Diary: Birt's finances: the view from Monaco

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT IS unfashionable, but we'll have a go . . . 'Poor John Birt'. And what about the tax affairs of those who've been getting at him? Keith Oates, for instance, the only BBC governor to have popped his head over the parapet (well, he has said he 'did not agree' with Birt's financial deal). We learn that Oates, the managing director of Marks and Spencer plc, is registered in its most recent annual returns as living in Monaco - 47, rue Plati, to be precise. Oates worked for Thyssen Bornemisza, which has its headquarters in Monaco, from 1978 to 1984, before becoming finance director of M & S. And he may just like Monaco so much that he commutes from there - his club, according to the 1993 edition of Who's Who, is the Tennis Club de Monaco. Or Oates - whose M & S salary is in the order of pounds 400,000 - may be keen to convince the Inland Revenue that he is domiciled in Monaco, and thus enjoy the numerous tax advantages that residency in the principality offers. Who knows? He would not tell us when we asked yesterday, saying it was a personal matter. As someone working full-time for a proudly British company, however, he might consider the value of making all this clear. But then, as an eminent accountant himself, as well as a BBC governor, Oates doesn't need our advice.

A 1993 calendar arrives from Eurotunnel, posted last week. Thank you - and shall we assume that the tunnel will open three months late, too?

Menacing rumour

NEVER mind whether Daphne du Maurier was wholly or even occasionally a lesbian, the really interesting question is - did she have an affair with Prince Philip? 'These rumours have been floated,' Margaret Forster, her biographer, says, and snorts: 'but they are ridiculous. All the dates are wrong.' Daphne would say she was 'menaced' by someone if she found them attractive. But she was not menaced by Prince Philip. 'He was too fair and pale. She liked her men to be dark.' The Queen was very much in love with him, du Maurier wrote, adding that they were 'a lovely couple'. Forster gives thanks to Prince Philip in the acknowledgements to her book, which was published yesterday: she sent him a list of about 20 questions to which he replied in writing. The young Princess Elizabeth and Philip saw quite a bit of du Maurier while her husband, 'Boy' Browning, was Comptroller of Clarence House. In the early Sixties, the royal couple even visited Menabilly, du Maurier's Cornish home and the inspiration for Manderley. Du Maurier was so nervous that she wrote to a lady- in-waiting asking if she had to wear hat and gloves. 'Not in your own house,' came the reply. During the visit she also told HRH 'not to worry if he heard a lot of crashing in the night, because that would just be the old wing falling down'.

FROM the Guardian, a recruitment advertisement for a Social Care Services Director, offering company car, pension and pounds 35,000 per annum. And just what is the generous organisation in need of such a person? A religious order called the Poor Servants of the Mother of God.

Marathon man

SAY what you like about the British aristocracy, but some of them have hearts of gold. And we heartily applaud the Marquess of Blandford's decision, reported by Nigel Dempster in yesterday's Daily Mail, to run in the London Marathon. Blandford hopes to raise a few pennies for Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary, where his estranged Marchioness, Becky, is recovering from a fall off her horse. Of course, some of his fund-raising methods are unorthodox. According to the News of the World, Blandford gets crack addicts to pay a pounds 5 levy each time they buy a supply of the drug from him - all for a new brain scanner for the Radcliffe. What a guy, eh?

WE'RE grateful to GQ magazine for information on just what to wear if we happen to go to (war-torn) Bosnia. A Level Two Tactical Overvest, in a 'fetching shade of deep blue', from Silverman's of London, price pounds 899, is the fashionable thing among war correspondents. Most notably this item has removable ceramic plates and a pull-down Kevlar groin-flap: the last particularly popular since a sniper removed one of an Associated Press photographer's testicles.