Monthly Archives: November 2007

Editor’s blog: Black holes, lost discs and sick parrots

Firstly, the crisis surrounding Northern Rock seemed to be getting worse and worse. It now seems obvious that the whole fiasco is going to end up costing Johnny Taxpayer a vast mound of cash. Any talk of the entire bulk of the emergency lending being repaid has virtually disappeared. The further anyone looks into Rock’s books the uglier it gets with new talk of mortgages already in hock in the Channel Islands. The government is now quite desperate to get the problem removed but the vultures circling the stricken bank will want their pickings cheap. They know they have the controlling hand (or talon) and it won’t be going any deeper into their feathery pockets than absolutely necessary.And that includes Virgin.

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Editor’s blog: No compensation for failed fat cats

For my sins, the massaging of my ego and the odd tiny appearance fee, I do a fair bit of commentating on TV and radio about business topics. It brings out the suppressed Thespian in me. This year by far the largest demand for MG’s comment has come over the subject of “excessive” remuneration for fat cats and the widening gap between those who toil in the ranks of companies and those who lead them. In recent months I’ve been into the lion’s den with Polly Toynbee – who advocated we all live like the Finns – and had a couple of on-air scraps with members of the TUC.

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Editor’s blog: The Kwik and the slow

I feel terribly sorry for its 1,100 unfortunate store staff who had been working without pay for the last six weeks and have now lost their jobs. These are people who were being paid not much above the minimum wage in the first place and the failure of the business is not their fault but that of the management.

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Editor’s blog: Say sorry, Richard

And there's now the likelihood of long drawn out class actions from furious US litigants – there are no litigants more angry and persistent than American ones, egged on by the worst ambulance-chasing legal system on the planet.

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Editor’s blog: Friendless financiers

So, what's going on? I don't pretend fully to understand the finer intricacies of Collateralised Debt Obligations, covenant-light loans or the murkier depths of the sub-prime mortgage game in the US. What I do understand is a growing unease among many in business with those whose trade is financial manipulation and who, over the last five years have devised ever-subtler and more arcane monetary schemes as they push the boundaries in search of greater reward.

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Editor’s blog: The kids are awright

There have been screams and whoops and tears on the street outside the school gate. Plus naturally – this being 2007 – plenty of those big hugs favoured by teenagers. I got a call at lunchtime from my godson who scored 11 A stars plus a plain A in Physics. His father whom I've known since we were both nine got an “unclassified” in his O-level Physics which in old money meant a fail.

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Editor’s blog: £10k handbags at 20 paces

Toynbee has plenty to say about the rich. Very little of it positive. In a recent Guardian column she likened their behaviour in the UK in 2007 to the last days of Rome with a dash of 'Babylonian excess' thrown in. She has joined Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman to express outrage that some women are paying 10,000 for a handbag. On the morning of our encounter her newspaper, while leading its front page with the bad news that City bonuses had hit a record high with a 14bn payout, noted with distaste that there has been a 29% rise in sales of Bentleys in the last year.

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Editor’s blog: The baby factory

Our health service has taken a bit of a kicking this week from Sir Derek Wanless, who took a dim of view of how the organisation has spent the 43 billion budget increase over the last five years. The NHS, he says, is not making sufficiently good progress because of a worsening in the UK lifestyle, IT delays and disasters but also a failure to improve productivity. Pay increases have not been matched by higher output.

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Editor’s blog: The new Witchcraft

In The Guardian recently under the ominous headline, “Financial Management is the new Witchcraft. We need to break the spell” Hastings sounded off about the finance sector – source of the vast majority of the UK's serious wealth.

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Editor’s blog: Missing duty free

Everyone who was there must remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth when, 10 years ago, those deadly killjoys from Brussels announced they were getting rid of duty free within the EU. It was going to be the death of our airports. When it was abolished the duty free market was worth several billion a year in Europe and the British – never ones to miss the opportunity of something for nothing – bought nearly a quarter of the total.

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