Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Business News

SlackBelly: Battle of the lawyers, but they're not in court

The City Snitch: The good, the bad and the ugly of the Square Mile

I'll begin with a tasty spat, which has erupted between two of the best-known lawyers in London. Stanley Brodie QC, the commercial barrister, called last month for the resignation of Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions and human rights specialist who advised the defendants on the infamous McLibel trial.

Brodie argued in a letter to a news-paper that Starmer "demeaned his great office" by "seeming to take the side of the Government and the Labour Party" regarding MPs' and peers' expenses – unfortunate timing as the Crown Prosecution Service (of which Starmer is head) was considering whether criminal charges should be brought over the scandal.

Mischievously, Brodie is continuing his campaign. Slackbelly has seen the draft of another letter, in which he points to the connections between Starmer, law firm Bindmans, and Lord Clarke of Hampstead (left), the former Labour Party chairman, who claimed outrageous expenses but whom the CPS concluded could not be prosecuted. Of course, Brodie doesn't for one moment suspect any partiality in Starmer's decision-making.

Brodie muses in the letter: "In 2006 Mr Starmer was shortlisted as the recipient of the annual 'Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award' [he did not get it]. Bindmans is a distinguished, much respected but left-wing firm of solicitors, prominent for its active promotion and defence of human rights causes. Sir Geoffrey Bindman received his knighthood in the 2007 New Year Honours List for Services to Human Rights. Lord Clarke was represented by Bindmans in connection with the criminal investigation into his claims for expenses."

So what does Starmer think of Brodie's latest missive? "We don't respond to ridiculous letters like this," sniffs his spokesman.

Titles fight: no end in sight in writers' war

Sahar Hashemi, the founder of Coffee Republic, published a book in 2003 called Anyone Can Do It. She was right. Three years later, Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne used the title for his book. Still, I'm sure it's all forgotten now. Bannatyne has gone on to irritate BBC2 viewers on a regular basis, as well as write another tome called Wake Up and Change Your Life.

Hashemi has penned a sequel, too, due to be published in May. Its title? Wake Up and Change Your Life.

Will Mervyn King be spending Budget day at the races?

Quantitativeeasing the Nicky Henderson-trained horse that has won three out of its four races, enjoys strong support from within the Treasury and the Bank of England, with Governor Mervyn King among his followers. So I'm intrigued to see that the gelding is entered to run in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on 17 March. Considering his fan base, are we really to believe that the Budget could be scheduled for that day?

What a difference five years make at Ladbrokes

"The betting industry is recession proof," said David Michels, the chief executive of Hilton Group – then owner of Ladbrokes – in November 2005.

Then, in May 2008, Chris Bell, Ladbrokes' chief executive, said: "I'd never say this business was recession proof, but it is recession robust. We are mindful of the economic climate and the spending of our customers but, like any hobby, it is what you do, and you still do it."

And now? Peter Erskine, the bookies' chairman, said this month: "2009 was a challenging year for Ladbrokes. We were impacted by the deteriorating economic environment."

Who killed Archie Mitchell? Place your bets ... twice

I've written before how Irish bookie Paddy Power keeps getting caught replicating the novelty betting markets of its competitors. Just two weeks ago, Paddy was caught offering punters the chance to bet on the first person to be thanked in the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award speech, a promotion almost identical to one being peddled by rival Bodog. But is Paddy at it again?

"Bet During EastEnders Live!" screams a release dated 16 February, before adding: "In a world first, online bookmaker Bodog will be offering odds during EastEnders' live show." Then, a day later: "In a world betting first Paddy Power are giving EastEnders fans the opportunity to bet on who killed Archie Mitchell as the drama unfolds." It could all be a coincidence, I guess.

One Alfred Place The claws are out

It seems my revelations about One Alfred Place – the private members' club – have provoked a catfight.

You'll recall that new chief executive, Sharon Brittan, has begun axing members who use the club as a serviced office. This managed to incite a frenzied reaction in cyberspace among the membership.

Michelle Dewberry who won the second series of The Apprentice, tweets: "Want a members' club? Try One Alfred Place but, um, don't go too often or you'll be given the boot." Shaa Wasmund, the chief executive of Brightstation, adds: "I would NEVER have handled the situation like this."

All of which has prompted a mea culpa from Brittan: "My intention was to act in the best interest of the club. However, I am also concerned that the majority of this debate is being conducted outside the walls of the club and by some who are not privy to the actual matters at hand." Will that be enough to calm the bosses?