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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


spectacular.


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


exciting.


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


UK.


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

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