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People and Business: Singing for their supper

JOHN MONKS, the TUC general secretary, is not a man to be upstaged, even by flamboyant entrepreneurs such as Brian Souter, the multimillionaire boss of Stagecoach.

At a recent dinner in Manchester to celebrate the launch of the group's European Union Works Council, Mr Monks couldn't resist trying to go one better than Mr Souter's personalised rendition of the "Red Flag" to April's Scottish TUC Congress.

He serenaded Mike Kinski, group chief executive of Stagecoach Holdings, and several delighted representatives from the European Council, with a ditty to the tune of "Daisy, Daisy":

"Brian, Brian, give us your answer do,

We're half crazy, all through our work for you,

We don't want a Scottish castle,

Not even a scrap or hassle,

But we'll be sweet, if you treat us reet, in a partnership made for two".

A Eurovision winner, surely.

THE RATHER peculiar name chosen by Prudential for its new bank launched on Monday - "egg" - was previously considered by Barclays for their own new savings venture, but they turned it down in favour of "b2".

Apparently Barclays also rejected two other names on the Pru's shortlist - "oxygen" and "360 degrees". Which prompts one to wonder - who is the brand consultant who dreams up all these silly names?

Even stranger, Barclays decided to go ahead with "b2" after Budgens, the convenience store chain, rebranded the 7-11 stores it had just acquired as "b2".

Be that as it may, Kevin Russell, the Pru's press officer, was jubilant about the public reaction to egg's launch (laying?). Apparently a London taxi driver had dropped Mr Russell off at the Pru's head office in Holborn on Tuesday, turned round to him and said: "Oh yeah, didn't you launch that `egg' thing yesterday?"

Have the Pru finally cracked it? I had that omelette in the back of my taxi once...

HURRAH! The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has commanded that people in business should write financial documents in "plain English".

My enthusiasm for this initiative is tempered somewhat, however, by an invitation from an American financial printing firm that is holding a forum in London about the SEC rule.

Judy Poole of RR Donnelley Financial writes: "To help those transitioning to plain English, we will stage a forum in London..."

I think RR Donnelley still has some way to go to "transition" itself. Anyway, the firm is also inviting journalists to a briefing on the subject at the very English but not so plain Reform Club in Pall Mall: "Cocktails and dinner... jacket and tie required". How very civilised.

SIR BRIAN PITMAN, the evergreen chairman of Lloyds TSB Group, has retired two of his most distinguished non-executive directors and hired new blood. The pair set to retire at next year's agm are Sir Simon Hornby, formerly of WH Smith, and Sir David Plastow of Vickers and Inchcape fame.

The new boys are Chris Gibson-Smith, a managing director of the British Petroleum Company, and Tom McKillop, chief executive-designate of Zeneca Group. They will join the board on 1 January 1999.

Meanwhile, analysts reckon Sir Brian is likely to stay on for at least one more big mortgage-provider acquisition.