City Diary

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The Independent Online
WARREN BUFFET, the celebrated American stock investor, has confessed to a "warm feeling" for the Great Crash of 1929. It turns out that the great man, known as the Sage of Omaha for his stock-picking skills, was conceived just after the terrible slump on Wall Street.

"I'm quite fond of 1929, since that's when it all began for me," he told investors. "My dad was a stock salesman at the time, and after the Crash came he was afraid to call anyone - all those people who'd been burned.

"So he just stayed at home and there wasn't television then, so... I was conceived on or about 30 November 1929 and born nine months later on 30 August 1930. So I've forever had a kind of warm feeling about the Crash."


THE OFFICE for National Statistics, like the rest of Whitehall, observed Remembrance Day on Thursday morning with the start of the two-minute silence announced over the internal public address system. A flock of journalist colleagues at the ONS for an 11am press briefing respectfully joined in, but grew somewhat restless until, at four minutes past the hour, the press officer at last announced that it was time to get back to work. It was not until 10 minutes past eleven that the official announcement proclaimed the end of the period of silence. As Jeff Golland, the statistician presenting the briefing, noted mournfully: "Time passes very slowly at the ONS."


MUCH NEWSPRINT has been devoted to excited analysis of the split on the Monetary Policy Committee, added to this week by the quarterly Inflation Report. For the first time the Bank of England's inflation forecast has departed from the strict economic theory that predicts that the pound will fall quite sharply and has so predicted for the past two years. The alternative, put forward by chief dove Sushil Wadhwani, is that the pound will stay constant at a high level. The report split the difference, predicting a gentle decline. Rumour has it that Eddie George, an expert committee man, cut through the fancy economic arguments on either side by suggesting taking the average of the hawks and the doves. If the MPC gets its extra researchers, the boffins may be able to work out which theory is the right one.


CONSISTENCY IN fiscal policy is hard to achieve, even for a Government that has made "joined-up thinking" one of its catchphrases. Look at the pre-Budget report. Gordon Brown grabbed the headlines with his offer of free TV licences for the over-75s, but it did not please everyone. Andrew Dilnot of the Institute of Fiscal Studies lamented the fact that the PBR "looked more like a mini-Budget". At the IFS briefing he recalled that the idea of the PBR was to start a consultation process ahead of the Budget in March, which is after all about income redistribution.

To much laughter, he highlighted a recommendation from Gavyn Davies' report into the licence fee that reads: "The BBC's funding mechanism is not well suited to solving the problems of income distribution and the BBC should not be used as a benefits agency."

Mr Dilnot added: "Perhaps this was the consultation and that they have decided the consultation should be ignored... or perhaps they should have had more consultation."