settled in 2005.

Here are the choice extracts: Read more

Jim Pickard

None of the former heads of HBOS and RBS were going to walk into the Treasury select committee and say: “Je ne regrette rien.”

And yes, they are all “profoundly and unreservedly sorry”, they said this morning. (There was a full-on carnival atmosphere in and around Portcullis House, with union protesters, police and hundreds of journalists and photographers).

But would they have done anything differently? That’s the question. And the answer seemed to be: no.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Stephen Hester, the new chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, is widely seen as the best man for the job of clearing up the mess left by his predecessor Sir Fred Goodwin. Both men are set to appear in front of the Treasury select committee during hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday; as are other bank bosses.

But Hester’s legacy at British Land - where he was chief exec until last year - is not so perfect, however, as we have written before. Later this week the company will announce an emergency rights issue and sell off assets to ensure its survival during a broader real estate downturn.

Jim Pickard

gordo-and-sarko.jpg 

Gordon Brown may be in full mobile-hurling mode this morning after his VAT cuts were criticised by the French president in a marathon TV interview on Thursday night. Read more

Jim Pickard

A flurry of Lords have amended the register of interests in the last two weeks.

This Tuesday saw

1] Lord Clement-Jones, treasurer of the Liberal Democrats (and partner at law firm DLA Piper) add US defence group Raytheon to his list. Read more

Jim Pickard

toxteth.jpgMy colleague Andy Bounds broke the story last month that England’s poorest regions were losing out on millions of pounds of extra funding from the European Union – despite Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland benefiting.

The government decided there wasn’t enough time for the regions to spend a sudden windfall after the collapse of sterling boosted the value of euro-denominated European Union grants by about a fifth. Read more