We live in interesting times. A few years ago, who would have expected vegan sausage rolls to fly off Greggs’ heated shelves, or for KFC to announce a new vegan “chicken” burger called The Imposter? Veganism is alive and well… but not so much at the Canary Wharf branch of Boisdale this week, where the likes of Andrew Marr, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Nick Ferrari, Stanley Johnson and William Sitwell gathered for an indulgent lunch and writers’ awards bash.
Sitwell picked up one of the top gongs for his reflections on an infamous incident last autumn in which the Masterchef star was forced to resign as editor of Waitrose’s food magazine after joking, in an email, about the prospect of slaughtering vegans, or force-feeding them meat. Unrepentant, Sitwell doubled-down on his mockery of trendy plantivores at Boisdale, delivering an acceptance speech in which he lashed out at “emaciated” vegans “lacking vitamin B”.
Fuelled with a glass or two of Ian Botham’s finest wines, Sitwell, by now on a roll, continued: “Some are so busy spreading the message that they don’t have time to wash. Others have lost all their strength because of the lack of protein that they find it hard to even pick up a razor blade. And yet some of us are here in this room eating meat, practising that hideous thing of species-ism where we choose to sit on our sofas and watch Newsnight surrounded by dogs and cats rather than, as I do now, with a pig on my left and a partridge on my right.”
Cue laughter and applause from an audience gorged on smoked salmon, dry aged beef and several rich cheeses. Know your audience, they say. On this occasion, at least, Sitwell knew his.
Bird’s eye view of Hong Kong protest
Lots of big-name financial journalists began their careers at City A.M. and we are proud to continue the tradition of giving young talent a chance. Few, however, end up on the ground covering intense geopolitical standoffs between police and protesters. That has been the job of former City A.M. economics correspondent Mike Bird this week, who reported on the clashes in Hong Kong for the Wall Street Journal. “The thing about financial journalism is they never tell you how often you’re going to get tear gassed,” Bird tweeted in typically droll fashion.
Tories must be precise as they take a scalpel to Britain’s tax laws
£ Yesterday’s Tory leadership ballot marked the end for teams Harper, Leadsom and McVey, leaving an all-male shortlist to fight it out for the top job. As the scrap gets serious, perhaps we will see even more tempting tax cuts dangled in front of Conservative members by the remaining hopefuls. Instinctively, the lean towards cuts has been refreshingly exciting during the contest so far, from Michael Gove’s pledge to scrap VAT to Boris Johnson’s typically divisive and bombastic plan to ramp up the 40p income tax threshold to £80,000.
This newspaper has repeatedly called for an increase in the threshold to offset years and years in which millions of people have been unfairly dragged into the higher rate. However, critics – including George Osborne’s ex-chief of staff Rupert Harrison and former Treasury wonk Nick Macpherson – are right to point out that promises are irresponsible if not fully funded. Candidates must ensure there is flesh on the bone.
Chuking in the towel
When a group of brave MPs split from the Labour and Tory ranks to form (as it was then) the Independent Group, some of us wondered why a new centrist, Remain-backing party was required when a centrist, Remain-backing party already existed in the form of the Lib Dems. Now it appears some of those MPs – namely Chuka Umunna – will indeed join the Lib Dems, while the remaining party rebrands for the fifth time in four months. What a farce.
Adsmen and batsmen
The sun shone at Lord’s last weekend for JP Morgan’s annual client/staff cricket tournament. Not only did attendees play on the hallowed turf alongside greats such as Curtly Ambrose, Wasim Akram and Andrew Strauss, they were then regaled over dinner by batting heroes Sir Vivian Richards and Sunil Gavaskar.
One notable guest was cricket nut Sir Martin Sorrell, something of a regular at the event. The marketing guru has been busy luring two of his former WPP execs to his new venture S4 Capital. Now he’s revitalised his top order, perhaps we’ll see even more of Sorrell at the Home of Cricket with the Ashes approaching.