Step forward, Mr Steve Webb...

City Diary

A series of strait-laced events were disrupted by the triumphs and tribulations at Wembley the other night, not least the Investor Relations magazine annual awards at the Hilton International, Park Lane.

As the black-tie dinner progressed, in tandem with the England/Germany match, the diners grew increasingly restive. Finally, during "golden goal" extra-time, all restraint was thrown to the winds and the hordes defected to two television screens at either end of the bar. Compere Jeremy Paxman could only look on as the cheering mob urged England on - to no avail.

The whiff of anarchy did not end there. After the match ended the subdued crowd returned to their tables for the awards. Mr Paxman announced the "Best Individual Investor Relations Officer" of the year award - Steve Webb of Argyll Group!

The band struck up a rousing crescendo, the lights dimmed, a spotlight played on the stage - but no Steve Webb.

Yesterday an unrepentant Mr Webb, quizzed about his film-star like non- appearance, said: "I couldn't possibly comment. Obviously I'm delighted that I won the award - but very disappointed England didn't win." And yes, he was watching the match. Sensible chap.

More England match malarkey. John Redwood MP, former challenger for the Tory leadership, knew he had his work cut out speaking to over 1,000 people at the Fund Manager of the Year awards at the Albert Hall. At least it showed the match on big screens.

Ruefully, Mr Redwood began: "I get a definite impression of the relative importance of politicians at this moment, given the time that's been allotted to me to make my speech is during the half-time interval."

The Dalek continued ominously: "I know that it is common at these events to place bets on the length of the speech. I had planned to speak on the subject dear to all your hearts - the pros and cons of European Monetary Union [loud groans from the audience] but decided that it was probably better to focus in this speech on the pros."

He promptly sat down without a further word - to cheers and applause.

The latest gimmick from Archie Norman's Asda - bottles of mineral water named "Great Yorkshire Water". The bottles will only be sold in Yorkshire, marked "While Stocks Last."

No doubt the Yorkshire Water company, still smarting from last year's drought, will find the joke hilarious. The water boys might even like to pop over to congratulate Asda - their head office in Leeds is right next to Asda's, on the opposite side of the River Aire.

Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, former chairman of Grand Metropolitan, has described his management style as "a light grip around the throat" and "orchestrated anarchy".

He is now offering advice for young people embarking on a career in management - get an accountancy qualification as quickly as possible, and then get stuck into marketing. Lord Sheppard says: "everybody today needs to be a good marketeer". He sees his own accountancy training as a priceless asset - "it does make you not in any way frightened of numbers."

Lord Sheppard recalls that he first considered accountancy at grammar school, when his father, an engine driver in east London, told him a friend knew someone who was an accountant and "he had made a lot of money". .Great news for couch potatoes looking for a new job. No need to tramp around agencies and headhunters any more. A new web site on the Internet called the Monster Board will list over 500 jobs from graduate to senior executive level.

http://monster.co.uk is being backed by companies including Ford Motor Company, ICL, Unisys, Sony, Lloyd's of London and Scottish & Newcastle, amongst others.

Predictably, the idea comes from America, where the US Monster Board has more than 50,000 jobs posted and averages 24,000 "hits" a day. PC Magazine rates it amongst the top 100 sites on the Web. (By the way, if any of this jargon is confusing you, retrain or retire. The number of individuals and businesses going on-line is growing by 10 per cent per month.)

The people behind the UK version have helpfully provided a "monster mask" (above) for the launch party, a slightly anorak-ish touch in an otherwise thoroughly business-like operation.

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