Tuesday, July 31, 2007
A link to the full news story on the BBC is here.
"We intend to erect statues of Mr Sarbanes and Mr Oxley as a mark of respect for their contribution to the British financial services industry," he said.
He also said he'd been to Burnley, where he was born, and had begun to explore ways in which the financial world can start talking to school kids earlier. To make people more financially savvy, but also to ensure the education system is preparing people with skills for life.
I resisted all temptation to say to him, or his wife, that I only came to the dinner because I thought it was going to be Ken Livingstone. I think he may have heard that before.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Monkey business - it was brilliant seeing all the Arctic Monkeys fans. There were kids on the train, all over the station, at all points in the city centre, piling out of the cafes and pubs all dressed up and off to Old Trafford to see the hottest band of the moment.
Chav alert - There should be some kind of security at Piccadilly station specifically on duty to chase chavs and assorted scrotes away. It was unsettling to have three drunk scumbags screaming at people outside Greggs. Such an appalling impression of the city.
Garden city - Piccadilly Gardens is much much better now the turf has taken.
Market trader - The farmers market at the far end of the gardens is brilliant, but left me lighter in the pocket and hungry for cheese, sausages and fruit.
Smoking - I can't tell you how much I hate smoking. Now it's been driven onto the streets you have to keep an eye on the kids walking into a fag in hand.
Shite shops doing well - The Next sale - what a pile of shite. We're after wedding outfits for the kids for Sean (Rachel's brother) and Reena's wedding do next month. Like a jumble sale.
Great shops close - Stanford's has closed. Dreadful, awful news. I loved this shop and bought a few old maps, books and stocked up on Moleskine notebooks. Another example of Manchester having the ambition to host great stores that the city isn't able to support. I don't hate HMV, and the bargains are eye wateringly cheap, but I wish I had the choice to browse at Fopp for books, films and music. It was really good, and the fact it closed shows how tough retail is.
Great shops doing well - I do like Run in the Barton Arcade. Couldn't persuade Elliot to spend his birthday money (he'll be 3 on Tuesday) on an old school Adidas bag, but I paused over the Lyle and Scott revival jumpers.
Kids and food - kids will try new and ethnic food (we went to Lotus for dim sum) but only if you tell them it's sausage and pie (steamed dumpling). Ribs were very spicy, mind.
Shoe shuffle - I wanted to buy some Churches brogues from Russell and Bromley but they have to order them in. Eh? You still have to pay, but they'll give it back if you don't like them. I like to try on what I'm buying, especially shoes and I like to walk out with what I've just bought. I bought two pairs of Loakes from Slaters instead. Got a thing about shoes, if you pay less, you often end up paying twice.
Friday, July 27, 2007
[Cue triumphant scenes of a hooded figure jogging past burning oilcans in Blackburn town centre, throwing punches at a huge slab of black pudding, and then sprinting up Ewood Park's famous steps].
Yes, coming soon to a Premiership football club near you: the incredible story of Roque, the Paraguay striker who looks like a Chippendale but scores far less frequently. During eight years at Bayern Munich, Roque Santa Cruz has played just 136 games, scoring 27 goals, a miserable statistic usually blamed on three serious knee operations and a gammy ankle. But last season a fully-fit Roque managed just three in 35 and was considered by some to be the worst player in the German league quite some accolade when Timothee Atouba is around.
Still, while Roque is considered washed up in the land of lederhosen, Mark Hughes reckons he can make him a contender. "The good thing from our point of view is that his fitness levels are fine as he has been playing in the Copa América," growled the Blackburn boss before suddenly morphing into Leslie Crowther. "Maybe in the next 24 hours a deal could be concluded if the price is right!"
The more important thing for Blackburn, of course, is whether Roque still packs a punch. At the 2002 Japan Korea Hyundai etc etc World Cup, he was a minor sensation as Paraguay reached the last 16. Back then he looked a striker of rare quality - able to play as a target man or operate in the hole; 6ft 3in tall but quick. If he could recapture that form he could form a lethal partnership with Benni McCarthy. If not, Hughes can always turn to Jason Roberts...
I had to laugh at the comment from Rupert Murdoch, reflecting on his $500m purchase of MySpace:
Asked in June if readers of his print titles were joining MySpace, he answered, albeit tongue in cheek: "I wish they were. They’re all going to Facebook."
