Don't forget to blame the Germans

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The Independent Online

It could only happen to an organisation as accident-prone as the London Stock Exchange. Yesterday was supposed to have been the day it trumpeted the appointment of its new chairman, Don Cruickshank.

But the wrong document was faxed and news desks were surprised (and delighted) to receive an internal document on how the LSE intended blaming the Germans if its merger with the Deutsche Borse fails.

The LSE knows about cock-ups, having just recovered from a computer fault that paralysed trading for a day as world markets went into meltdown.

The document surmised an aborted merger would be seen as "another failure", so planned to ensure the Germans took the brunt of the blame.

Journalists would be encouraged to write "knocking copy", with briefings highlighting German "instransigence". The "statesmanlike" LSE would express regret a deal had not been done, despite its willingness to compromise.

If the merger succeeded, the LSE might still not emerge smelling of roses, so the memo warns of the "danger this will be seen as Frankfurt ... taking over LSE". To counteract that, the new chairman would go into overdrive. The LSE might offer an exclusive to the Financial Times, designed to show London in the best possible light.

Last night an LSE spokeswoman said the memo was outdated. "These were contingency plans ... This was an internal document which was supposed to be aborted."

Alas, that might be the fate which now awaits the LSE's merger with the Germans.