Is Beckett trapped by a presidential precedent?

People & Business
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The Independent Online
Roll this one round your mouth: "President Margaret."

No no, calm down, I'm not talking about Thatch. I'm referring to whether Margaret Beckett will be tempted to hang on to at least one of the "trappings of power" from the previous administration; that is, the title: "President of the Board of Trade."

This was, of course, Michael Heseltine's creation. Apparently, when asked this week by an underling for her thoughts on the matter, Ms Beckett merely reacted with a "quizzical look".

We wait with bated breath to see whether or not this particular trapping proves too enticing to discard.

Yet another example of New Labour getting off to a running start - Ken Clarke's pet project, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is to get a thorough overhaul.

The original idea of bringing in private money to public projects has sunk in a swamp of accounting technicalities and confusion. The man to oversee Labour's review of PFI is Geoffrey Robinson MP, ex-managing director of Jaguar and the Treasury's new Paymaster General.

The review will be carried out by Malcolm Bates, who spent 12 years at GEC as deputy managing director, and is the new chairman of Premier Farnell, the electronic components maker.

Here comes the New Labour bit: anyone wanting to make their views known to Mr Bates has only until the 13 June. So get cracking. And Mr Bates instructs people to keep their contributions short'n'sharp: "Keep them to two sides of A4 if possible please."

At this rate, they might actually get the PFI to work.

Before you get too sorry for the Tories, I am delighted to reveal that Norma Major's PR has a new job: spokeswoman for Cosmopolitan.

Eileen Wise, Head of News at Conservative Central Office, has been appointed Director of Corporate Communications at The National Magazine Company.

I wonder whether this will set a precedent. Portillo for Loaded magazine, perhaps?

Picture the scene: John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, is having breakfast yesterday at the Grosvenor Hotel in London as a guest of the Irish Trade Board. On the same table are Peter Sutherland, newly elevated interim chairman of BP, Niall Fitzgerald, chief executive of Unilever, Christopher Haskins of Northern Foods - and Bob Geldof, creator of Live Aid and former Boomtown Rat.

Mr Bruton delivered a short speech about Irish- British trade, the success of the Irish economy and the prospects for peace in Northern Ireland. Sadly, my informants were unable to overhear what was said.

Apparently Sir Bob was looking well, considering his reputation as a late-night club-goer. He was there in his position as head of Planet 24, his media group. Mr Sutherland, nicknamed "Suds," was there in his capacity as chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

If for any reason Mr Sutherland doesn't have his interim status at BP ratified as a permanent chairman, how about Sir Bob? Altogether now, "Tell me: Why I don't like Mondays ..."

One doesn't normally think of the Global Markets Economics team at Bankers' Trust as cutting social satirists, but so it appears.

The team's newsletter boasts a "World Exclusive" on the identities of the four outsiders who are due to be appointed to the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), set up by Gordon Brown to fix interest rates.

According to Peter Price, managing director, the mystery four are: Professor Sydney Trimmer, Polenta Professor of Stakeholding, University of Islington, best known for A neo-Keynesian approach to optimum resource allocation in a municipal library environment; Dr Victoria Harpy, Chair of the Social Market Aromatherapy Research Council, formerly leader of of Brent Council's "Smash the fascist bosses anti-plutocrat support group"; Alfred "Alf" Stubbins, General Secretary, Amalgamated Union of Managerial, Technical, Educational, Syncopational, Scientological, Sanitation Workers and Allied Trades; and Baroness Edwina de Oddbins, who will "operate the Ouija Board".

Now why does something tell me Bankers' Trust isn't taking this committee seriously?