Misjudged advert for a toxic brand

The Tories' “Black and White Ball” fundraiser has backfired in their faces.


Fancy having dinner with Michael and Sarah Gove?I don't know about you, but I would pay good money to avoid being harangued by the former education secretary. Yet this was just one of the "prizes" being auctioned off at theConservatives' recent "Black and White Ball".

Other questionable lots included a morning runwith Gove's successor,Nicky Morgan, and a "personalised composition" specially written by Mike Batt, best-known for the 1970s television show, The Wombles.

This strange line-up managed to elicit startlingly large sums of money from the people in attendance. Indeed, a bronze bust of the "Iron Lady" sold for £210,000. Naturally, the guests weren't forking all that cash out for something that's likely to end up in a broom closet or a charity store, but for the chance to mix with government ministers.

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As the FT reports, "those who paid £15,000 a table could expect to be joined by a cabinet minister, while middle-ranking ministers were sitting on the £10,000 tables".

Given that, the really surprising thing wasn't the amount of cash involved, but that the event took place at all. "In the middle of the closest election contest for many decades, what possesses the Tories to stage an event that so vividly advertises their toxic association with the super-rich?" asks The Guardian's Andrew Rawnsley.

The Daily Mail thinks that it suggests the Tories are "out of touch with voters' real-life struggles". Even The Spectator is aghast: "it might have been designed to turn the most moderate and law-abiding citizen into a blood-red revolutionary", says Nick Cohen.

Ironically, this excess may have only a limited benefit, as Rawnsley reports that the Conservatives apparently have more money than they can legally spend. Overall, it's yet another reason to hope that we don't go down the same path as American politics. According to an article on vox.com, purportedly written by an anonymous congressman,the average member of Congress now "spends 50% to 75% of their term in office raising money".

Rebranding Britain

It seems that the Conservatives are not the only ones inneed of some rebranding.The VisitBritain campaign has been taking suggestions from Chinese tourists on names for some of the UK's top tourist attractions. Apparently, the current Mandarin versions seem ugly to the Chinese population, which prefers idiomatic phrases. While this exercise could easily have become a disaster,some of the names sound quite good.

Indeed, The Scotsman notes that the winning entry for Loch Lomond was "Shan Hu Huai Bao Zui Meng Xiang", literally "Mountain Lakes Get You Drunk on Dreams".Naturally, some of the other names aren't quite as stirring. Henceforth, Knightsbridge will be known in Asia as "A Place Filled With Things To Attract Yuppies And Fashionable Ladies".

Tabloid money: Balls' crazy idea has a sinister undercurrent

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls' suggestion that we demand receipts from tradespeople is a bad idea, writes Ross Clark in the Daily Express. The only winners will be their larger rivals "large companies often love bureaucracy, because while it may make life a little more difficult for them, it can make life impossible for small competitors who lack the resources to cope".

And there's an even more sinister undercurrent pressure from those in the payments industry who have "a vested interest in us switching to contactless cards" to pay our bills. We might even see a future government "try to make it illegal for us to pay our gardeners and cleaners in cash, forcing them to carry contactless payment devices instead".

Football "is drawing bigger crowds than at any time since the late 1940s", notes the Daily Mirror's Paul Routledge. But "it's preposterous that Premier League matches will cost £10m each to show on Sky or BT Sport". This "largesse" from broadcasters will be reflected in already "sky-high" phone and broadband bills.

The real winners are the players, whose earnings will be boosted to £500,000 a week, "an absurd figure for young men with (mostly) the brains of an alpaca", even as "clubs still refuse to pay the living wage to employees... whatever way you look at it, football is a financial scandal". And "it ruins otherwise decent pubs".

Nonsense, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. "From where I'm sitting, I don't see a problem with the deal at all". After all, "if a player is on half-a-million quid a week, he's paying half of that in tax", which "is good for the NHS and your local school". And "every time he buys another nest of onyx tables, 20% of the bill will go to the government" too. So "everyone, then, is getting a slice of the pie and that's before we get to the football".