Out of the kitchen and into a very hot seat

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The Independent Online
The Chancellor has appointed Jill Rutter to be his press secretary, in succession to Andrew Hudson. Ms Rutter, 39, was described by one colleague yesterday as "a bit of a blue stocking - one of the cleverest people in the Treasury. Her appointment reflects the importance of the job over the next 12 months."

After Oxford she became private secretary to the Chief Secretary between 1986 and 1988, then worked at the Number 10 Policy Unit from 1992 to 1994. Another Whitehall insider said: "She's been in the kitchen with the heater on full blast." Meanwhile the well regarded Mr Hudson, described as "earnest" and "donnish", will return to a policy job in the Treasury. Both are advised to move fast; apparently the current "downsizing" of the Treasury means desks are at a premium.

The central banks of Uruguay, Argentina and a number of other Latin American countries have something in common. When you phone them, the tune played on hold is the ragtime piano classic by Scott Joplin that became the theme to the film The Sting. It puts a whole new slant on the sovereign debt crisis.

Mention the words "liquid gold" and most people would think of the Leeds Building Society's interest-paying account, as advertised by the Arthur Daley actor, George Cole. Although the Leeds was swallowed by the Halifax last April, the account lives on as the "Halifax Liquid Gold".

Yesterday "Barker's Liquid Gold" was launched - a blend of vodka and cola available in an off-licence near you at 89p a can. But this had nothing to do with building societies. A spokesman for Cott, the world's fourth-largest drink company, which recently launched Two Dogs alcoholic lemonade, has hit on alcoholic cola as the next winner. Cott said that the Barker's branding illustrated the character and history of "Billy Barker, a ruddy-cheeked publican, sailor and failed tenor who landed in Canada during the Klondike gold rush". The ad copy tells of Billy's accidental discovery of the drink after a bottle of vodka is knocked into a pitcher of cola.

Cott insisted yesterday that there was no trademark problem with the building society product. Trademarks are listed under classes, and beverages are in a separate class to financial services products, a spokesman said. A spokeswoman for the Halifax said that, while they had not heard of this new drink before, there "didn't seem to be a problem". Bottoms up.

Croatia and Slovenia are planning bond issues through London following the outbreak of peace in the former Yugoslavia. Heading Croatia's programme is its intriguingly named finance minister, Mr Bozo Prka.

Yesterday will go down in history as the day the National Grid failed to fail. Prompted by dire press predictions that the entire nation would suffer power cuts if the cold weather continued, six TV crews and a host of hacks crowded into the Grid's control room at Wokingham, Surrey, ready to watch the catastrophe unfold. Their creative skills were tested to the limits as they had to tell the shivering millions that the supply was holding up quite well after all, but there might possibly be a power cut later. The heavily outnumbered National Grid engineers sat twiddling their thumbs as the hacks described to camera how they were "battling to keep Britain on-line". Photograph: Brian Harris

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