Personally, I'm still not convinced about Facebook. My mate Andy Coyne reckons it's clearly run by the CIA and steering well clear.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The event is being organised by Mike Reeves of Clearwater Corporate Finance, former pop star Jeremy Smith of Barclays Commercial Finance and Mencap, who will also star in the backing band. If you fancy some tickets, £30 a pop, send me an email.
The north has been impressively good-humoured over the yawning imbalance in media coverage of our floods compared with those down south (and west). I've had my say on Comment is Free. Link is here. and I urge you to have yours, specially if you agree with me. But we are clinging to our tradition of messing these things up. Hull's plaintive claim to be the "forgotten city" now shows signs of shifting towards "the city that can't add up". Estimates two weeks ago that 16,000 houses had been flooded have been cut to nearer 6,000, according to the Hull Daily Mail, which explans that the first guess was based only on a sample of streets. I urge you, however, to read the furious "Your Say" email responses from victims. Someone called Madeline, for example, says in capital letters that it is all because WE ARE TURNING AWAY FROM GOD, while a Mr Wheel of Filey respondes: "Madeline is from Planet Zog."
When I left to take Joe and Matt to school at 8.15 there was a torrent down Hibbert Lane and the road seemed to have ruptured in a few places. United Utilities recorded a message at 6.15 that they were going to restore supply today. A very cheerful fellow on the helpline has just given me an update that people are using water tankers for supply today, but all being well it should be back on by this evening.
Did I imagine what sounded like a convoy of tanks, or was that what caused the burst?
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The greatest sweet shop in the world, Humbugs in Lancaster has a section on their website, here, devoted to the delights of this very tasty treat, but even they have expunged chewy toffee, such as the creamy Walkers Nonsuch and Bluebird from their inventory.
There's a website, Liquorice Heaven (link is here), that sells the salty Dutch stuff.
There's a website called Bah Humbug that sells the liqourice midget gems and sports mixtures that the merger between Lion and Maynards appear to have killed off. Get them while you can from here.
And there's a website called A Quarter Of... (link is here) which has a better range of toffee, including the creamy Walkers Nonsuch, for which the official but basic website is here. I met Ian Walker, the owner of the business in Chubby Chandler's tent at the Open last year. He is a master of his craft and a true gent.
But why is this purge on liquorice happening? Are tastes changing to such an extent that kids will only eat fruity and sweet confectionary? I hope not.
There's a glowing review of the genius of JK Rowling, from the Australian, here.
Rather than appealing to "the lowest common denominator", the Harry Potter books, like the great fantasy novels, fairytales and myths, appeal to the deepest common denominator. Yet Rowling also allows for a good deal of ambiguity and contradiction in her characters, even in what I call the Dark Lord test.
We get a real sense of the pitifulness as well as the evil of Voldemort, something that isn't true of Tolkien's Sauron or Lewis's White Witch, while in Pullman's trilogy those associated with the tyrannical church are often caricatures of evil.
And so it is Rowling who emerges, in the end, as the most sophisticated of them all, her magpie mix of gifts at the very heart of her genius.
There's a digested read from the Guardian here.
I've found a network about Marple where someone has this to say:
Hey guys. Went through a long phase of hating marple when I was in my mid teens. I've done some travelling in the years since and i've really started to appreciate how good Marple really is. I've travelled Switzerland and the US looking for hills like Marple's and i've never quite found em. We could do with a chav culling but they'll never take our hills away. The hills are ours!
There's even a Marple Athletic Football Club section, populated by lads who used to play for the teenage teams, but as we're currently looking at doing up the website maybe they could help us out.
Friday, July 20, 2007
I first scribbled about it here.
An analysis piece on the BBC site is here.
There's some news in the Telegraph about her new job setting up Tony Blair's foundation, link here.
Some 250 members of the corporate finance community packed into the Passenger Shed in Bristol for Insider's inaugural Dealmakers Awards for the South West of England. It was a triumphant night for Martyn Gregory, corporate finance partner at Deloitte, who scooped the coveted Dealmaker of the Year award. The acquisition of Foster Yeoman by Aggregate Industries was awarded Deal of the Year at the event. Other winners included HSBC, Lloyds TSB, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Bond Pearce, KPMG, Soloman Hare, Osborne Clarke, Grant Thornton and Close Brothers.
