Magazine article Management Today

The MT Diary: Lament for Lamont; Hermitage Home-from-Home; Cameron De-Clutters; ID Card Tricks

Magazine article Management Today

The MT Diary: Lament for Lamont; Hermitage Home-from-Home; Cameron De-Clutters; ID Card Tricks

Article excerpt

These days, I don't often come across solid evidence that a crime has been committed. At the FSA, of course, it was an everyday occurrence. But in a university, luckily, it doesn't happen very much. So I was shocked the other day, as I slaved over a cold keyboard, to discover clear proof of a particularly heartless theft.

I'm editing a book of reminiscences of five past Chancellors of the Exchequer. One is Norman Lamont, and for the footnotes I needed a reference to his own memoirs. So I checked on my favourite website, www.abebooks.co.uk, where you can find - and buy - almost any book imaginable, even politicians' memoirs.

I found the reference, no problem at all, to In Office, which he wrote after leaving the Cabinet. And I discovered that for a mere pounds 70, you can buy a copy inscribed 'For James and Emma, many congratulations on your forthcoming marriage, Norman Lamont'.

Now it is quite inconceivable that James Major (or indeed Emma Noble, if she inherited the family's economics bookshelves in the divorce settlement) could have sold such a splendid wedding gift into the book trade. Foul play must have been involved. The police have been informed.

As a refuge from the Chancellors, I spent a few days in St Petersburg, where little tax is collected, except from foreigners in the form of outrageous hotel and restaurant bills.

It was -15 degrees C, so walks were short and sharp, with long spells in The Idiot cafe, a Dostoyevsky theme pub, which, oddly, is cosier than the Charles Dickens round the corner. If only it had been open in the 1860s, perhaps Raskolnikov would never have got to the moneylender's flat with his axe, and Crime and Punishment would have been a cheerful short story.

The Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace is the main attraction, and worth the trip in itself. Even off-season in the permafrost, it is congested with Italian culture vultures and Finnish bus parties. But you can avoid the crowds by visiting the English wing. Not a soul was there to see the Gainsborough, the Wrights of Derby or Catherine the Great's Wedgwood teapots. How people can prefer to crowd around the Leonardos and El Grecos, I will never know.

From the Winter Palace you can see the Aurora, the elderly cruiser that fired a blank round in October 1917 to signal that the revolution was under way. It seems as though HMS Wellington on the Thames must have put a similar shot over Central Office, because it's revolution time in the Conservative Party. Old Tory policies are defenestrated day by day.

Private healthcare alongside the NHS? Out of the question. Tax cuts? Only as part of a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. …

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