Nick heads to Argos before VAT bombshell

PROOF that it pays to keep your eyes peeled, no matter where you are. A Capitalist source was in touch yesterday to mention a sterling spot he made while browsing Argos catalogues in his nearest store on Monday.

Who should show up but Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg? But pray, what was the illustrious DPM doing in one of the mail-order vendor’s branches, with its wide selection of big-ticket white goods? Could he have been, erm, getting his expensive purchases in just before the introduction of the coalition government’s “VAT bombshell” yesterday (slogan copyright of the Lib Dem press office)?

After all, any personal finance adviser worth her salt was telling clients to get their big buys in before the tax jumped. Surely Clegg, who posed proudly in front of Lib Dem posters denouncing the Tories’ VAT policy during the general election campaign, must be feeling the rise most keenly?

Sadly, Clegg’s office wasn’t able to tell us exactly what he might have been stocking up on. But we hear Argos does a great line in cheap sackcloth and ashes.

DOWDY WRAPPING
With former M&S chief exec Sir Stuart Rose seeking greener pastures, BGC Partners’ David Buik has some reminiscences about the UK’s favourite ready-meals producer. Praise is due, he says, but there’s one problem Rose never got to grips with: “The fashion leaves something to be desired – probably too dowdy for 2011 to compete with the likes of Primark, Top Shop, Next and the like.”

“Too dowdy” – a harsh analysis indeed, and Buik recommends appropriately harsh penalties: “No doubt new chief executive officer Marc Bolland and (clothing director) Kate Bostock will eventually get it right or Kate will have to be replaced,” he declares.

The Capitalist was hungry for further fashion advice, so we gave him a ring. “You sound young enough to be my grand-daughter,” said Buik politely, “and I’m sure someone as fashion-conscious as you wouldn’t be seen dead in their stuff! They have to sharpen up. There’s just nothing that’s going to make me turn my head in the street at my age.”

As for his own clothing requirements, Buik heads to a City tailor. But he says it’s not out of snobbery: “I’m like a badly wrapped present – I couldn’t get into an M&S suit!”

Aw, David – it’s the contents that counts.

HARD CLIMBS
You might think that a former cabinet minister, former deputy chairman of JP Morgan UK and current member of the Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee and director of several companies might have had enough of chasing challenges, but it seems Lord Michael Forsyth (see above) still has some mountains to climb – specifically, the highest mountain in Antarctica.

The climb is sponsored, so far to the tune of £337,000, with the money going to Marie Curie Cancer and Indian street children charity CINI UK.

He wrote yesterday to let us know that he’s reached “High Camp”, from which he’ll make the exhausting climb to the 16,000-foot peak of Mount Vinson: “By the time we get to the (camp) I am absolutely exhausted,” he reports. Luckily, his companions soon “administer hot tea” to take the chill out of his bones.

“A valuable lesson has been learned,” he says, of his inadequate clothing choices for the climb. It is the Antarctic, milord! Wrap up warm!