Any other business

Bury the Canaletto, now

I’m not on the guest list for the Duke of Westminster’s wedding, but I wish him luck anyway. Mind you, the young seventh duke – Hughie to his friends – hardly needs more luck than has already come his way in the form of the £10 billion Grosvenor property empire in London and elsewhere. When

The need for greed

I suspect I’ve had a lot more fun writing about the annual Sunday Times Rich List over the years than many of its denizens have had clambering into it and staying there behind their high-tech security gates and their phalanx of tax advisers. The 2024 roll call includes some great British wealth-creation stories – led

Can Starmer and Reeves add some fizz to the economy?

If the 0.6 per cent first-quarter GDP uplift reported by the Office for National Statistics is sustained for the rest of this year, Rishi Sunak will be able to claim – as he waves goodbye – that he and Jeremy Hunt have succeeded against their naysayers in dragging the UK economy from pandemic depths back

How to bottle Britishness

The US crackdown on trade finance for Russia from international banks – designed to impede imports needed for the continuing assault on Ukraine – is biting hard, reports the FT, quoting an investor who thinks ‘the logical endpoint of this is turning Russia into Iran’. Quite right too: sanctions like these are a vital non-military

Live the high life… in a mid rise

How radically left-wing is Labour’s proposed ‘renationalisation’ of the railways? Though militant Mick Lynch of the RMT union ‘strongly welcomed these bold steps’, the real answer is: hardly at all. The revolutionary socialist group Counterfire agonised thus: ‘While it would be extremely obtuse to say that Labour’s policy is bad, it would be naive to

How Pret ate itself

How bad would it be if Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services (IDS), were to be taken over by the Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky? Our historic postal service is heavily lossmaking, struggling to maintain its universal delivery obligation and at war with its unions: a foreign owner would surely take an axe to it.

The arrogance of Apple

Can flexible working get the best out of what a ministerial press release calls ‘hardworking Brits’ – or is it a couch potato’s charter? As of 6 April, employees have had the right to ask for flexibility – including remote working and hours to suit – from their first day in a job; employers can

In praise of Andy Street

Commentators like me often lament the lack of business experience among leading politicians – but also observe how few business leaders ever make successful transitions into the political arena. Archie Norman tried his hand as an opposition front-bencher, didn’t like it, and returned to the boardroom, latterly to lead the revival of Marks & Spencer;

Mike Lynch has little chance of escaping US jail

As I’ve said before, I hold no brief for Dr Mike Lynch, the founder of the Cambridge-based software firm Autonomy, who faces US fraud charges over the $11 billion takeover of his company by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2011. But I watched with foreboding as US marshals bagged Lynch under the lopsided 2003 US-UK extradition treaty and

The British Isa is doomed to fail

Is Jeremy Hunt’s ‘British Isa’ worth having? The new £5,000 tax-free allowance for UK equity investment comes on top of the existing annual £20,000 Isa limit, so on the general principle that it makes sense to maximise tax-efficient savings, the answer might be yes. But will it achieve the Chancellor’s aim of allowing patriotic savers

Here comes the next mis-selling scandal

St James’s Place is a posh London cul-de-sac that will forever be associated with the late Jacob Rothschild, who based his financial empire there and restored the stately Spencer House across the road. One of his enterprises, J. Rothschild Assurance, was renamed St James’s Place Capital in 1997 and ended up majority owned by Lloyds

Sending seized Russian loot to Ukraine is no simple matter

We must be bolder in seizing frozen Russian assets, writes the Prime Minister in a Sunday newspaper. ‘That starts with taking the billions in interest these assets are collecting and sending it to Ukraine.’ Can that really be done? Having consulted international legal opinion, here’s my summary. The principle of ‘sovereign state immunity’ doesn’t prevent

China is set for a serious economic fall

 The future trajectory of the Chinese economy is a subject for doctoral theses rather than casual column items. But the advent of the Year of the Dragon, at last weekend’s Lunar New Year, was greeted with such pessimistic commentaries that the natural contrarian should ask whether the consensualists are getting it wrong: maybe the dragon

Can anyone save the Post Office? 

Angry farmers offer a theme for the week – starting with the French at close quarters. Leaving the Eurotunnel at Calais en route to a wedding in the Alps, my car party encounters agricultural rage in the form of convoys of stationary trucks at all the port’s major exit points, as tractors blockade the autoroutes

Where are the smart investments under a Starmer government?

I worry that my Burlington Bertie life in London’s West End offers a misleading picture of the real economy. Yes, boutiques and brasseries are busy, but what’s it like in outer boroughs and distant provinces? To take a single morning’s headlines, on the plus side there’s upbeat trading news from ABF, the grocery and Primark

Why can’t the UK be more like Marks & Spencer?

Marks & Spencer was a 20th-century paradigm of better business: a trusted brand and a benign employer that built strong relationships with suppliers and generated handsome returns for shareholders. Then its performance began to fade, as one management team after another failed to keep pace with retail trends in-store and online. By August 2020, when