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Correspondent’s week

This week Robert Watts, economics correspondent at The Sunday Telegraph

My Friday begins hoping the Confederation of British Industry has a court record. A contact has whispered to me that the, normally, irreproachable CBI has a county court judgment against it for not paying one of its suppliers and if that’s not true I have a 300-word hole in Fore Street, the diary column I write for The Sunday Telegraph’s business section.

So off I trudge to the registry of county court judgments to check. After 30 minutes of waiting, I have a piece of paper which shows that the Staines county court gave a CCJ to the CBI for not paying one of its suppliers 18 months ago.

How much was the outstanding debt? Er, 30 quid. OK, so it’s not a vast sum but it does seem rather rum, especially considering the CBI never shies away from banging on about the thousands of small businesses that go bust every year because their clients don’t pay their bills on time.

The CBI’s shameful credit history has saved my bacon in a week where everyone is still either on holiday or preoccupied with cricket. I call a normally tight-lipped contact at the FSA only to be given a 15-minute briefing on the merits of England playing a seventh batsman. Then a member of the Treasury select committee seems too preoccupied with Glen McGrath’s elbow to comment on credit card charges.

And that’s pretty much my Friday afternoon, apart from a chat with an economist who tells me that US petrol prices are heading for $3.50 a gallon.

So to Saturday, when news reaches us that Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer has pledged to “kill Google” and “bury” the search engine’s chief executive.

After Sunday and Monday off, I arrive back in the office on Tuesday morning to find a large package on my desk. It seems that an innocuous article about oil prices has generated a rather weighty response from the wilds of Norfolk.

The letter seems to hold me responsible to the West’s reliance on oil. The clear implication is it is time I did something about it. Precisely what, the correspondent does not state but perhaps the answer lies in the 50 pages of photocopied bumf that accompanies the epic letter.

I spend the rest of the day scouring Friends Reunited for business bigwigs who have popped online to gloat to their old school chums. Rachel Elnaugh, the founder of events company Red Letter Days and one of the dragons on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme, gives herself a lovely puff. Elnaugh admits she was “not the best behaved girl” at school and was rejected from all the universities she applied for. But now, she announces, she is chairman of Red Letter Days plc. Alas, since she wrote her entry, she has been pushed out of the near-bankrupt company.

On Tuesday night I pick up a dose of food poisoning and spend Wednesday feeling sorry for myself at home. On Thursday I feel better and stumble into work to make calls about a feature on where inflation is or is not going.

But again, I find everyone I speak to distracted. Oh yes, another “very important” cricket match has started.


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