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Torn between two mansions

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Issue 1743

Inside the system

Torn between two mansions

TWO MANSIONS are competing for the crown of the most expensive home in Britain. The asking price for each is about 65 million. You could have Updown Court in Windlesham, Surrey. It is surrounded by 17 acres of woodland, and has 14 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, 30 toilets, a 28 seat cinema, a squash court, a bowling alley and five swimming pools (including one on the roof).

But maybe a modern, recently built house is not your cup of tea. In which case we recommend you go for 18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens in central London. It is two former embassy buildings knocked into one. It has a marble floored central hall with an indoor ornamental pool and cast-iron columns. A cathedral-style vaulted roof opens into 50,000 square feet of living space above an azure blue pool in the basement.

The ceiling is supported by six mosaic columns inlaid with precious stones. Some of the marble came from the same quarry as the Taj Mahal in India, and the underground car park has room for 20 cars. It’s a difficult decision.

WE all have to make sacrifices when times get tough. Even investment bankers are being told to tighten their belts. Bankers at Credit Suisse First Boston have been told to keep the cost of celebratory meals to below $10,000 a time.

Mean streak

THE MORE money you have, the meaner you get. Bizarre magazine pulled off a good stunt recently. It sent miniscule cheques to really rich people to see who would cash them. Srichand Hinduja, one of the billionaire Hinduja brothers, banked a cheque for 97p which it sent him.

So did merchant banker Bruno Schroder, Financial Times publisher Viscount Cowdray and vacuum designer James Dyson. Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods, banked a cheque for 2.

Trust a man with inside info

NEW LABOUR has done it again. Deputy prime minister John Prescott launched something called the Carbon Trust a couple of months ago. The government describes it as “a major element of the UK’s climate change programme”.

It will spend 130 million of climate change levy receipts to “help business invest in energy efficient technologies and practices”. Guess who Labour has appointed to head the Carbon Trust? It is Ian McAllister, the chairman and managing director of the Ford Motor Company’s UK operations.

John Prescott says he is “delighted” to appoint McAllister. US president George Bush declared recently he will ignore the Kyoto agreement on climate control. Bush was doing the bidding of the oil, energy and other big businesses that back him. New Labour is not far behind.

Perhaps he fell into a comma…

ARE YOU working too hard? Maybe you should bear in mind the story of a proofreader at a firm in New York. George Turklebaum, 51, worked at the same firm for 30 years. Sadly, he had a heart attack in the open plan office where he worked with 23 others.

He died on a Monday morning, but it was five days before anybody noticed. On the Saturday morning an office cleaner asked why he was working the weekend and discovered he was dead.

His boss said, “George was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all the time and did not say anything. “He was always absorbed in his work.”

THE shockwaves from Seattle continue to have an impact. Even Computer Active magazine has attempted to relate to the anti-capitalist mood with a four page article on Seattle, the internet and organising resistance.

The article explains, “The most interesting aspect of the whole affair was the mix of protesters gathered to rally against the globalisation of trade and the threat to the environment, workers’ rights and local sovereignty.”

It’s a bug’s life

QUESTION: What do you get if private business builds schools? ANSWER: Bugs-and not the biting sort. Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig near Aberystwyth is the first comprehensive school to be built in Wales under the Private Finance Initiative. Some 662 pupils moved into the 11 million school in January this year. But now school sixth formers are refusing to use their study room because they have discovered it is bugged! Staff can listen into their conversations through a secret microphone.

Pupils could see there was a wall-mounted security camera. But no one told them it had a microphone attached.

Things they say

“THE ONLY way to break the cycle of Japanese recession would be to nationalise the banks.”

  • GRAHAM TURNER of City firm GFC Economics

“AS A general rule, the French mostly approve of strikes.”

  • LIONEL JOSPIN, prime minister of France, speaking in the French parliament

“BRITISH service personnel will never be prosecuted by the international criminal court.”

  • ROBIN COOK, foreign secretary, on the “impartiality” of the new court for war crimes

“AT THIS moment there is no obvious crisis, no obvious drama. It would be unfortunate to get the tone wrong.”

  • SIR MALCOLM RIFKIND, Scottish Tory, on last week’s dispute between the US and China

“THE Chinese must not be allowed to get away with what was pretty provocative behaviour.”

  • IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, Tory shadow defence secretary, on the US and China

“MR MARR has been seen up and down Downing Street dressed in his jeans and trainers.”

  • BBC SOURCE on its political editor, Andrew Marr, who stars in a “neutral” programme urging people to vote

“THE VEHICLE was deemed to be suspicious, and steps were taken to make it safe.”

  • METROPOLITAN POLICE spokesperson explaining why they blew up a car parked on the roadside while its owner was on holiday

“IT’S A budget that protects our surplus.”

  • US president GEORGE BUSH on why his budget includes massive cuts to programmes that protect the environment and provide training for doctors

“HE announced the date of the election. So is the Sun’s political editor now the most powerful man in Britain?”

  • Pro-Labour NEW STATESMAN magazine

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