BUNHILL : Clarkey's second chance to stuff the right-wing

They think it's all business ... it is now. The transformation of football into a mainstream industry seems to have made it through to the final whistle, following the invitation to Kenneth Clarke to become chairman of Nottingham Forest. Who better, the first division club argues, than the former Chancellor of the Exchequer to don the sheepskin coat and steer Forest to the premier league of high finance - a stock market listing?

Who indeed? But Mr Clarke's adherence to prudence and rectitude in all matters monetary could sit uncomfortably with an industry where the balance sheets often resemble San Marino's "goals against" column. Given his tough anti-inflation stance there must be a danger that Forest's wage bill would be tied to the retail prices index and that win bonuses would come in the form of deferred luncheon vouchers which could only be triggered once consumer expenditure was under control.

Then there'd be a tough revenue-raising and spending round in which the entire Forest team was flogged off and replaced by a panel of economic experts known as the seven wise men, leaving the side four players short. And, following the precedent set by Mr Clarke (to be known as "Clarkey" if he takes the job) in his meetings with the Bank of England, we might also be subject to full minutes of his conversations with Dave Bassett, the Forest manager: "There'll be no blank cheques, Dave" ... "That's all right, Clarkey, we'll get some dumb Norwegians."

The most worrying prospect of all, though, is that the worlds of finance speak (known in the trade as "ecobabble") and football speak will merge into one seamless morass: "At the end of the day, Barry, it's all about macro-economics." And talk us through the winning share option scheme, Ken: "Well, the remuneration committee's played a blinder and given us free stakes in Forest at a discount to the market value. I've looked up, seen the shares trading at unsustainably high levels and put in a call to the broker. Luckily, he's executed the option and I've made a profit. So pick that one out the onion bag, Gordon Brown."

STOP PRESS. News has reached us through the fax machine (what a wonderfully quaint piece of technology that seems now) of an important conference taking place at the Meridien Hotel in London tomorrow entitled "Harnessing the Power of Information for Competitive Advantage". Hosted by Reuters, the news agency, its objective is to highlight the dangers of data overload and show companies how they can distinguish between important and misleading information.

There are many reasons for attending this conference, not least a high- profile list of speakers which includes the presenter of Radio 4's Today programme, John Humphrys (a man who interviews politicians nearly every day and so is well versed in the art of disseminating useless information), and the founder of this organ, Andreas Whittam Smith. But surely pole position on the podium will go to Roger Swanson of Sequent Computer Systems, if only because he goes under the astonishing title of Chief Knowledge Officer.

It may be that this grand job description owes something to Sequent's work in developing advanced electronic databases, but I prefer to think that Mr Swanson is all-seeing and all-knowing. I beseech members of the audience to ask him the following questions:

q Before Big Bang gave birth to the universe, what was there? And if it was just darkness, what came before that? In other words, what does nothing look like and what is infinity anyway?

q Why is the Watford Gap called the Watford Gap?

q How do protesters manage to scrawl graffiti the right way up on bridges over motorways?

q What did they do for a party on New Year's Eve 999, and would it have taken place at the Temple of Dome?

q How long did it take to build Rome - was it two days?

On the off-chance that Mr Swanson fails to resolve these issues satisfactorily, I'd be eternally grateful to any reader who could provide some answers. As an incentive, I am willing to confer the title of Chief Knowledge Reader on those making an educated (or better still, funny) guess.

Diary with prospects

HOW short memories are. Once upon a time (well once upon 10 years ago, in fact) property prices went through the roof, people bought houses then sold them one month and one lick of paint later at a massive profit, and broom cupboards and garages fetched five-figure sums. Then the edifice came crashing down. It was a reminder that bricks and mortar couldn't be traded like commodities, and we'd never make that mistake again ...

It's simple. For a nominal sum (let's say pounds 40,000) you buy this space and then add value by slipping on a coat of marigold paint or turning it into a papier mache vegetable holder. Then you flog it on for pounds 60,000. The next buyer does the same and so it goes on until Bunhill is fetching a still entirely reasonable pounds 2.3m. Finally, the market crashes and I buy the space back for a couple of pounds and a tube of Smarties. The circle is complete, sanity is restored and I'll never sell this diary again ... until the next time.

POOR Princess Diana spent last week dodging the slings and arrows of the outraged moral majority after taking her 12-year-old son Harry to a 15-certificate film, which at least spared him the ignominy of being the only boy in Britain who hadn't got into a movie he wasn't supposed to. It is to be hoped, however, that Harry showed more awareness than a 12-year-old friend of mine who turned up at the box office many epochs ago seeking admittance to an adult-rated film: "One half for the stalls, please."


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