The City Diary

Lords in danger of succumbing to the Aussies before a ball is bowled
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The Independent Online

There may be more than a year to go before the seemingly invincible Australian cricket team lands on those shores but already the Baggy Greens seem to have edged in front. Since the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) put 2,600 Lords debenture tickets on sale last year more than half have been snapped up. Unfortunately, it seems that those wily antipodeans have spotted an opportunity to swell their numbers at the home of cricket too. A Lords insider tells us: "We had an Aussie fella who bought a debenture just to ensure he gets an Ashes ticket next year. He used to be a fund manager in London, moved back to Oz with his family but loves his cricket." Bonuses might be a bit down this year but surely the prospect of the home of cricket choc full of green and gold should stir the Square Mile into action.

Burns night fizzles out as the fizz dries up
Staff at the insurer Resolution are already feeling the effects of the takeover by Hugh Osmond's Pearl Group. The group's asset management arm held its annual Burns Night Supper bash in the grandiose setting of Whitehall's banqueting hall last week. In the spirit of Scotland's favourite son, the event can be a messy affair with plenty of revellers continuing on to the wee hours. But not this year with a distinct lack of booze causing consternation among guests. Mutterings heard included, "Here we go, the Pizza man has started already" – a reference to Osmond's Pizza Express past. Another said: "God knows what they'll have us drinking next year – some nasty cheap Italian red I imagine." If some of the rumours flying about are true, many of the staff won't get a chance to find out.

Augar: mild-mannered critic or hard-hitting hack?
The BBC displayed an interesting shift of emphasis last week in its introduction of Philip Augar, the former Schroeders man turned City critic, who was twice wheeled out to comment on the SocGen scandal. On 'Newsnight', he was the author of the strikingly-titled 'The Greed Merchants: How the Investment Banks Played the Free Market'. The next day, on Radio 4's 'Today' programme his interviewer credited him with only his more mildly named earlier book, 'The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism'.

Honest Lorraine's cars
A rather bizarre poll of 1,500 motorists by the AA has found that Lorraine Kelly would be the public's first choice of used car salesperson. The TV presenter was voted the most trusted celebrity by 17 per cent of drivers ahead of 'Newsnight' anchor Jeremy Paxman and medal-winning marathon runner Paula Radcliffe. What next? Perhaps a survey from the British Medical Association about which TV chefs the public thinks are best suited to conduct brain surgery?

Dave's Del Boy dig
Talking of used car salesmen, PM Gordon Brown was likened to one this week by David Cameron over his handling of the Northern Rock crisis. The leader of the Opposition described the Government's plan to save the bank as "a sub-prime deal from a sub-prime minister" noting that Brown is "like a used car salesman: won't tell you the price, won't tell you the mileage, won't give you a warranty. He's gone from Prudence to Del Boy without even touching the ground." Ouch!

Students say boo to Gérard's goose liver pâté
French brasserie-styled restaurant chain Chez Gérard suffered the wrath of student protesters outside its Bishopsgate branch on Friday. The protesters were upset about the restaurant having foie gras on its menu. We called the branch and an employee told us at 8pm that the troublemakers had been there for three hours, but (sounding hopeful) "were just about to leave". But one wonders why, of all the City eateries that offer the dish, Chez Gérard should be singled out for direct action. We know that food prices are going up, but at £11.50 a go its foie gras has to be one of the more reasonably priced on offer in the Square Mile.

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