A black day for white tie at Lord Mayor's banquet

City Diary

The Lord Mayor's dinner at the Banqueting House for the Chancellor and the City's great and good will never be the same again. The organisers have dropped the traditional requirement for white tie from next week's function, and henceforward guests will dress in the much less fancy, but more convenient, black tie.

Sources say there was a mini-rebellion by City big-wigs, sick and tired of the time taken to hire the white tie outfits, and then to put the outfits on, shirt studs and all. Whatever next - chicken in the basket washed down with pints of Boddingtons? It is certainly bad news for Moss Bros, which rents the gear out. It claims the slack will be taken up by guests hiring black tie.

But surely many own their own black tie gear? A Moss Bros spokesman said: "We find that quite a lot of business people don't own black tie suits - like politicians, their waist sizes expand and contract at a rate of knots, so they prefer to hire a suit each time." Ken Clarke's waistline to contract? Perish the thought.

Business people should have at least "a swift half" at lunchtime. Forget that fizzy mineral water. Changes in drinking habits have hit the brewing and pub trade hard in recent years, says John Young, chairman of the South London brewer Young's. "We have had a good year in difficult trading circumstances but it would have been better had it not been all work and no play for an increasing number of people."

Mr Young is positively lyrical about the benefits of a lunchtime tipple in tackling stress and recharging the batteries after a hard morning's work. Driving a dray horse and brewer's cart through most businesses' policies on drinking, he concludes: "Companies would do better to combat stress in the workplace by educating their staff in sensible drinking rather than stopping drinking altogether, especially as it is now recognised that a drop of beer does you good."

Speaking as a journalist, I couldn't possibly comment.

Sir Ernest Harrison, chairman of Racal Electronics, clearly agrees with Mr Young. In fact yesterday the electronics boss went one step better. After announcing Racal's results, Mr Harrison ordered a glass of white wine - at 11.30 in the morning. Bottoms up!

Enterprise Oil is teaching Shell International and Amerada Hess how to run an oil business. Enterprise has invented a fab new computer game for oil industry high-flyers, which will teach them how best to succeed in the industry. Each team starts with pounds 100m and must maximise profits, assets and share price to win. Two other oil companies have shown commendable humility by buying the "Oil Game" from Enterprise - Shell and Amerada Hess, the giant American company.

ING Barings has sent us a news release on a forthcoming seminar in London and Edinburgh to discuss investment opportunities - in Singapore. The meetings will be organised by the Singapore Stock Exchange. I was trying to think of a suitable slogan for the seminar. How about: "Your investment can go down by pounds 860m as well as up." Considering Barings' former investment in Nick Leeson's activities in Singapore, this must be the ultimate triumph of optimism over experience.

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