THE SOMERSET economy received a much-needed boost over the weekend, when local taxis, security firms and caterers were booked out solidly for the 50th birthday celebrations of Finsbury boss Roland Rudd at his Grade 1-listed country pile.

Around 400 City leaders and friends prioritised the PR-chief’s party over George Osborne’s 40th at the chancellor’s grace-and-favour country home on the same night, including News Corp heir James Murdoch, CBI president Sir Roger Carr and Daily Mail tycoon Viscount Rothermere.

The dress code said “elegant” but, as ever, there was room for interpretation, with Standard Chartered’s CEO Peter Sands opting for a “bohemian” patterned shirt and no tie and M&S chairman Roger Swannell choosing not to wear the high-street retailer’s clothes, in a departure from his usual habit, prompting a lively exchange with his predecessor Stuart Rose.

Also enjoying Rudd’s hospitality, which included a 1970s tribute band playing disco hits, were Sebastian Grigg from Credit Suisse; RBS chief executive Stephen Hester; Richard Gnodde of Goldman Sachs; Sir Martin Sorrell, who owns Finsbury as part of his WPP empire; and, last but not least, Rudd’s loyal friend Peter Mandelson.

Mandelson is also godfather to one of Rudd’s two sons, and the PR chief’s family later took centre stage at the celebrations thanks to tributes from his three sisters, led by Amber Rudd, the Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye.

Meanwhile, Rudd’s father Tony revealed how his son had shown entrepreneurial flair at an early age, selling on Mars Bars to his fellow Millfield schoolboys at twice the going rate as they travelled back to the boarding school by train. “Roland used to leave Paddington skint and arrive at the school flush,” Rudd senior told the gathering..

NO SIGN of Virgin boss Richard Branson, the billed name at the pre-Wimbledon party in association with the Women’s Tennis Association and Land Rover.

Instead, his children Sam and Holly stood in as hosts alongside Harold Tillman, the chairman of the British Fashion Council, which collaborated with the WTA to dress the tennis stars at the party: Serena Williams in Burberry, Maria Sharapova in Alexander McQueen and Heather Watson in Mulberry.

Interesting, then, that none of the tennis players chose to wear Jaeger, which Tillman rescued from decline when he bought the luxury British brand in 2003, or even Aquascutum, which returned to British ownership when Tillman added it to his retail stable in 2009.

Clearly, the lure of the bright yellow dress covered in tennis balls, as designed by one of Lady Gaga’s designers Alex Noble, was too strong for American sports star Bethanie Mattek-Sands to resist.