We're also doing events in the Thames Valley, London and Newcastle this year.
We're launching South West Business Insider magazine in September.
I'm looking for an editor in the South West. Know anyone? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What a time we're living in. The BBC stitches up the Queen and commercial TV networks rip the piss out of the viewers who pay for their expense accounts. Everyone has more fake than real friends these days, thanks to Fakebook, sorry Facebook, and we're even embroiled in a disastrous war thanks to a fake dossier, copied from students on the net. And now we find even marmot relationships aren't real. A compelling scientific study has revealed that young marmots tend to grow up stronger or more successful if they're fathered by their mother's bit-on-the side, rather than the poor, unaware mate with whom they play happy families. So what are we worried about? Surely if cheating is best for the marmots, it's best for us. Even the Queen.
The link to the Economist feature on cheating marmots is here.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I'm very critical of economists, I think they often fail to see the creativity in business and the skill of the entrepreneur in marketing and selling. But these guys are quite shrewd. They realise that people do well because they get better at sales, processes and products, not just because the economy is kind to them.
Talking of cycles, Hollywood seems to follow a similar pattern, although the cycles seem a lot shorter.
2005 was the year of the big blockbuster, 2006 was quiet.
But 2007 has seen one hit after another. In the US, two of the top three opening weekends ever seen were for films released this year: Spider Man 3 and Shrek the Third.
And now it’s Harry's turn. What with the last book in the series coming out soon, there seems to be more interest than normal in the latest Harry Potter film.
And sure enough, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix enjoyed the best ever box office receipts ever seen in the US on Wednesday. It knocked Spider Man 2 off the top spot.
But while the last few years have seen a rush of record breaking opening weekends and first days, the all time most successful films are a little older.
The all-time record for box office receipts worldwide belongs to Titanic. As for the top ten, it contains the three Lord of The Rings films, three Harry Potter movies, Shrek 2, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars Phantom Menace.
Joanna Rowling isn't a multi-millionaire because the book trade is doing well, it's because people like her books. And films.
Anyway, the link for you to subscribe to it is here.
Part of the problem is a lack of trust, which Janine Gibson and Steve Armstrong write about very well in the paper today.
A flavour is here: "If they [TV channels] don't maintain some of the distance between them and the charlatans elsewhere on the programme guide - playing bingo and trying to flog you fake jewellery - then no one will trust them any more. Then - well, the game really will be up."
A link to the full article is here.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Ban it? Don't be stupid. But would I want my kids to read it? No, there are far better stories to read and learn from.
Scotland on Sunday reports that sales have soared, here.
Some sensible comment in the Times is here.
I've also got a Railway Series complete set from the 1970s. In Henry the Green engine, he blows soot at a gang of naughty boys who run away as black as coal. Except it only says "coal" in the new version. It says the "N" word in my original. It isn't political correctness gone mad to keep this outdated, silly, old language from children. It's common sense.
Still, it was probably as much excitement as one day can handle. We went to a special 3D screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the Printworks in Manchester, courtesy of KPMG. A great film, by any measure.
Friday, July 13, 2007
One of the fascinating things is meeting other "industry" journalists and observing their hierarchies. At the press conference this morning we heard about a whole new contract with the Indian Air Force and a new project with the RAF - it creates a slight problem for Lancashire as there is a huge need for engineers that is hard to meet.
The first question came from the old hack from Janes Defence Weekly. Very technical. Then the lads I've been with - Peter Magill from the Lancashire Telegraph and Nick Hyde from the Blackpool Gazette - asked about job prospects in their area. You then get industry veterans chiding the officials from the MoD about pet subjects that have clearly been simmering for some time. You get a question that seems obvious and seems to have missed the point. But then that is the point. You get the officials, or BAE execs to repeat it all back but in a slightly less clipped and polished way. Thus getting a better quote.
There is a story to be got here, whoever you are, whoever your readers are. Proper journalists are never off duty. Even me, and I've got a blog to do as well.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
What we do now is a mystery to me.
I certainly have no desire to "poke" any of my friends.
I can't link to profiles, you have to log in to Facebook to see, you can do that by clicking here.
