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Bank eclipsed by the Sun

THE BANK of England has moved forward the timing of its August inflation report so as not to compete with Britain's first eclipse of the sun for more than 70 years.

The report will be released an hour early on 11 August at 9.30 am - well before the City is plunged into near darkness for a few minutes between 11.15 and 11.20 a.m.

"We think everyone in the City will want to witness the eclipse, especially if it's a clear day," Mervyn King, Deputy Governor of the Bank, said yesterday. Or as one senior Bank source put it: "In the interests of transparency we didn't want to do the press conference in the dark."

August's eclipse will be at its best in Cornwall and Devon, although the whole of the country will be affected to some degree.

City workers who miss out on this year's eclipse are unlikely to get a second chance. The next one affecting Britain is not until 23 September, 2090.

Euro battle

NEW LABOUR'S love-in with business is set to continue at this year's CBI National Conference with Tony Blair as the top name speaker. But the Conference is also braced for a bloody battle between europhiles and sterling loyalists.

Alongside the Prime Minister will be a phalanx of Cabinet colleagues, including Gordon Brown, Stephen Byers and Jack Straw. It will be anything but a one-party show, however. William Hague will also be speaking. And the Prince of Darkness of euro-scepticism, Michael Portillo, will address a major debate entitled "EMU-growth stimulant or cold shower?". This is commendably brave of the CBI, since its own staunchly pro-euro stance was recently lambasted by the Business for Sterling pressure group as misrepresenting the views of British business.

GMB General Secretary John Edmonds, Jonathan Porritt, the director of Forum for the Future, former Environment Secretary John Gummer and Sir John Egan, chief executive of BAA, will be adding to the fun, amongst many others. Battle commences at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham on 31 October.

Sweet challenge

ALAN SUGAR'S son Daniel Sugar was part of a Tottenham Hotspur team which took on 11 financial journalists at a friendly at White Hart Lane this week.

Sugar Junior, chief of operations at Spurs, and his colleagues were there to show off the club's facilities, as its now a publicly quoted company. Spurs won 7-2, a result the journalists were happy enough with, considering the home side boasted a number of former Spurs professionals such as Mark Falco, Micky Hazard and Jimmy Neighbour.

Just as professional but in a different sense was John Sedgewick, Tottenham's finance director, who also turned out for the club. The fixture was prompted by a similar journalist's friendly at Old Trafford last year, when Manchester United's chief executive Martin Edwards ended up with one of his legs in plaster. There were no breakages this time, although the atmosphere was given an edge before the kick-off when one of the Spurs wags, referring to a rival London club's fading championship hopes, quipped: "We'll now have a minute's silence for Arsenal".

Afterwards young Daniel Sugar rejected suggestions that he had only become interested in Spurs after his Dad bought the club. He was a life-long supporter, he insisted. Such was his devotion that he had even been suspended from school once for bunking off in order to watch his beloved Spurs.

No more games

STILL ON the subject of footy, the man who secured the FA Cup sponsorship for AXA is leaving the French insurer to become marketing director of M&G.

Gary Shaughnessy was popular with colleagues and journalists when he was marketing director at AXA Insurance, not least because he was "the man who can get you FA Cup final tickets". No longer. Michael McLintock, chief executive of M&G (now owned by Prudential Group) says the company doesn't currently sponsor any sport at all. As for the future? "Don't get too excited" says Mr McLintock. Shame.

E-mail: j.willcock@independent.co.uk

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