The City Diary: Dragons' fire: Burning enmity or bright publicity? You decide

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

Back in April, Dragons' Den stars James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne conducted an unseemly spat in the pages of national newspapers. At the time, I raised the preposterous theory that this public falling out might – just might – be a PR put-up, as the filming of a new series of Dragons' Den had just begun and the hostility would provide an obvious point of promotion once the show was aired.

Not so, Bannatyne's spokesman insisted, before kindly educating me in the ways of the dark arts. Any disagreements between the dragons were too distant from the show's broadcast date, he explained, so they would be irrelevant even if the programme was looking to score a PR coup.

You can only imagine my surprise, then,viewing the trailer for the new series, which begins on Wednesday. "This isn't a game show," the sinister voiceover begins. "The dragons aren't in the den to amuse each other. This is their day job. Hours spent trawling through pitch after pitch after pitch, just to find the next business goldmine. And when they do, they'll fight each other for it."

The dragons are then pictured wearing boxing gloves. Who'd have thought it?

Box tickers shed light on graduate doldrums

The City's love of box-ticking has created a whole new profession, it seems. University College Dublin offers a masters degree in Regulation and Compliance (presumably for those who breezed through the undergraduate course) but if you haven't passed enough exams to get on to that, don't fret – you can always gain your brown overalls by enrolling at the University of Reading and taking its Advanced Capital Markets Regulations and Compliance or the the University of Westminster's Information Compliance.

It turns out that there are loads of these ridiculous-sounding courses, but you get the point. Meanwhile, news of these boondoggles reaches me along with tales of 17 per cent of male graduates not being able to find work. Quite why, is baffling.

Civil Service crème de la crème is still in demand

The age of austerity has had at least one direct effect: the number of vacancies on my favourite website, the Civil Service recruitment portal, has been slashed to 50, a historic low in my experience. Only crucial front-line positions remain, including a spot in the Scottish Government for a Gaelic language plan development officer; a clothworkers' research fellowship at the National Archives; and a cracking post being advertised by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which seeks a speechwriter for the Rt Hon Chris Huhne. Bit late, methinks.

Goga says ta ta to Riviera pad

Is the shine beginning to come off my luminous friend, and star of this column, Goga Ashkenazi? The socialite pal of Prince Andrew has been busy trying to re-brand herself as an oligarch – an ambitious project only marginally undermined by her penchant for appearing semi-naked in glossy photo shoots along with all her exotic trappings. Almost all the trappings, that is. The gossip among the ultra-rich set is that Goga has been trying to build a house in St Tropez, but has now withdrawn after failing to garner enough support from the local authorities. Sadly she does not manage to return my calls and fill me in on the story.

Silvio looks to flog Sardinian bolthole loved by the Blairs

More property rumours elsewhere on Planet Rich, where I hear that the Sardinian estate of Italian premier-cum-love machine, Silvio Berlusconi, is being quietly hawked. "The asking price is around €500m and the estate has several villas and is the most beautiful part of Sardinia," says my man with a tan. The spot, of course, became famous as the place where Tony Blair liked spending his holidays.

Humble toasties gain Italian accent in up-market move

Re-brandings of rubbish products part 1,862. The chintzy toasted sandwich maker is now being marketed by retailer Robert Dyas as a..."panini press". The cheeky monkeys.

After 27 years, Gillespie turns gatekeeper

Congratulations to Robert Gillespie, a senior managing director of Evercore Partners, who has been appointed as the Takeover Panel's next director-general. This is a job for a tough cop who can keep errant investment bankers in line, which is why the regulatory body has hired an, er, investment banker who spent 27 years at UBS (in various guises) as its senior referee.

Goldman's £1bn cheque to taxman still on the to-do list

Another week, another call to Goldman Sachs to see if it's paid Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs the promised £1bn (plus) in corporation tax. You'll recall that God's bank propitiously let that figure slip out to the papers last autumn when it and its chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, were being crucified for their roles in the financial crisis, and, by my calculations, the bill is due by October. The public purse is still waiting for Goldman's generous donation, so I ask the investment bank if there is any reason why it's quicker off the mark when prompting a few puff pieces, compared with signing cheques? "Yes, we pay taxes when they are due," sniffs a spokesman dismissively. "Have a good weekend".