Column Eight: Down and out in Brussels

O TO BE a hard-working Brussels official. 'Bad weather' caused the cancellation of yesterday's formal weekly meeting of the European Commission in Strasbourg - the airport was fog-bound so the commissioners hoping to fly in from Brussels couldn't.

Tant pis, another day of Christmas shopping.

Funnily enough, John Major managed to get to Strasbourg yesterday, using the humble road route. The press corps also got there, via Mulhouse airport and a bus. Which evidently represented too much effort for the commissioners.

WITH A rare burst of humour, Germany's opposition Social Democrats party has released a spoof policy document 'leaked' from the government. The cover sheet reads: 'The German government's financial and economic policy concept' and is followed by 100 blank pages.

'In its astounding simplicity and without a single word too many, the book is a courageous and logical continuation of government policy thus far,' said a generous SPD.

MORE WIT from the pranksters at the 'ministry of fun', aka HM Treasury, notorious for their bad-taste joke about seeing 'green shoots of recovery around the corner'. Yesterday we received a fax from a Treasury official; neatly printed at the top instead of the sender's ID number were the words: 'The Tax Fax'.

IN MELODRAMATIC mood IBCA, the debt-rating agency, yesterday referred to Costain Group's 'lamentable' disposal of its Australian mining and property business. Lamentable? Isn't that a bit, well, Mill on the Floss-like? Or, since Costain was deemed to have pulled off rather a good deal, just plain wrong?

'Er yes, quite right, ha-ha. Should have been 'imminent',' confirmed the man from IBCA.

GOLDMAN Sachs, the stuffy American investment bank, could be revamping its image if the Christmas hoolie laid on for its forex dealing floor is anything to go by.

Not only were there champagne and a comedian, but also, we hear, three salacious female strippers. 'There were some disgusting things going on. I can't possibly go into detail,' says our mole primly.

Can these be the same forex dealers, described as 'devout Christians, honestly' by a colleague, who will lead the bank's carol service in St Bride's church, London, this evening? Goldmans declined to comment.

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