Bunhill: Tim Melville-Ross

THE NEWS that Tim Melville- Ross, the skyscraper chief executive of the Nationwide building society, is to be the next director-general at the Institute of Directors caught Bunhill by surprise. Could nice Tim, the liberal thinker, really be getting into bed with the free-market right wingers of Pall Mall?

'I am a liberal, but not at all opposed to the free market,' he said, toning down the pinko label. 'And I don't think the IOD is necesarily as right wing as some people think. But then, we may have a Labour government before very long, and yours truly is perhaps a bit better suited than most to building bridges with both sides of the House.'

His departure from the Nationwide in August must be regarded with sadness as it brings to a close an incident- packed reign. Here was a mutual society that once locked its savers into low-interest accounts while it was launching others with more attractive rates (knuckles rapped by Ombudsman). Here was a society that spent a fortune on a new head office in London, then moved out again months later because it was unsuitable (and shipped everyone to Swindon instead). And Melville-Ross once sported a rather rakish black eye after being headbutted by his labrador.

His departure will also mean some loss of business for a certain Swindon hotelier. Melville-Ross has a flat in London, and a county retreat in Suffolk, but didn't seem to take to Swindon and never bought a house there. On the rare occasion he did stay over, he laid down his head at a pounds 35-a-night bed and breakfast. 'It saved a bit of money,' he says.

The lofty bed and breakfaster plans to make the best use of his time between now and darkening the doors of the IOD. Next month he is off on an exotic three-week family holiday to the Galapagos islands. 'Then we are going to walk the Inca trail.'

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