When I started working at a Westminster PR firm eight years ago, I had to learn how to drink at lunch.
It wasn’t exactly a hardship. We were a small office (just three people when I joined) and every day we would decamp to the Italian next-door and see off a few bottles of red. We won Customer of the Year, every year – with the prize being a case of wine.
In my first few weeks I had to fight against the urge to fall asleep in the afternoons but pretty quickly my stamina increased and I was regularly enjoying what Nigel Farage refers to as a “proper f**king lunch” before returning to the office for a full and productive afternoon. Such a revelation may shock you, but I doubt it. I was young, good at my job and enjoying myself.
Read more: Britain’s boozers boost bottom line
Times change, of course. As do attitudes to alcohol, and I think we were probably riding the tail end of Westminster’s boozy lunch culture. You can still find them, but it’s not quite the same. A similar shift has occurred in the City, with the new Lloyd’s of London 9-5 booze ban serving as a fresh example.
One veteran of that particular market reminisces about the “13 pint lunch” at the Lamb in Leadenhall market. Another tells me that 30 years ago he would regularly find people asleep in the loos after lunch. There is a difference, of course, between that kind of excess and the simple pleasure of a pint at lunch with colleagues or clients.
Read more: RIP to the humble business lunch?
As one top City PR man tells me, Lloyd’s is finally catching up with a stricter approach taken by many Square Mile institutions, though “like the classic recent convert, they’ve opted for extremism”.
A total booze ban in an office that literally has a huge bar in its basement does seem a bit, er, rum. Besides, as one senior insurance figure puts it, Lloyd’s has bigger things to worry about than whether staff fancy a drink – such as how to respond to “too much money chasing not enough business”. Perhaps incoming chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown can thrash that out over a pint...
Panmure challenges the star challenger
Panmure Gordon has given a bullish assessment of challenger banks, sticking a buy notice on Aldermore, OneSavings, Shawbrook and Virgin Money, describing the sector as a “sweet spot” as mainstream banks focus on cost reduction.
However, Metro Bank, which has enjoyed a stellar share price run since its 2016 float, is slapped with a sell rating for its failure to turn a profit. Metro says it wants “fans not customers”. Seems Panmure aren’t in either category.
Save your anger for the real wage crooks
The business department teamed up with The One Show (a kind of grown-up Blue Peter) to break the news that Debenhams topped the list of offenders who have failed to pay the minimum wage.
Cue the outrage. But it turns out the retailer calculated pay on a 52-week year, rather than HMRC’s model of 52.17, meaning employees missed out on an average of £11 each. The mistake has been rectified, but not before unions called for the store’s bosses to be jailed for wage theft.
Rid the City of any dirty, filthy money
Hats off to Dominic Raab, the Tory MP (and former Foreign Office lawyer) who is leading the charge to make life tougher for notorious human rights abusers. Raab wants to amend the Criminal Finance Bill to give authorities the power to seize the assets (frequently laundered through the City) of foreign despots and crooks.
Roughly £100bn is laundered through UK banks every year, but Raab says only 0.2 per cent of that amount is currently frozen. All power to his elbow, I say.
Trump story triggers painful Tory memories
There are plenty of scandals and cock-ups clinging to the new US administration, but not all of them are unique to Trump. Take, for example, the case of his ill-fated nominee for labour secretary, Andrew Puzder.
The fast-food billionaire has had to withdraw from the process following revelations that he employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper. Exactly the same mistake forced Tory MP Mark Harper to quit as immigration minister in 2014.