Pembroke: Mellor backs a winner

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DAVID MELLOR, the fun-loving Chelsea supporter and former National Heritage Secretary, was special guest at an appreciation of spread betting (where you buy and sell at a spread price as in the stock market) held by City Index to coincide with the Italy v Bulgaria World Cup semi-final.

This arduous task involved telling a few jokes to the crowd of brokers, eating dinner, then betting on the game (he correctly backed the 2-1 scoreline).

He arrived for the evening a little late and not a little flustered. 'I've been doing my bit for What the Papers Say,' he said, referring to the BBC's news round-up programme in which he will focus on the MPs' 'cash for questions' furore. But the amount of work had caught him on the hop. 'The script had to be 2,300 words long,' he said. 'It was a bit of a struggle.'

POOR OLD Tony Blair. The man they call Bambi may be marching towards the Labour leadership but the market for his cast-off clothing remains distinctly weedy.

At a charity auction at Heighinton, Co Durham, an old tie worn by former Chancellor Norman Lamont fetched a creditable pounds 20. Whereas an elderly item of Mr Blair's neckware (described by the auctioneer as a lightweight tie, not a lightweight's tie, you understand) went for only a fiver. This is even more embarrassing as Heighinton is in Mr Blair's Sedgefield constituency.

PHILIP AMES, the record retailer who used to run the Virgin stores for Richard Branson, has made a comeback. Just months after his 4 Play records chain went into receivership, he has bought back 14 of the stores.

But he seems to have learnt some lessons. The man who said his biggest mistake was trying to run a music business from the North-west of England has attracted some southern backing. LT Products, run by John Gray and Keith Staton, a former director of EMI, have come on board. 'They are based in London, where it all happens,' Mr Ames says.

THE SAME old faces dominated the Chemical Bank challenge in London's Battersea Park on Wednesday evening. John Barber, of Municipal Mutual, won the fastest chief executive's prize for the third year in a row with a time of 18 minutes 25 seconds for the 3.5-mile course, with Hambro director Ian Beachamp puffing in second in 21 minutes.

Not everything went to plan. Richard Mountain, one of the organisers, thought he was being terribly clever bringing along a 10ft pole so people could find him in the crowd. Sadly, London Underground wouldn't let him take it on the tube and he had to leave it outside Cannon Street station.

HOLDERS of personal pensions take heart. Andrew Large, chairman of the Securities and Investments Board and the scourge of the personal pensions industry, has thrown in his lot with you.

According to the SIB's annual report Mr Large received additions to his pounds 170,000 salary to help him contribute to a personal pension plan. Perhaps he felt the SIB's plan was not up to standard? We trust he received good advice.