WHEN Christina Romer, Chair of the US Council of Economic Advisors, quit her role suddenly last week, speculation was rife that she had been forced out due to fighting with colleague Lawrence Summers. Summers is director of the National Economic Council and before his role as coordinator of US economic policy, he was president of Harvard University – until a power struggle with the faculty cost him the job. But judging by stories circulating at Harvard during Summers’ brief reign, Romer wouldn’t be the first of his associates to have fallen foul of the man.

It seems he was known for a certain social skills deficit while at Harvard. One particularly widespread tale involved the famed economist’s conduct at a high-powered drinks party, during which he somehow managed to get a whole chicken wing caught in his sleeve. Apparently oblivious, Summers allegedly continued to prowl the room with the chicken wing in tow – to the embarrassment of his fellow guests.

In another incident, he was in no effort to disguise his bad mood during one annual off-the-record visit to the Harvard student newspaper’s offices, a meeting that took place during the turmoil that preceded his sacking. Before a roomful of undergraduates, he declared that, if he so chose, he could supply a full list of ten “enemies of progress” within Harvard. Those enemies won, it seems – he was fired soon afterwards.

Add to this the many stories of blazing rows with faculty members and you have a fine
picture of the man Obama has chosen to facilitate constructive debate among his
economic advisors. So how’s that economy coming along, Barack?


Labour MP Tom Watson is on the government expenses rampage this week, blogging yesterday under the irate title: “Why won’t ministers follow through with promises of cutting their cars?” He offers a “progress report” on ministers’ attempts to adhere to David Cameron’s plans to ditch private use of the pricey Government Car Service whenever possible. Those in the firing line included education secretary Michael Gove, of whom he wrote “Gove cuts schools budget and keeps car”. But Watson’s shot went off-target: The education department was in touch to assure The Capitalist that the department will soon be scrapping a contract for four cars booked in under the Labour government – and anyway, “the information is not up-to-date – the secretary of state has a Toyota Avensis, not a Jaguar”. So it’s in fashion to go Japanese now.

But Watson hit home with the foreign office: William Hague’s department has maintained the use of five private rides for ministers – three Toyota Pruises, one Vauxhall Vectra Diesel and one good old British Jaguar. Meanwhile, The Capitalist called up the department for international development to check in on Andrew Mitchell’s car use, to be told that, like many of his decontaminated Tory allies, the minister has private use of a clean, green Toyota Prius. “But he has said,” the department clarified, “that he would like to use a British car.” That’d be a Jaguar then.

Good news for bankers – kind of. A survey of 3,000 Londoners by The Co-operative Bank Current Accounts finds they are not the most distrusted professional in London: bankers came second to politicians. Others on the top 10 list include car salesmen, estate agents and footballers, with most Londoners asked saying they are more distrustful than they were a year ago. They blame their attitude shift on the recession, bad service and a general sense that society is becoming more selfish. But if bankers escaped the ignominy of the top spot only to claim second, the news wasn’t much better for The Capitalist: journalists came in at number three.

Following the publication of the winners of The Capitalist’s hot City guys contest yesterday, the inbox has been inundated with inquiries as to when the women’s equivalent is coming out – and why various different guys didn’t win. Well, you can only win if you’re nominated, guys, and today is the last chance to nominate hot City women for the competition, the results of which will come out soon. Email nominations – with pictures – to
Victoria Bates is away.