First, he was clearly never a fan of the idea, it will be killed off.
Two, however transparent a process, however much you play by the rules of engagement, the government record on delivery of policy goals in the regions is to constantly renege on promises.
Blackpool should get on with it and build smaller casinos - like Manchester 235 - and some proper leisure centres.
David Cain our Director of Regeneration told me that when you issued the immortal words “to you” the Peel guy looked daggers!
Oh dear. I've upset Andrew Simpson. Not hard, to be honest.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The debate, chaired by me, featured some tetchy exchanges between Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, who advocates the scheme, and Peel Holdings boss Andrew Simpson, who opposes it. Simpson said the transport improvements should be paid for by selling Manchester Airport.
At the start of the debate we managed to look at 4 real life examples of business people and how they would be affected by the introduction of a congestion charge. We had Laura from Chorlton who takes her son to nursery before hiking into the city centre; John from Worsley who runs a construction business; the owner of a chauffer service, David from Clitheroe, and Anna from Alderley Edge, who works in property PR in Manchester. Not that hard, was it?
The two questions that were asked were as follows: Would you agree to a congestion charge being introduced in Greater Manchester by 2012 on the basis that £3 billion had been spent to transform the transport in Greater Manchester prior to the introduction of charge?
24 said yes, 23 said no, 9 were undecided.
Would you oppose the introduction of a congestion charge if only part of the £3bn had been spent by 2012.
40 said yes, 12 said no, 4 were undecided.
Business support is one of the five key tests of any bid for a pilot Transport Improvement Fund, without it, the bid will not go ahead. On this evidence, I think it looks doomed.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Thanks Dad, a great birthday. Put a shine on the otherwise depressing onset of middle age.
Go and see for yourself. Link is here.
I'm not surprised, but how hard would it have been to find four real people?
Strangely, there is a case to be made for road charging. Neil Tague went to a debate this morning where Sir Howard Bernstein, the chief executive of Manchester city council, presented a very well put together plan which people supported. I've also heard SHB and the council leader Sir Richard Leese make a cogent argument.
A link to the made up "testimonials" is here
A full link to the story on the BBC website is here.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Now, sadly, it's day that will be remembered for when a bunch of nutters blew up themselves, and 50 or more other people, in London. Pause to think about the victims today and all of those who are caught up in this horrific conflict between Islamism and the modern world.
And also take a look at this website, here, dedicated to John Smeaton, the bloke from Glasgow airport who had a pop at the would be bombers. Picked on the wrong airport, didn't they?
Friday, July 06, 2007
To Liverpool for the CBI dinner as a guest of Andrew Budenburg of Barclays Bank. The main attraction was David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party. I spoke to a lot of people afterwards and asked them what they thought.
This, therefore covers this blog’s ten thoughts for Friday.
- Cameron was on the stage for an hour. He’s a very good performer, not quite in the Blair class. But he spoke, then took questions, and didn’t duck the difficult issues.
- He is right about the skill of charity workers, the voluntary sector and business to tackle social problems more effectively than the state. This could well be his big defining idea. “Gordon Brown’s answer to problems is a top down solution. My answer to problems is to ask what business, the voluntary sector can do." I'm sure Dougal Paver will have something to say about this later.
- He had good examples of business initiatives by big retailers on carbon neutral practice and good examples of how businesses like Tomorrow’s People can get people into work and help them stay in work.
- He is also determined to abolish regional assemblies (hooray!) and give more decision making and finance raising powers to local authorities which should be led by a powerful city mayor. This is what he calls “a transfer of trust”. He wants to encourage “a new generation of civic leader and city fathers”. My question: where are they coming from?
- He wants the Conservatives to be recognised as the party of business, but will not commit to tax cuts. In time, as the economy prospers, it is right that business should reap the rewards and not be taxed.
- Economic breakdown is not the problem that causes poverty and drug addiction and decay, but social breakdown. The broken society is the biggest challenge we face and that business can be the solution, it is not the problem.
- He made a strange policy pledge on the need to introduce incentives for marriage. I don’t quite know what to make of this one. Neither did anyone else I spoke to.
- Two different people him, and him, mentioned to me afterwards that Gordon Brown is messianic when you meet him and a more awesome and inspirational character. My thought is, you can’t convince everyone by meeting them one by one.
