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' business report at around 8.45pm to talk about the day's 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's 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's main excitement was, of course, the Budget, if
excitement is a word that could be applied to our beloved Chancellor's
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's 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
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.