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SIR CLIVE THOMPSON, President of the CBI and chief executive of Rentokil Initial, recently referred to trade unionists as "pests" at a CBI dinner. This has not gone unnoticed amongst "the brothers".

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU), referred to Sir Clive's comments yesterday at the AEEU's annual conference in Jersey. Sir Ken doesn't have a high opinion of Sir Clive either, despite Sir Clive's exalted position in industry: "A squirrel is still a rat with good PR".

SIMON LEWIS is only nine months into his two year secondment from Centrica's public relations arm to Buckingham Palace's own press office.

Yet the top bods at the gas distribution company are already looking forward to young Mr Lewis's return, I hear. A main board directorship awaits Mr Lewis, along with "a big job".

Tantalisingly, the Centrica people won't say what this job is. But surely there can be only one answer: Simon Lewis is to run the AA, as soon as Centrica can buy the motoring services outfit. I expect he's being fitted with his AA roadside overcoat even now.

IF YOU use a Bloomberg computer screen to send messages to colleagues, you had better watch your language. Last week Bloomberg started automatically filtering all messages carried on its systems for words which might be considered racist, profane or otherwise offensive.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the move has caused consternation amongst American traders, who use the system for anything from booking lunch to swapping gossip. Tap in any rude word and a notice pops up on your screen saying: "COMPLIANCE ALERT, The following word is considered to be inappropriate in the context of business correspondence."

You have been warned.

CHARLES IRBY, one of the last of the Barings old guard, is parting company with the merchant bank after 25 years.

Mr Irby stepped into the breach to hold together Barings' once great UK corporate finance business following a raft of departures last year. He recently masterminded the takeover of Christie's, the auction house, by French tycoon Francois Pinault. But it has been obvious to colleagues that he and ING Barings were heading in different directions, particularly since the bank is to concentrate on the smaller end of the UK corporate market and leave the bigger stuff to the Americans. Mr Irby will retain an office in ING Barings' London Wall offices while he decides what to do.

NEIL JOHNSON may be on his way out as chief executive of the RAC, following Lex Service's successful bid for the motoring services group, but that won't stop him topping out the RAC's new head office in Egham, Surrey, today. The ceremony at the pounds 20m building comes just as Lex has named Mr Johnson's successor. Graeme Potts, previously chief executive of Reg Vardy, the car sales group, will take over as managing director of the RAC from the beginning of next month.

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