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Bunhill: Frequency of television appearances

THE distressing frequency of Ken Clarke's television appearances has fostered a heartfelt nostalgia in Great George Street for the old practice of 'purdah' - the period of Trappist silence endured by Treasury ministers as they fine-tuned their Budget measures.

Even the Chancellor, who is notorious for his inability to turn down an invitation to appear on the box, is apparently distressed that he only has to say 'good morning' for reporters to dissect his intonation for clues to the fate of mortgage tax relief.

And as his every appearance seems to push business and consumer confidence lower, both officials and ministers are beginning to wonder whether the end of purdah as part of the Treasury's so-called 'openness' campaign may be more trouble than it's worth.

The odds are shortening daily on it going the way of the Treasury Bulletin, another piece of openness that has since closed.

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