Pembroke: Short odds, long Budget

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The Independent Online
For those of a betting persuasion, the books are open on the length of the Chancellor's speech next Tuesday. There had been a rumour that Kenneth Clarke might go for one of the shortest on record - Benjamin Disraeli still leads the way on brevity with a 45-minute effort in 1867. But now the smart money is on a longer stint, though perhaps not on the scale of William Gladstone's 43 4 -hour epic in 1853.

IG Index, a financial bookmaker based in London, was yesterday making a market on a 78- 83 minute speech, having raised its estimate from 65-70 minutes the previous day.

A shrewd move, as the Treasury said yesterday that the speech was 'likely to be longer rather than shorter given the amount he has to get through'.

Ladbroke is refusing to run a book on the speech this year; it took umbrage when the Treasury issued an estimate of Norman Lamont's speech in March. Odd, since not only does the Treasury do that every time, but it was 20 minutes out.

John Sacher, director of logistics and retail systems at Marks & Spencer and a member of one of the founding families, was pounds 1.8m richer yesterday when he sold 455,000 of his shares. Mr Sacher, who joined the tediously successful retailer in 1968 and gradually worked his way up to the main board, netted a pounds 1m profit after taking up options on the shares at prices ranging from 176p to 232p. 'These shares go back a very long time, and because of the tax situation I was almost obliged to sell them,' he said, sounding as if he was ticking the no-publicity box.

Mr Sacher still holds more shares in the company than any other M&S director - more than 300,000 ordinary shares, compared with the 26,000 held by Sir Rick Greenbury, the chairman - and earns a salary not unadjacent to pounds 200,000.

But he reacted to his pools- win type gain in a typically downbeat M&S way. No derring-do, no plans for a Ferrari. Nothing. 'I shall be planning for the long term - the long, long term,' he said. An extra pack of knee-length navy socks might be the extent of it.

Telephone users in Westminster were miffed yesterday when the avalanche of calls descending on London Underground's information lines to check on disruption to travel plans disrupted other calls.

Wags in the cable television business, which would like to compete with BT on telephone services, were saying that switching to cable would have been no use as the local franchise does not yet include telephone lines. And the Westminster cable franchise is owned by BT.

Staffers at Good Relations, the public relations company owned by Sir Tim Bell's Lowe Bell Communications, might be nursing a few hangovers this morning after a bash last night to celebrate co- founder Gethin Bradley's 30 years with the firm.

Mr Bradley sent out invitations to as many former troops as he could think of and asked them all to invite any other ex- employees he may have forgotten. Given that the average stint of most PRs is little more than 18 months with one company, it is surprising that one bar was big enough to house them.

(Photograph omitted)