- A lot of people said he reminded them of Blair fifteen years ago. I know what they mean, the country is definitely ready for change. But if Gordon Brown positions himself as different from Blair and IS that change, then Cameron could be stuffed.
- Cameron has lots of intriguing ideas that sound good and make sense. Whether people trust the Conservatives is another thing entirely. Like Blair he is trapped in his own party. And like Blair it was his party’s unwillingness to go with him on the difficult decisions that held him back.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Here are the titles from You Tube: Flashing Blade titles
Here's a link to some background on the programme, here.
Great lyrics too:
You've got to fight for what you want
For all that you believe
It's right to fight for what we want
To live the way we please
As long as we have done our best
Then no one can do more
And life and love and happiness
Are well worth fighting for
And we should never count the cost
Or worry that we'll fall
It's better to have fought and lost
Than not have fought at all
Let's always take whatever comes
And never try to hide
Face everything and anyone
Together side by side
There's a raging debate about road charging, which is not a debate at all. The local council chiefs say they want a discussion, but they slam anyone who raises sensible questions as naive, or prepostorous or unhelpful.
This comes on top of lots of hyperbole about the city being a world class urban centre. Martyn Markland from Atis Real did a superb presentation today on the subject.
Here's a flavour:
In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, Manchester needs to drastically improve itself and set ever more ambitious targets; otherwise it will simply lag behind. Worse still, if it doesn’t solve fundamental issues such as public transport, it could even hit reverse gear. Indeed, I would argue that as time goes by, the task of realising a long term vision becomes increasingly difficult as new resources are wasted on short term fixes.
A link to Martyn's blog with the full speech is here.
Meanwhile, I've written a lead column on the current stories in the Manchester Evening News about the poor quality debate around the transport proposals. The link to the MEN stuff is here.
This is what will be in Insider when it comes out next week:
When a ruthless property development company, Peel Holdings, run by a secretive tycoon from his offshore tax haven calls for the councils of Manchester to sell their interests in regional airports, the words of Mandy Rice-Davies, a prostitute, spring to mind: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”
At long last there is an opportunity to have a mature debate about public transport and the public funding of it. But it is also the time for all of the parties in this debate to declare their interest. Otherwise the whole discussion will descend into farce. Manchester, and here is the irony, will end up sounding like Liverpool.
It is right that the subject that no one wants to talk about should be aired. It has become like the elephant in the living room, or the fact that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. The North West has this unique critical asset - Manchester International Airport - that has given the region a crucial advantage. It is anachronistic that it remains in public hands, but its sale has just not ever been considered. When Insider raised the issue in 2006, we were told, quietly, that we were being “unhelpful”.
Equally, the property industry supporters of Manchester City Council have been forthright in their applause for the “courage” of the council in starting a debate. But what exactly are we supposed to be debating? That public transport needs improving? Well, yes, it does. That road charging at peak times will suppress demand, maybe it will. But that Manchester’s businesses will be more competitive because they are taxed in a way that other cities are not? I doubt it.
Other cities, like Birmingham and Leeds, may well be bidding for this transport fund. They could possibly be considering a road charging scheme. That is their choice. Manchester’s choice is different, and it is this: should the airport be sold to the private sector in order to fund transport projects; or should all attempts to sell the family silver be resisted because there are real benefits to owning such an asset. That is a debate. What we have been asked to consider so far, is not.
Manchester Confidential Property - Smile you’re on camera
Monday, July 02, 2007
A cheeky Welshman thought he’d had the last laugh when he painted a London pub sign with the words: “All English are a**eholes!”
And for a while, it looked like he’d got away with penning ‘Twll din pob sais’ on the front of The Feathers in Westminster.
Full link is here. Hilarious, eh?
Also present at the meeting was the owner of Kelly's - Mr Terry Kelly. He was offered the opportunity to say: a) how many people he had refused service to, because they were drunk; b) how many underage kids he had turned away; and c) if he had anything to say to residents who had been caused so much trouble. He said he had only come to observe.
I've never been to this place. But I'm more convinced than ever that it should not be allowed a licence in a leafy suburb like this.
However, in the words of this bloke, "fair play to Kelly, he had a go."