Bunhill: Tory chairman's class to get another lesson

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The Independent Online
JEREMY HANLEY'S promotion to chairman of the Tory party was no surprise to his former pupils. As lecturer in law to potential chartered accountants, he became a guru to men who are now the finance directors (and in some cases, managing directors or chairmen) of Britain's largest companies.

'It's amazing', said an old friend, 'just how many high-flyers greet him warmly at any business gathering.' The old friend did not need to elaborate the point: that these former pupils are precisely the men Hanley will have to tap for contributions to reduce the Tories' reliance on foreign millionaires like Azil Nadir or the Greek billionaire John Latsis.

The friend waxed lyrical about Hanley - 'an intelligent member of Mensa' - mentioning his early desire to be an actor like his parents, an ambition quashed by his step-father, Sir John Davis, the late (and little-lamented) chairman of the Rank Organisation. Hanley qualified quickly as a chartered and a certified accountant (and as a company secretary) before lecturing, and running unit trusts. 'He knows more about finance and accounting than all the other Tory MPs put together . . . he's honest and, unlike some of his colleagues, he was always scrupulous in declaring his interests.'

The only fault the friend could find was that 'he likes to be liked, so he doesn't have an enemy in the world'. This is slightly untrue: he has an implacable one in his colleague, la Bottomley, who failed to get more than a handful of votes when they were both pitching for the candidacy at Richmond. As a result 'Golden Virginia' apparently cut him dead for two years after she was finally elected. I can't see her featuring in many Tory party broadcasts in the near future.

VICTORIAN Glasgow had other architects apart from Charles Rennie Macintosh. There was also one Alexander Thomson, known as 'Greek' Thomson because of his love of the classical. Unfortunately, some of his buildings have been rather neglected of late, their fate highlighted by Gavin Stamp last week in BBC2's One Foot in the Past series.

Among the neglected masterpieces is an office block known as Egyptian Halls. As the picture below shows, this is decidedly dilapidated. Apparently most of the owners would like nothing better than to pool their resources to restore the block. But there has been a delay because of a quarrel between the two owners of the Chinese restaurant on the first floor, one of whom now lives in Hong Kong. This could well mean that the city of Glasgow will have to issue a compulsory purchase order on what is a Grade A listed building. But the authorities are reluctant to do so, and with good reason since they have had to buy up half of the city's 1,600 listed buildings - most built during the city's Victorian heyday, but one a mere 20 years old.

Curses, curses

LET US hope that Mercury Asset Management does not inflict the curse of Nike on Brian Lara, the record-breaking batsman they are sponsoring to the tune of around pounds 100,000 - or pounds 500,000 if you choose to believe Lara's agent.

Every commentator knows how fatal it is to say that two batsmen are well established (at least one will promptly be out), or that a team is unlikely to score (it inevitably does), but sponsors may feel the same way when they sign up new athletes for the usual horrendous sums.

Nike was merely the most obvious case. The curse of Nike got its name at the 1992 Olympics, when a number of athletes sponsored by the shoe company did, how shall I put it, slightly less well than their sponsors had hoped. They included Michael Johnson, who failed to qualify for the final of the 200 metres, and Quincy Watts, who actually lost one of his precious shoes during a race.

But even worse was the fate of poor Holsten, which thought it was in luck when Spurs, a team it was sponosring, reached the Cup Final. But alas, as the photo (top right) shows, about half the players seemed to have laid off the booze.

IT HAD to happen. The 'leaves on the line' problem was bound to lead to tears when Railtrack, British Rail's worthy successor as the country's number one Aunt Sally, tried to cut down some of the guilty trees. The first tears are being shed over a hundred mature lime trees in a conservation area close to the centre of York which Railtrack wants to cut down. The case involves safety as well as convenience: 'The leaves' said a Railtracker, 'form a substance like black ice on the tracks and can also short-circuit the small current in the track that tells the signalmen where the train is.'

Since the trees are on Railtrack's land, and it is working with the Ministry of Agriculture, opponents are left rather helpless, complaining about lack of notice and the undue haste shown by Railtrack. They're fighting back, worried about the visual impact - and the large colony of owls found in what look like the doomed trees.

And there are likely to be many more cases in future where the Great British Public will have to decide between trains and trees.

Looking after No 2

MALE chauvinist piggery, you will be sorry but not surprised to hear, is alive and well on Tyneside. At first I sneered at a programme called WISE (Women In Self-Employment, groan, groan), mounted by the local enterprise people and backed by Legal & General. But my sneers turned to amazement when Nicky Dickinson, who administers the scheme, told me of bank managers who were literally patting the hands of potential WISE women and telling them to stick to knitting. Hence the programme.

Much of it is about confidence. 'Women may appear to have the external confidence, but they're afraid of not being taken seriously - which isn't surprising. It's almost as if they have to give themselves permission to set up on their own.'

The programme's been a decided success, running at a rate of 350 clients and a hundred-odd new businesses a year, each with an average of a couple of employees. The successes include Mandy Armstrong, maker of enormous flags for football supporters, and Jill Woodward, who makes special footwear for the elderly and disabled. Moreover, the survival rate is a lot higher than with new businesses run by mere men. 'Women find the skills they have learned running a household are extremely helpful in business. They are resilient; their expectations are different from men's; they are much more realistic. It's something they enjoy and fit round their family life, and, what is more, they're not looking for villas in Marbella.'

And with that Ms D went off, presumably to spear a few more recalcitrant bank managers with her knitting needles.

NO, IT wasn't an April fool, but a real live British success story. There are, apparently, only six indoor ski runs in the world, but now there is a prospect of more, thanks to a well-known heating (and, presumably, cooling) engineer called Malcolm Clulow. He's patented a new type of superconducting ice, based on frozen alumina granules. What's been called 'Clulow's Ice' allows the heat generated by the skiers' bodies, and the snow-making itself, through to the chillers far more effectively than competitive systems.

There's a pilot system running at Telford New Town, of all places. It was small, but sufficiently perfectly formed to persuade a Korean developer, Hyo San, to use the system in preference to Japanese competitors at Seoul's ski resort. The set-up sounds forbidding, with the 500-metre-long ski-run building connected by moving walkways with a 3,000-bedroom hotel. But then I may be biased. I've never wanted to ski, outdoors or indoors.

(Photograph omitted)