People & Business

I'm backing Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London if the maverick Labour MP's performance on Tuesday night is anything to go by. The moustachioed newt-fancier was addressing executives and journalists gathered on HMS Belfast, next to Tower Bridge in London, for the launch of the RBS Advanta Platinum Card.

One wag observed that Mr Livingstone had turned up in some rather scruffy trainers, to which Ken responded: "You may have noticed I am in Nikes tonight. It's not that I'm trying to out-do Gordon Brown in informal dress. It's just the fact that I was sprinting for an interview with David Mellor and I sprained my ankle. I think it was a judgement of God."

Turning to Tony Blair's landslide election victory, Ken mused: "I think we would have won by a landslide if we had had a pig as a Labour Party leader."

Pinning the victory on Tory unpopularity rather than the electorate's approval for New Labour, Ken continued: "We could have said we would raise taxes, we could have said we would slaughter the first born, and we would have still got elected."

Ken then awarded Mo Mowlam nine out of ten for courage in her handling of the Northern Ireland peace talks, and Gordon Brown zero for his performance as Chancellor to date. Our hero thinks the dour Scotsman's economic policy will lead to a "monster recession" because the pound is overvalued. "It's going to be an absolute disaster," Ken chirped happily.

Instead, Ken wants higher personal and corporate taxes and lower interest rates, together with a 100 per cent tax rebate on all new investment projects. Any takers?

So who are David Hague, Stephen Caswell and Donald Osborne, the suits from Price Waterhouse who have been sent in to liquidate Hong Kong's investment bank, Peregrine?

Mr Hague is 47, British, and was educated at Bootle Grammar School. He joined Price Waterhouse in Southampton in 1975 and moved to Hong Kong in 1978 after being made a partner. He is in charge of PW's insolvency practice in the former colony.

A PW colleague of his in London tells me that Mr Hague lists his "non- professional activities" as "Member of the Ladies' Recreation Club", whatever that may mean. We all need to relax, I suppose.

Mr Caswell, 42, also a Brit, was educated at Buxton College in Derbyshire. He went straight to Hong Kong in 1980 after qualifying as an accountant with Thomson McClintock (now KPMG). He spent a few years in PW's London office specialising in banking and capital markets. Mr Caswell was also a member of a joint panel set up by the Hong Kong Society of Accountants and the Independent Committee Against Corruption.

Which leaves Mr Osborne, an American originally from LA, the only non- partner of the trio.

Fresh from having a dreadful Christmas, Dixons has just recruited the FTSE's youngest finance director (I think). The fresh-faced Ian Livingstone, aged just 33, was born in Glasgow and went to Manchester University, where he graduated at the spotty age of 19. He trained to be an accountant at Arthur Andersen and put in stints at Bank of America and 3i before joining Dixons seven years ago.

The most normal thing about the wunderkind is that he's a mad keen Celtic supporter.

Mr Livingstone will replace Robert Shrager, who is leaving Sir Stanley Kalms' right-hand side after 10 years at the stores group. Mr Shrager fancies a go at "turnaround situations", he said. Well, there's no shortage of those in retailing at the moment, what with Laura Ashley, Sears, Liberty ... but not Dixons.

Dog racing, traditionally the haunt of Del Boy at places such as Catford in south-east London, is about to acquire a rather more polished swagger: Sir William Rous, colonel of the Coldstream Guards and one of this country's most distinguished soldiers, has been made chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board

Geoffrey Thomas, chief executive of the Board, is bullish about the dogs. "It's the second most popular sport in the country, and pounds 1.5bn is year is bet on the dogs. We had a very good 1997," Mr Thomas said.

"Sir William is joining at a very exciting time for the sport," Mr Thomas added. "We are aiming to change its image, with more young people and women coming along." Sorry, Del Boy, there's no room at the track.

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