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James Bethell


Michael Kemp, the motoring correspondent for the Daily Mail, has been hoisted by his own petard at the Geneva Motor Show, where he will be remembered for a story about a fellow hack who forced a £415,000 Jaguar XJ220 into first gear at 102mph, causing £20,000 of damage. Last week, the embarrassed specialist humbly tells me, he committed a similar sin. Test-driving a £215,000 Bentley Azure, the world's most expensive convertible, he entered a U-turn and found himself driving up the wrong side of a continental road heading towards a lorry. The result was, miraculously, just a small, inexpensive scratch. "It was an inexcusable mistake and I am now feeling a complete fool," he tells me.

Poor old Sir Patrick Sheehy. He smokes as many cigarettes as possible at BAT's results, giving his health-damaging products a personal endorsement. Yesterday was National Non-Smoking Day and even he felt constrained to tame his nasty habit.

Should Professor Littlechild bite the bullet, as many City folk wish he would, he can always rely on a job at his alma mater, Birmingham University. Seconded from the university's department of commerce during his first five-year term as regulator, he moved to an honorary position last October, when he took a second term. However, the university has yet to fill his empty chair and has done little to advertise for it, according to Noel Kavanagh, administrator.

Attempts by the chartered accountants to brush up their image have backfired. Last month they launched a controversial billboard campaign with the suggestive slogan, "It's easier to sleep with a chartered accountant". Female accountants are up in arms about the innuendo."We've had a mixed response," concedes the ICA press office.

Industry sources are surprised by the low profile Michael Heseltine seems to be taking as the furore rages around Professor Littlechild, the most unpopular man in the City. the Secretary of State has, under the 1989 Electricity Act, the authority to veto any modification to the electricity companies' regulatory licence during the time the details are advertised. Although he has not used this authority in the past, no one should be in any doubt about the power that the minister, a self-declared interventionist, has over the regulator. Interestingly, the deadline for Heseltine's veto on Littlechild's plans, first unveiled in August 1994, is Saturday. Could Heseltine, sensitive to public rage about profiteering and directors' pay, have broken the taboo and spoken to Littlechild?