The billionaire who took over Barcelona

Sagrada Família, Barcelona © Thinkstock

At the end of last year Shrishti Mittal, 26, a niece of Lakshimi Mittal, the billionaire steel tycoon, married in Barcelona in what The Sunday Times called “a three-day extravaganza” that brought the city to a standstill and cost “up to £50m”.

That “up to” is a bit vague, but it was evidently an expensive bash, involving musical fountains, national museums being closed to the public, a banquet “by a double Michelin-starred chef” and a helicopter hovering in the skies to take the wedding snaps.

The groom, Gulraj Behl, 36, an investment banker, arrived at the ceremony on horseback, said The Sunday Times. “An army of 200 butlers, cooks and secretaries was reportedly flown into Spain from India and Thailand, while the 500 guests lucky enough to be invited were made to sign confidentiality agreements.”

Jordi Marti, a leader of the Socialist party in Barcelona, has accused the city council of “being fascinated by the smell of money”. “Putting the city’s public spaces at the service of the private interests is simply unacceptable,” he says.

I’m on his side. If the Mittal family want to spend millions on a wedding, that’s up to them, but couldn’t they find a way of doing it without disrupting an entire city?

To honour and obey

Talking of Spain, I was intrigued by a report about a new book flying off the shelves there faster than Fifty Shades of Grey. The book, a traditional guide to being the perfect woman, is called Cásate y Sé Sumisa (Get Married and Be Submissive).

According to Sarah Rainey in The Daily Telegraph, the original, in Italian, has sold nearly 100,000 copies and it’s doing even better in Spain where it tops Amazon’s bestseller list.

Written by Constanza Miriano, an Italian journalist and mother-of-four, it is inspired by the Biblical teachings of St Paul and preaches a message of “loyal obedience, generosity and submission” on the part of newly wed wives, offering nuggets of wisdom on how to please one’s husband. As you’d expect, opinions are divided.

The Catholic Church likes it; others are furious. Sam Owen, a psychologist, told Rainey the resurgence of traditional views of marriage is due to the breakdown of society. “If people have a hankering for an old-fashioned marriage, it’s often because so much of it worked so well.”

Why, though, is this new book doing so well in Spain? Perhaps it’s because, with unemployment higher than anywhere else in Europe and poverty rife, people there are turning more and more to tradition and religion as a refuge.

Whatever the answer, it’s not a phenomenon confined to Europe, as Rainey says: Laura Doyle’s 2006 book, The Surrendered Wife, urging women to respect their men and take a “feminine” approach to marriage, was a big hit in America. But the newly engaged Rainey herself is not impressed: “If this book bears any relation to modern marriage, count me out.”

Tabloid money: the brave realism of Milton Keynes’ Winter Wonderland

• After Gordon Brown’s time as prime minister, most “will no doubt question his moral authority to castigate world leaders”, says Ruth Sutherland in the Daily Mail. All the same, he is right to lambast them in a recent column in The New York Times, “for failing to learn the lessons of the financial crisis, and allowing bankers to drive us all down the road to another meltdown”.

The fact is that “most of the problems that caused the global financial crisis are still present”. Indeed, you could even argue that they are “even bigger than before”. Overall, “the banking lobby still holds too much sway over politicians”, while leading bankers “remain unbowed and unpunished – look at Bob Diamond and his London comeback”.

• “Nothing says the festive period is in full swing like a Christmas Winter Wonderland getting bombarded with bad press and closing down,” says The Sun’s Richard Bacon. Yet the organisers of 2013’s casualty – the Milton Keynes WinterWonderland, with its caged reindeer and badly dressed Santas – shouldn’t be criticised. In fact, “the owner should be recognised in the New Year Honours list”.

After all, they were just trying to produce “something that was authentically Christmas”. One parent complained that “it was an opportunity to rip off parents who had hoped to have a magical day out with their children”. Yet that sums up Christmas in one “neat sentence.” We should “all calm down and applaud [such] brave realism”.

• Former MP Louise Mensch thinks there’s a simple way to please everyone in the row over MPs’ pay: scrap pay-setting quango IPSA. Pay should instead be pegged “to a grade of the civil service”, from backbencher to committee chair.

MPs should then be given “parliamentary debit cards with a set limit, for everything, and have their purchases available live on the web in real time”. This would “save the taxpayer millions and allow all voters to see exactly what their MPs spend money on”.

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