It may be Valentine’s Day tomorrow, but there’s been no love lost in Whitehall this week. The main attraction was the Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday, when various Parliamentary nonentities queued up to give the axed bosses of RBS and HBOS a good kicking. As in many an acrimonious meeting, their main victim was a guy who wasn’t even there: Sir James Crosby, the former HBOS CEO, who was forced to resign the following day amid allegations that he’d sacked his head of risk for suggesting the bank’s strategy was – well, too risky. The FSA was also stung into defending its own role in proceedings, as the shortcomings of the Government’s much-vaunted tripartite agreement were revealed for all to see.
In fact, it was a rotten week all round for Gordon Brown. As well as losing his favourite banker, he also spent half the week trying to distance himself from some ill-advised comments by protégé Ed Balls about the depth of the recession, or failing to defuse the row over banking bonuses. And just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, official unemployment figures showed that the jobless count has inched a little nearer the 2m mark. The PM should at least be able to empathise with those facing uncertain job prospects.
Speaking of ailing behemoths, BT revealed another shocking results statement this week: a disastrous showing by its Global Services IT consultancy division wiped £500m off the company’s bottom line last quarter. JJB is looking even less healthy; the sportswear retailer flirted with administration this week, forcing it to pull the plug (laces?) on its footwear division – although its lenders appear to have taken pity on it today.
In fact, UK plc has had very little to shout about this week: videogame maker Eidos was flogged to a Japanese firm for a tenth of the price it would have fetched two years ago, and even the all-conquering Manchester United failed to shift Real Madrid from the top of football’s most important competition these days – the Deloitte Money League. Only Barclays bucked the trend, boasting bigger-than-expected profits of £6bn (although even that met with a sceptical response).
In other news, pot-smokers demanded a worldwide boycott of Kelloggs after the cereal-maker dropped its sponsorship of swimmer Michael Phelps, who was photographed smoking a bong. Rumours that Skips and Rizla are set to step into the breach have yet to be substantiated.
In today's bulletin:
JJB back from the brink as Barretts fails
Microsoft plans retail articulation of value proposition
Retailers: beware lovers' light fingers
MT's Week in 60 seconds
How to be lucky, with YouTube