The City Diary: A show to promote? Don't worry, all's fair in love and PR

Slackbelly exposes The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of The Square Mile
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The Independent Online

There's an old trick in the entertainment publicists' manual that allows PR folk to promote all kinds of projects – all they have to do is create a "real-life" sub-plot involving the stars of the relevant show, spread the story, and retreat to a safe distance.

The tactic worked when disc jockey Chris Evans and pop star Geri Halliwell were supposedly courting – a sweet tale made only slightly less believable by the coincidence of the stars sharing their PR man, Matthew Freud. At the time of the "romance", Evans was plugging his radio show, and Halliwell had a fresh tune to promote.

If that seems a touch cynical, then consider how this fortuitous PR break seems to repeat itself – most recently when an awful-looking film called the Bounty Hunter got a timely boost from co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler reportedly having an affair (it now seems they did not).

All of which brings us neatly to BBC2's reality business show, Dragons' Den, and the spat between James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne over the former's non-dom status – even though both have co-invested in seven businesses on the show. You'll be amazed to learn, then, that the Beeb has just started filming the programme's eighth series, meaning we'll all be desperate to discover if this animosity transfers to the screen.

So, does the row exist? Says a BBC spokesman: "As far as I know, the issues raised are for real". So, it's all down to propitious timing, once again.

Picking winners: Fashion ‘genius’ spots talent

Jaeger owner Harold Tillman is a brilliant man – just ask him, he’ll tell you. Speaking to some glossy freesheet called The City magazine, Tillman muses: “I do have the knack of picking winners. I went to a fashion show the other evening, with maybe 50 students showing their collections, and turned to my wife, and said, ‘Shall I tell you which one will win?’ “She said, ‘Oh, how would you know?’ “But I picked the winner. That pleases me. Not because I’ma smart-arse. I just have an eye for the well-made, stylish and commercial. And you can’t teach that.” So modest.

To every party supporter there is a season

Sir Peter Gershon, Labour's former efficiency guru who's now working for the Tories, believes controls on public-sector recruitment could save up to £2bn, while IT spending cuts might do the same. Standard Life chairman, Gerry Grimstone, who's advising Labour on efficiency savings, reckons the Tory plan is "just not credible". So far, so predictable. Yet Grimstone has talked privately about how he'd be willing to serve under a future Conservative government, thereby emulating Sir Peter's flexibility. Has he suffered a sudden attack of loyalty?

Is there a crystal ball in the Prince's office?

Henry Angest, the publicity-shy Swiss-born financier who controls Arbuthnot Banking Group, is one of the Tories' biggest financial backers, and also funds a network of obscure Eurosceptic groups. One is run by Lord Pearson, the leader of Ukip, who warned earlier this month that a Tory election victory "would be the end" of Britain.

That irritating chain of events has caused a bit of a fuss, but I can't help thinking that somebody saw this entire kerfuffle unfolding. Back in March, Sir Michael Peat, the principal private secretary to the Prince of Wales, quietly resigned from the Arbuthnot board after just two years. Is the man a prophet?

If you want to get on, get fined £750,000

The FSA's insider dealing probe is causing some to take a sideways look at City history. In 2006 hedge-fund manager Philippe Jabre was fined £750,000 by the regulator for market abuse. Has it hindered him? Not at all. In 2007, he opened a new fund – one of the largest launches in recent years. A hedgie explains: "The FSA fine is a great marketing tool. Everybody wants their money with Jabre; they think he knows things others don't." Expect promotional literature for the Calvert Absolute Returns Fund imminently.

Short shrift for women's claims of sexism in the City

Has the great City sexual discrimination scam been rumbled? A certain type of City woman has long benefited from joining an investment bank, and waiting to be the butt of an inevitable sexist comment that makes staying in her job simply impossible. The only thing that can soothe her pain is a cheque for millions – and petrified banks have been happy to sign them.

No longer. I read that the £3m case brought against Nomura by Maureen Murphy and Anna Francis has been thrown out after a Central London Employment Tribunal panel ruled the "incidents and remarks were trivial". About time too, some might say.