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Alan Sugar vs Richard Desmond: a bare-knuckle battle of the egos

These titans of commerce had a boardroom fracas that should be replayed on live television. Plus, is Andrew Mitchell in line for Peter Mandelson's old job?
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The 2014 renewal of Sports Relief is a year away, and already the centrepiece takes shape. Barring injury, the keynote event is expected to be a three-round charity mash-up between the toughest Jews the country has known since the 1930s heyday of Jack “Kid” Berg. I refer, of course, to Alan Sugar, and Richard Desmond, who almost came to blows last week over the former’s departure as chairman of YouView, the latter’s catch-up TV system.

According to eye and ear witnesses, not only voices were raised after the shock resignation. Alan – estimated wealth: £800m – raised his fists and chased the pornster around the room. “He ran away from me because he was frightened,” claims the platform-shoed Fauntleroy of The Apprentice, “and then to play-act he shouted ‘You’re fired.’ ”

Trust Richard – worth a cool £1bn – to invoke the spirit of Dorothy Parker, who presciently observed: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” Yet sometimes even the most delectable wit is no substitute for raw violence when it comes to the settling of differences, and the prospect of these beauties lacing up the gloves next March is beyond captivating.

Now I like that Alan Sugar, as Harry Hill used to say on his lamented TV Burp, but then I also like Richard Desmond. But which is better? There’s only way to find out. Fiiiiiiiiiight!


No need for Tim  to take the rap

Mention of Harry brings us to parliamentary nebbish Tim Loughton, whose attempts to rap on the 2010 reality show Tower Block of Commons were memorably featured on TV Burp. Sacked as an education minister in September, and apparently viciously briefed against by Michael Gove’s puppets, Tim now reveals that police interviewed him under caution after he called a constituent “unkempt”, the man citing this as a racist reference to his Romany background.

Although Tim will not be charged, it does sound a hellish ordeal. At the nick, he was asked about any mental health problems (an easy mistake if the officer saw the rap) and had to “weave through a group of drug dealers”. Clearly this was “humiliating”, as he confesses, though dealers are too well used to mixing with low life to fret unduly.


Is Mitchell the  new Mandelson?

Tim is not the only ex-minister to have “my confidence in the police knocked” of late, and for another, things look up. The Mail on Sunday reveals that Andrew Mitchell and David Cameron have made up over a Chequers lunch at which the KFC franchise heir Andrew Roberts, who moonlights as a Boy’s Own historian, was also present. The paper claims that whatever they ate – the rumour that Roberts brought a bucket of hot wings remains unconfirmed – the meal was so cordial that the PM has sort of promised to make Mitchell Britain’s EU commissioner  next year.

It is essential to remember that this is not a job which PMs routinely use to placate wrongly sacked colleagues. Peter Mandelson held it, after being unfairly resigned by Mr Tony Blair (Alastair Campbell, really) over the Hinduja passport affair.


Liz Jones is the  soul of discretion

Also in the MoS, Liz Jones adds a postscript to her column: “A small point, but am I the only woman in Britain who has not been groped or propositioned as an adult?” After all her years in the business, Liz expands, “not one man has ever asked me if he could buy me a drink or come to my hotel room”. It is bemusing. You’d have thought they’d be queuing round the block, secure in the knowledge that not a word about any encounter would ever find its way into print.


Neil Wallis – a clarification

In my column last week, I suggested that Neil Wallis had succeeded in persuading the CPS to drop phone-hacking charges against him by cooperating with and giving information to the police about fellow arrested journalists. This was untrue, and I am happy to set the record straight.