Davos diary: No backsliding from Boris Johnson
Friday 30 January 2009
To dinner with Barclays Bank atthe Schatzalp Hotel, a formersanitarium high above Davos made famous as the scene of Thomas Mann's classic novel The Magic Mountain. In typically rumbustious form, the guest speaker, Boris Johnson, congratulates Marcus Agius, the Barclays chairman, for defying the mood of austerity bypersisting with the dinner, and declares himself one of the last defenders of the free market system left in politics. Wearing his London Mayor's hat, he invites all foreigners to take advantage of the weak pound to buy assets in London, pointing out that a year ago a copy of the Evening Standard cost 50p. Today you could buy the whole thing for the same price, complete with 300 journalists. Boris headed back down to Davos in the only proper way – by toboggan. Your intrepid reporter can testify to the terrifying speed with which he completed the run.
Blair doesstand-up comedy
A half-way decent joke fromTony Blair, our former primeminister, whose "third-way" thinking fits the Davos agenda hand-in-glove. Sharing aplatform with Stephen Green,he congratulates the chairman of HSBC for being one of the few bankers who is still willing to come out during daylight hours.
The word of God to govern the markets
Tony Blair isn't the only politicianin town doing a few gags. Asked to wind up a rambling treatise onsocially responsible capitalism, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, suggests that there is no better code by which to govern society and the markets than the Ten Commandments. Simple, but effective.
Bill raises an eyebrow at Putin's conversion
President Bill Clinton, seemingly one of only a handful of Americans to be attending Davos this year, isastonished by the apparent conversion to the free-enterprise system of Vladimir Putin, who with Western banks being nationalised right, left and centre has beenwarning his Western counterparts here about the perils of a state-run economy. "Yes, I am pleased to see Putin come out in favour of the free market system," says Mr Clinton. "I wish him luck."
It's not all free booze for those who care
One of the events in Davos everyone feels obliged to have a go at (and to be seen to be having a go) is the Refugee Run, a clever idea operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Participants get the chance to find out what life might be like for a refugee, as they run the gauntlet (simulated, naturally) of a war zone, a minefield and a rebel attack. Those already queuing up for their turn, having notified the media of when they'll be doing it, of course, include Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary general (though he's chickened out of the full experience), and – surprise, surprise – Sir Richard Branson.
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