BBC has its work cut out to reply to Ms Mills

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The Independent Online
Barbara Mills QC has a tough enough job being Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Criminal Prosecutions Service. Last week she had to endure having a cardboard effigy of herself feature in a Kilroy discussion programme on the BBC.

Ms Mills, a former head of the Serious Fraud office, had refused to participate in the studio discussion on crime, for the perfectly understandable reason that she cannot discuss single cases, only general policy.

Anyway, the programme went ahead last week and Ms Mills has written a stiff letter of complaint to John Birt, director-general of the BBC. She is not amused about being represented as a cardboard cut-out at all. The BBC is considering its reply.

On a less serious level, I suppose it could have been worse. When Roy Hattersley refused to take part in Have I Got News for You he was replaced by a tub of lard.

Budget day is one of the best days of the year for the spread-betting agencies, with most of the money on how long the Chancellor will speak.

Sporting Index is forecasting that Ken Clarke will speak for 71-74 minutes. City Index has plumped for 72-75 minutes, because, says spokesman Paul Austin, "we certainly expect Mr Clarke to enjoy his last Budget before the general election".

City Index are also punting that 20 fags will go up by 12-14p, a litre of unleaded petrol by 3.5-4.5p and a bottle of Scotch by 5-7p.

Past form goes like this: last year Mr Clarke spoke for 70 minutes delivering his third Budget, his second lasted 84 minutes and his first 74 minutes. Whether this year our Ken will emulate Gladstone, who once banged on for over five hours, or Disraeli, who once squeezed the Budget into under an hour, remains to be seen. Or rather, heard.

Everyone remembers the seemingly endless row between Virgin and BA over Richard Branson's accusations that BA ran a "dirty tricks" campaign against his airline.

Confirmation that everything is now sweetness and light between Mr Branson and BA chairman Sir Colin Marshall has come from an unlikely direction this week. John Pearson, managing director of Virgin Radio, has had great success with his inter-active phone service the "Orange Directory" which listeners can ring to obtain theatre tickets and the like.

Recently Virgin Radio advertised for a business partner to provide a travel service - and BA won the competition.

Mr Pearson down plays the link: "All Virgin companies are run as autonomous units. We have no formal link with the [Virgin] airline."

However, it is understood that Mr Branson welcomed the BA link, saying that people will think that if BA will do business with Virgin Radio, anyone will.

Standard Life's recent annual media party at the Ivy, a media luvvies' restaurant in London, was quite a bash. Rowan Gormley, managing director of Virgin Direct, gatecrashed the party, wearing the name badge belonging to a well-known financial journalist.

All went well until eagle-eyed Carol Park, a pr person for Standard Life, realised Gormley's face didn't match his badge and interrogated him in a corner. Intense discussions followed, but when la Park realised quite who he was she decided not to throw Mr Gormley out.

Did this have anything to do with the fact that Mr Gormley's Virgin Direct just joined Autif, the unit trust establishment's trade body? Or was it just Mr Gormley's famous charm?

Direct marketing agency Evans Hunt Scott also threw a party recently, this time at the Dorchester. The 600-strong bubbly-guzzling hordes were celebrating the agency's 10th anniversary, and many photos were taken of the fancily dressed revellers.

Jon Ingall, managing director of EHS, sent them all letters the next morning, telling them of "the most exciting new media launch of the year: The EHS 10th Anniversary Web Site. For those of you who came last night, the web site is a chance to relive the moments you'd forgotten - or tried to forget...."

This idea could single-handedly destroy the Office Christmas Party As We Know It.