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Correspondent&#39s Week

There is nothing like reality to knock you back to earth with a bump. One

of the joys of doing the late shift at The Times is an appearance on Sky

News&#39 business report at around 8.45pm to talk about the day&#39s news.

My girlfriend Jo had videoed my glorious TV debut, so I could have the joy

of looking at myself when I got in at around 2am.

Unbeknown to me, she had also kindly told my whole family when I had

been trying to keep it quiet. I dithered about whether to play it when the

taxi dropped me off in the early hours but curiosity won. I managed 30

seconds before having to turn it off.

My beard, which I always thought gave me a dapper air, looks on screen

like the good Lord&#39s own five-year-old had inexpertly daubed a big splodge

of paint over my chin. My tie-knotting abilities also looked less than


I think that, on balance, I will probably deny myself the pleasure of

watching myself in future.

Nonetheless, on the facial-hair front, I am with Frank Dobson. Whatever

the spin doctors say about untrustworthiness, and whatever the cameras

show, the beard stays. We will take over the world one day.

Other than that, it all passed off reasonably well and, when my nerves

have passed, I suspect this will become something of a bonus to working

on The Times. Appearing on TV, even if watching your- self is a

difficult thing to do, is still something I still find childishly


Newswise, the week&#39s main excitement was, of course, the Budget, if

excitement is a word that could be applied to our beloved Chancellor&#39s

latest offering.

My first Times Budget was uncomfortably reminiscent of my first MM Budget

edition. I am scheduled to write about an expected increase in insurance

premium tax – sure to cause outrage – and about a range of measures to cut

tax evasion, including a widely trailed six-month amnesty.

I cannot remember exactly what I was supposed to write about for MM but I

can remember the outcome – exactly the same as The Times.

The Chancellor gets up and starts to give his speech, the adrenaline

starts to pump as I prepare myself for a round of furious calls and

frenzied writing. And when he sat down, taking a well earned sip of mineral

water, what was in it for me? Not a lot.

None of the things I was preparing to write about actually appeared in the

Budget, same as at MM.

In the end, I at least had some fun with some cheeky capital gains tax

dodges the great man had shut down and a rather nasty tax rise which could

have a rather nasty impact on some of our weaker general insurers.

At MM, I was pretty much reduced to helping the Budget panel freshen their

drinks. But I suppose nobody should really expect great excitement from a

man who once famously talked of “neo-classical endogenous growth theory”

and eschews his homeland&#39s national drink of whisky for mineral water.

The other big story of the week was undoubtedly Rover. There is, I

suspect, a message in that for some of the more paranoid and frothing

members of the IFA community, the sort that have a mile-wide persecution

complex and constantly scream about how badly they are treated.

No one, I suspect, really knows how many jobs will go at Rover at the

moment but, one way or another, it will be a lot. If the whole thing really

implodes, it may be that up to 50,000 or so could go.

That is not likely to happen but a lot of people with families, mortgages,

etc, are having a hell of a time in the West Midlands at the moment.

The FSA, stakeholder pensions, Catmarks, endowments, pension review et al

mean challenging times for IFAs but on the whole they are really doing

rather well.

They employ more people than coalmining, as I wrote in a story the other

week, and are the dominant distribution channel for life and pension in the


While things may get tough for them, it could be much, much worse.


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