Inside the system
Costly focus on security
WATCH OUT for the LE&NS Forum in the summer. This is the Global Forum for Law Enforcement and National Security which meets in Edinburgh from 19 to 22 June.
Speakers include: Christopher Donnelly, special adviser to the NATO secretary general; Nick Butler, policy adviser to BP Amoco and a member of the World Economic Forum; Commodore Tyrell, deputy director of Defence Communications Services Agency; Ged Davis, a Shell vice-president; William Witherell, a director of the OECD; Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-president of the USSR; Paddy Ashdown, ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats; and dozens of others. However, you'd need to be into crime to afford the ticket. A Gold Ticket (all sessions, all days and a gala dinner) is �2,335, unless you represent a government, in which case the bargain price is �935.
You might prefer to be a corporate sponsor. The principal sponsor can host a cocktail party, get on the front page of the programme, distribute literature and "host one closed session". This will "enhance your company's international reputation, and influence many senior players in both government and business circles". Of course, you may prefer to picket the event.
Spooking people on benefits
DISABLED PEOPLE and the sick can look forward to a new firm taking charge of their applications for benefits. It is headed by a former CIA director. New Labour handed the �305 million contract for the Benefits Agency medical services to private firm Sema. It carries out medical testing to assess incapacity and disability benefits.
Now Sema is recommending its shareholders agree to a takeover bid by the US oil services firm Schlumberger. Former CIA director John Deutsch is on the board of Schlumberger. The firm has a reputation for slashing workers' jobs. Some 10,000 were sacked recently.
Deutsch was prosecuted in the US for taking home his office computer when he retired from the CIA. But his slate has been wiped clean after he became one of those lucky US businessmen that Bill Clinton pardoned.
This country life
ONE PART of the countryside has not been hit by foot and mouth. Country Life, the magazine for the rural rich, says, "It's business as usual in the country house market." Alexandra Hunt from posh property consultant Cluttons says, "It will be of little financial consequence to a director of JP Morgan who has a smart house in Newbury with a couple of hundred acres and whose livelihood is not dependent on farming, which is in effect a hobby to him."
Knight Frank, another swanky property firm, still has 23 houses priced at more than �1 million. "The top of the market is healthy. If you had a 1,000 acre estate for around �8 million within an hour of London I have ten people who would view it immediately," says one of the partners at Knight Frank.
All compassion buried
A ROMANIAN worker in London is one refugee who paid dearly for New Labour's crackdown on asylum seekers from Eastern Europe. Ionut Paul Simionica left his family behind in Romania to come to Britain. He was forced to enter the country illegally, which meant he was denied any benefits.
The 26 year old got a job on a construction site working for Britan Construction, renovating St Mary's Church in Westminster. But on 26 February Ionut Simionica was crushed to death when a wall collapsed. It took the emergency services 24 hours to dig through two tonnes of rubble to get him out of the unsafe building.
The tragic death took place the day before deputy prime minister John Prescott hosted a summit over safety on construction sites. Some 100 people, including his fellow site workers, showed their solidarity with Ionut by attending a memorial service for him last week. There wasn't a Labour minister in sight.
Adding up cash
IF YOU think there are more adverts being shown on TV, it is not your imagination. The head of Granada Media, Charles Allen, did a deal last year with Patricia Hodgson, the new head of the Independent Television Commission, to increase TV advertising. Granada Media agreed to bring back News at Ten in return for an increase in TV adverts during peak time. That means there can be 12 minutes of adverts in an hour, and up to �30 million in advertising revenue.
WHEN IS privatisation not privatisation? When companies get caught out by campaigners. Scottish Homes, the company greedily eyeing up all 90,000 of Glasgow council's housing stock, organised a recent conference on the future of housing in the city.
The firm produced a leaflet referring to "the privatisation of local authority housing stock". This provoked an enormous outcry from local anti-privatisation campaigners. Scottish Homes was forced to rush out a new leaflet that referred to "the move towards the encouragement of community ownership of social related housing".
TORY leader William Hague will be counting on one of his supporters to hit the campaign trail during the election, Railtrack's government relations and policy manager. Before she landed her Railtrack job Fiona Bulmer used to work for the Tories' research department. She was then appointed adviser to Tory Scottish cabinet minister Ian Lang.
When Lang was booted out in 1997 Bulmer was out of a job. She then moved to the privatised rail company, which she claims is "the most pilloried and misunderstood company in Britain". Bulmer lists her spare time activities as "annoying people by banging on their doors canvassing for the Conservative Party".
Things they say
"MARKETS are driven by only two factors-fear and greed."
- The BBC's pro-market business editor JEFF RANDALL
"WE WILL require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time."
- GEORGE W BUSH, before he was elected US president
"CARBON dioxide should not have been included as a pollutant during the campaign. It was a mistake."
- SCOTT McCLELLAN, White House spokesman for President George W Bush, last week
"THE recession risk has now spiked at close to or above 50 percent."
- GAVYN DAVIES, investment banker and adviser to Gordon Brown
"THERE WILL be no return to the boom-bust economy."
- GORDON BROWN
"IN THE first decade of transition we made great economic progress. But the number of people at the poverty level has been growing very, very substantially."
- GEORGY SURANYI, former governor of the Hungarian central bank
"WE CANNOT give up hope. But it does look hopeless."
- UNEMPLOYED WOMAN, Eastern Europe
"UNDER Black's proprietorship, serious critical reporting of Israel is no longer tolerated in the Telegraph group, however much Arab land Israel seizes."
- WILLIAM DALRYMPLE, PIERS PAUL READ and A N WILSON on media mogul Conrad Black's pro-Israel views
"A special message from Tony and Cherie Blair."
- HINDUJA BROTHERS' Christmas cards