Chancellor Alistair Darling finally gave up the hunt for a private-sector owner for Northern Rock, announcing the bank would become the first company to be nationalised for more than 30 years. The amusing postscript: new boss Ron Sandler is a non-dom, ie. part of the Government’s current breed of fiscal bogeymen.
The sub-prime crisis continues to hit other banks. Alliance & Leicester revealed a 30% drop in profits, wiping £300m off its share price, while Credit Suisse admitted ‘errors’ in the valuations of its sub-prime investments and will have to write off an extra $2.85bn. Still, others seem immune: Barclays’ annual profits were a whopping £7.08bn, and those at Lloyds TSB were up a tasty 6%. Elsewhere British Gas is also doing pretty well – a month after putting its prices up by 15%, it reported a 500% jump in profits. Which of course gets a flaming thumbs down from customers.
To compound the Government’s problems: it was revealed that Labour has burdened business with £66bn in red tape since 1997. And it’s not just business that’s suffering. This week GPs reacted badly to Alan Johnson’s plans for a ‘well-note’ culture, arguing that ‘policing’ the welfare system is hardly part of their job description.
And there was bad blood elsewhere too. Toshiba limped out of the next-generation DVD battle, leaving Sony’s Blu-ray to take the spoils, while Porsche declared war on London mayor Ken Livingstone over proposals to raise the Congestion Charge for gas-guzzlers. Meanwhile Glen Hoddle, who’s never been one to pull his punches, has turned businessman. Hoddle, who was famously sacked as England football manager for suggesting disabled people are being punished for past indiscretions, is now seeking backing from the City for a football academy.
And finally, boots of another kind – Ocado delivery drivers are being kitted out with plastic booties to prevent the spread of dirt onto customers’ floors. Good job Hoddle doesn’t run Ocado – he’d probably claim a muddy carpet is payment for former sins.