City snubs the Tory casualties

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The Independent Online
Former Tory ministers hoping to retreat to the comfort of the boardroom to lick their wounds are being shunned by the corporate sector.

The traditional safe haven of lucrative non-executive directorships is not on offer, according to a straw poll of typical benefactors such as financial institutions and privatised industries.

To dampen their job prospects still further, there is a warning from one of the biggest institutional investors. The Pru said: "We don't like figurehead appointments for their own sake to the boards of companies we invest in. We are looking for individuals who have demonstrated business success in the past and a good track record."

John Major seems unlikely to be able to resume his career in public relations at Standard Chartered - the bank where Edward Heath's Chancellor, Anthony Barber, became chairman.

"I think our view is that the board is pretty full already," said a spokesman. And besides, the board is already graced by one Tory politician, an ex- MP and junior minister during the Thatcher years, Lord Stewartby, who is deputy chairman.

Nor is Malcolm Rifkind likely to emulate another former foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd, and take a banking job.

An HSBC spokesman said: "HSBC has very much an international board, people from all walks of life, and there are elections in many countries."

Lloyds TSB said: "We're fairly apolitical. We've never had a 'political' director. And anyway, we're unlikely to be taking on any new directors of any sort because - as a result of the merger - we're trying to cut the size of the board down."

For the unseated Scottish trio of Mr Rifkind, Michael Forsyth, former Secretary of State for Scotland, and Ian Lang, departed President of the Board of Trade, the Royal Bank of Scotland - chaired by former defence minister Lord Younger - is an obvious target. But a spokesman said: "The answer has only two letters."

There are rumours that Mr Lang may be in with a chance at Lloyd's of London, whose chairman, Sir David Rowland, is standing down.

Even Michael Portillo, fresh out of the Ministry of Defence, may face difficulty easing himself through the door to the other side of what the Americans call the military-industrial complex. "We're apolitical," said a spokes-man for British Aerospace.

Opportunities at the privatised utilities, chastened by accusations of fat-cattery, would appear to be no more plentiful.