Pembroke: Des takes off for BAA

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The Independent Online
It is a case of copious egg on face for Burson Marstellar, the public relations company where Des Wilson, the former Liberal Democrat spin doctor, is vice-chairman.

Only two months ago the firm sent round glowing tributes to Wilson, inviting profiles of the great man. Here, it said, was a PR guru who had lost only one account he had pitched for and who had won pounds 1m of business in 18 months.

Yesterday, he announced he was turning his back on the firm to join BAA, the airport operator, as director of corporate affairs, where we can assume his salary will be higher than the estimated pounds 100,000 a year he earns at Burson Marstellar. 'It came as a complete surprise and I didn't know of BAA's interest at the time,' says the effervescent New Zealander.

The move, in September, marks a further stage in the increasingly corporate career of the formerly right-on Des. A cynic might say that the man who helped found Shelter in the 1960s, and who spent two years without a salary working for the Liberal Democrats, has sold out.

'A cynic can say what he likes,' he spits. 'But I worked for 30 years in the voluntary sector. If I was going to sell out, I would have done it a long time ago. I've demonstrated that I can add value in the private sector and would have been disappointed if I had not become sought after.'

THE ANNUAL meeting of mining group RTZ promises to be an interesting affair this morning. Two representatives of the Sami population (the Laplanders) plan to attend to complain about RTZ's mining activities in northern Scandinavia.

Organised by Partizans, a shareholder action group, Ritva Torikka of the Finnish Sami parliament and John Hedriksen of the Nordic Sami council will ask RTZ chairman Sir Derek Birkin to stop mining in their territories and respect Sami rights.

The Samis are unhappy that RTZ is seeking permission to begin excavation work in parts of Finland where they have reindeer grazing rights.

RTZ appears unmoved. 'Every year Partizans dredge up some sort of issue and bring along some people they claim to have been affected by RTZ's mining activities. But we have done everything by the book.'

PETER IND, the jazz musician who founded the Bass Clef jazz club in north London, is planning to go out in style. His club - home to an arcane form of jazz for almost 10 years - slid into receivership in February after a running battle between Mr Ind and his banks and creditors.

Now, after an unsuccessful attempt to raise funds for a buy-back, he is planning a big party on Friday. 'We have had various offers of help but we need to get around pounds 300,000 to buy it back. I've been told my bid is not acceptable because it is not backed by proof of finance.'

The list of potential party guests includes Brian Sedgemore, the Hackney MP, who asked a question in the House of Commons on the club's predicament. Mr Ind may yet fax an invitation to Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor and a known jazz enthusiast. 'What the hell, I might as well. I could always tell him to wear a wig if he's worried about being recognised.'

IMPOVERISHED gourmets will be overjoyed, but pigs could soon be revolting. Hanover University has discovered the secret of that elusive and exhorbitantly priced fungus, the truffle.

Seventeen years of research have finally paid off for Azad Khanaqa, a 51-year- old Iraqi Kurd working at the Plant Institute. In the past few weeks nearly eight kilos of cultivated truffles have been harvested from greenhouses and the open air.

The innovative Mr Khanaqa forecasts that the price for truffles (approx pounds 1,000 a kilo) could plummet while his bank balance moves in the opposite direction.

All this is bad for the piggies, of course. Hordes of porkers have been specially trained to snuffle out the prized fungus from the roots of oaks and other deciduous trees. The dole queue looms.

(Photograph omitted)

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