The chairman makes an incognito visit to the split caps investigation
I went to the theatre the other day. Actually the principal performers prefer to be known as the Treasury Committee but they're jolly entertaining and I was lucky enough to attend a production of their classic farce ' An Investigation into Split Capital Investment Trusts.
It's along the lines of the Morecambe & Wise-inspired The Show What I Wrote in that the regular cast members like to abuse special guests in their quest for crowd approval. Judging by the many punters jostling for position outside the committee room door, I wasn't the only one who had heard that today's extra special guests were in for some extra special abuse.
'That moustache isn't going to fool anyone,' I said to a familiar looking figure who was attempting the tricky feat of barging his way to the front of the queue while remaining inconspicuous.' 'Oh hello,' said the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet. 'Thought I might bump into you here. Anyway, what's wrong with the moustache? Just can't be too careful after the pasting I received from this mob a few months back. And yet I couldn't resist a second look ' you see, after you've watched the Treasury Committee, no other live entertainment will do.'
'So says the man who looks like he's inhaling a Yorkshire terrier,' I said. 'Although apparently you're not the only one in fancy dress. Is that chap really carrying a fez and, if so, why?' 'Consensus is he's making some wry comment on Magic Circles and Tommy Cooper,' said the chairman. 'You know ' as in him not being a very good magician. Hang on ' looks like we're going in.'
Following the chairman's example I put my head down and charged and, after negotiating one or two distasteful incidents of 'spectator rage', we found ourselves some seats near the back of the room. A few minutes later ' after the smoke had cleared and those wounded in the stampede had been stretchered off to hospital ' the session began.
I'll tell you something, the Treasury Committee doesn't like Aberdeen. Not that the group exactly helps itself ' last-minute delivery of documents and non-appearances of key players seem unlikely to endear it to the 11 MPs involved. As I may have mentioned before, it doesn't take a genius to work out the sort of fun politicians are going to have when they find a set of people even less popular than themselves.
Even so, soundbite questioning such as asking Chris Fishwick if he felt like investment banker Sherman 'Master of the Universe' McCoy in Bonfire of the Vanities (with attendant fall from grace) would appear more aimed at making cheap political capital than working out where it all went wrong for splits. And as for sneeringly thanking Fishwick for 'gracing us with your charming presence', well, as SmallBlue's chairman sighed sadly: 'There was a time when Tories had better manners.'
Speaking of where it all went wrong for splits, one of the committee actually put that question to Brewin Dolphin's David Thomas ' if not the Neil Armstrong of split caps then certainly the Buzz Aldrin. And do you know what? He didn't get a chance to reply before, as seems to be the drill, he was interrupted and the committee moved onto another question.
'Either you do these things properly or you don't,' said SmallBlue's chairman later. 'What's the point of dragging all these key witnesses along if you're not going to listen to what they have to say or cut them off mid-sentence? I thought the committee's leader was going to sprain his wrist the way he kept making winding-up signals.'
'I suppose that's the problem with political committees,' I said. 'Everybody has to have their say and with interrogators outnumbering witnesses, there will always be more questions than answers. You know, those more cynical than I might conclude that if any good arises from the scattergun approach of this parliamentary investigation as it lurches back and forth between some rather technical issues it will be more through luck than good judgement.'
Richly entertaining though and all before the AITC's Daniel Godfrey brought up some specific split cap naughtiness and ¦ if I might follow the committee's example and just interrupt myself with a gratuitous soundbite. How can you lose confidence in split cap investment trusts and the parliamentary process all in one go? As the man in the fez would say: 'Just like that.'
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