Yes, it could only be the annual fundraising gathering of The Cities of London & Westminster Conservative Association, where the Tory body’s chairman Patrick Evershed (pictured below right) pulled no punches in his assessment of the British economy.
“For the last six years I have been expressing my deep anxiety about the state of the economy, and I still fear Gordon Brown left our economy in a much worse state than most people realise,” opened the Hargreave Hale investment manager at the Two Cities lunch at the Chancery Court Hotel.
“By the time Brown left office, the British economy was in a weaker state than that of any other developed economy, and sorting it out is going to be more painful than most people realise.”
“On the main issue of the day – the economy – the government has got it right and there must be no wavering,” he added. “George Osborne has said we are all in it together. He is right and Ed Balls, the main architect of our economic downfall, needs to be told there is no Plan B – he should shut up and go home.”
The guest speaker at the lunch was transport secretary Philip Hammond, the former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, who raised the biggest laugh – but not through his jokes at the expense of his transport “benchmark” John Prescott – the man who remarked, on landing after a turbulent flight, how pleased he was to be “back on terracotta”.
No – Hammond’s best joke was purely unintentional, when he made a telling slip in his thoughts on the economy. “We are one year into the coalition government formed in our interest because we realised our economy was in grave trouble in May 2010,” he began.
“It is very easy to forget how close to the brink we are… sorry, we were,” he hastily corrected, to the sound of raucous laughter from the assembled City leaders.
SO WHAT now for the minister who will be the longest-serving transport secretary bar Prescott and Alistair Darling by the end of the summer recess?
De-demonising motoring is a priority – “let’s stop the war on the car” – as are building a high-speed rail network and producing a new aviation strategy that will allow growth within environmental parameters. “We are not an anti-aviation government,” said the politician who took the “hard decision” to abandon Heathrow’s third runway.
Top of the list, however, is returning David Cameron to Number 10 for a second term as Prime Minister “without his shadow” – although Hammond stressed he and his Tory colleagues are “all good coalitionists”. For now…
FIRST out of the blocks to offer gambling odds following yesterday’s shocking announcement of the closure of the News of the World was betting firm Bodog.
The biggest beneficiary of the tabloid’s demise – as judged by a percentage increase in the August newspaper circulation figures – will be the Mail on Sunday at 1/2, says the bookmaker, followed by the Sunday Mirror at 6/4.
It is almost certain the News of the World will relaunch by the end of the year as the Sunday Sun at odds of 1/2, while News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks is expected – surprisingly – to still be working at News Corp at Christmas, as an odds-on chance of 1/3.
YOU WOULD think that smoking would at least be allowed on the roof of a major City firm’s office.
Not at PwC’s rooftop summer drinks last night though, as The Capitalist hears smokers were made to take the lift down nine floors to the building’s entrance and then walk 50 metres down the road before they could indulge their vice.
Apparently, the smoking ban was part of PwC’s green agenda following the company’s move to its smart new eco-home at More London, rather than a health and safety measure to prevent fires in the building’s famous energy-saving chip-fat-powered electricity generators.
“It’s just a green thing,” said a smoke-free accountancy mole, speaking from the London headquarters the company’s latest influx of graduates have affectionately christened “Mo-Lo”.
DOING THE DOUBLE
ABERDEEN Asset Management’s long-serving fund manager Hugh Young, who has stuck with the group through thick and thin for 20 years, was last night recognised for his loyalty at the Investment Week Fund Manager of the Year Awards.
But in true Oscars style, Young couldn’t be at the Royal Albert Hall in person to receive his Outstanding Achievement Award, so he collected the honour via video link from his office in Singapore, where he has apparently been busy “playing a huge part” in making Asian equities a mainstream asset class for the UK’s retail investors.
Another big winner at the black-tie event was Schroders, which celebrated doing the double following Schroders Investment Management picking up the Global Fixed Income prize at the Global Investor/isf awards at the Grange Hotel the previous evening.