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Correspondent’s week

This week by freelance finance journalist Stephen Spurdon.

On Sunday, I meet fellow freelance Pam Atherton at midday for a walk. We end up in Highgate, where Cafe Nero has all the Sunday papers. Once there, Pam starts a manic Supermarket Sweep-type operation to gather all the money sections. I scan the sport sections to gloat over yet another win for Spurs. We pour over coverage and, yes, it is wall to wall pensions stuff. I blame Turner.

Monday sees me tying up research and comment on a piece on inflation. The editor allows more time but things are tight because of Christmas schedules. This makes me all the more determined to hit the original deadline. Oh, and talking of inflation, I notice Chav Villas two doors down my road has a 10ft inflated Homer Simpson as Santa and a reindeer in front of a tacky Christmas lights display, replete with twinkly tunes.

On Tuesday, I get a call from a pal in the local Labour Party. She asks me if I heard Labour MP Gisela Stuart’s remarks about how upset she was at English people referring to themselves as English rather than British. I say I would shout it at her until her ear-drums burst. She thinks I am joking. Then she asks me about Turner and says it had been leaked and rubbished by the Treasury so why bother? Well, I say, appointing a commission is a Government means of appearing to do something. I ask if she remembers the Sutherland commission on long-term care. Of course she does not.

Roddi Vaughan-Thomas of Keydata contacts me on Wednesday about a case study for a VCT piece. Apparently, if the 40 per cent tax relief is not extended for another year in next Monday’s pre-Budget report, the VCT sector expects investment to decline from 500m to only 100m for the year. Don’t suppose that will leave much left for advertising so I had better crank out something quickly or there will be even less space for the stuff in between the ads in the nationals.

Turner 2 is published. Great BBC Newsnight. Paxman has a look on his face like a pantomime dame who has just been goosed by the butler and is clearly implying that Adair Turner is lying if he does not answer yes or no to questions that insinuate that his report – which was three years in the making – is a waste of time. I muse on how Labour has failed to come up with any coherent plan for pensions during 18 years of opposition and eight years of Government. Perhaps the inaction may have something to do with the fact that MPs set their own pension terms and conditions.

On Thursday, I call Paul Wynne of Trustnet, who kindly and rapidly revises stats for inflation piece and that allows me to meet today’s deadline. I get to do bit on internet phishing. No problem, as I am familiar with it through doing a recent piece on e-bay.

Friday morning is devoted to getting information and comment for pieces on card charges and Turner. Go to friends later for dinner and fortunately they want to discuss Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel. Alarmingly, I am the only one who has read it. I suppose it is a bit like that with the Turner report.

Saturday and Spurs win again, Gooners lose and the FT states that retail property investment trust will get the go ahead in Gordon Brown’s pre-premiership, sorry, pre-Budget report.

The Daily Telegraph’s Ian Cowie has sensibly held up any further stuff on Sipps until we know what the pre-Budget report implies for the pension bonanza to come on April 6 next year. Oh and something is slouching towards Westminster to be born as the leader of the Conservative Party on Tuesday. Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


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