Nick Ross’s shrewd property coup
Crime may not pay but, as the Daily Mail put its, Crimewatch certainly does. Nick Ross, the former presenter, has just sold his house in Notting Hill for about £35m – almost 40 times what he paid for it. Ross bought the house in 1993 for £950,000. The then-owner was anxious to sell after three previous potential buyers had pulled out and Ross got a bargain, even if Notting Hill wasn’t quite as fashionable in those days.
The house was in a bad state and Ross had to dig a huge hole for underpinning, says The Sunday Times. Shewdly, he took advantage of all the underground space to put in a swimming pool, ignoring friends who told him this was a “crazy” idea. Now, deep, light-filled basements are in vogue, especially if they’ve got pools in them. Then, in 2010, he did some modernising, according to The Sunday Times, adding a large extension to the second floor.
The house has been bought by 37-year-old Khaled Said, son of Wafic Said, the billionaire friend of Baroness Thatcher. How odd, noted Viv Groskop in The Independent, that one of the biggest winners in London’s housing market scramble turns out to be not a property mogul, but a mild-mannered ex-BBC man. “The coup... is representative of the madness of property prices in the past 20 years... It’s unimaginable that 50 years ago anyone would have made such a killing. And they never will again. The unassuming, affable Ross has benefited from one of the greatest bubbles in history.”
Cut back overseas aid
Why is the government so determined to ring-fence its foreign aid budget? It beats me. I suppose foreign aid buys us a little good will, but does that really justify giving taxpayers’ money to India, which is sending a probe to the moon, or Argentina, which is sabre-rattling over the Falklands, or helping out the tourist industry in Barbados?
The £1.8m handed to Barbados through the European development aid budget is truly bizarre. It is funding a hotel and leisure complex where 200 young people will be trained each year in hospitality management. No wonder 70% of those questioned in a Sunday Telegraph poll thought overseas aid should be cut back.
A small victory for freedom
When smoking bans began to spread across Europe, one might have thought the clean-living Swiss would be among the first to sign up. Instead, 18 out of the country’s 26 cantons have adopted a relaxed approach in recent years, permitting smoking in special smoking rooms at bars and restaurants.
That is set to continue, reports The Independent. In a national referendum, around 65% of voters have said no to the idea of a nationwide smoking ban. So Switzerland, along with Romania, the Czech Republic and Germany, remains part of a very small club: countries that still permit smoking in (some) enclosed public spaces. The Swiss decision won’t please doctors, but it’s a small shot in the arm for those who value freedom and democracy.
Tabloid money… Vince Cable’s cartoon capitalists
• “Here’s a story to cheer you up,” says Rod Liddle in The Sun. “The Gypsy Council has just lost a case at the European Court of Human Rights.” It had evicted a woman called Maria Buckland and her family from a caravan site in south Wales.
“Brilliantly, the Gypsy Council decided to kick Mrs Buckland out because she was ‘generally disruptive’ and ‘presented a risk of disturbance’ to the other traveller families on the site. Christ, you think to yourself – being kicked off a gypsy site for being disruptive. You can imagine them getting cross if she paid her taxes or read a book. But being a bit disruptive? Isn’t that part of the noble traveller tradition? Anyway, the idiotic judges in Strasbourg ordered the Gypsy Council to pay Mrs Buckland £3,400 compensation. I haven’t laughed this long since Wales got stuffed six-one by Serbia.”
• TV presenter Fiona Bruce, 48, admits she dyes her grey hair, says Fiona McIntosh in the Sunday Mirror. “Cue shock, horror and national debate. Why the fuss? Every woman north of 40 who is struggling to hold down a job... will agree with her 100 per cent. Fiona says she dyes her hair because ‘age is still an issue on TV’. Not just TV, sweetie, everywhere.”
• “That old conman Vince Cable was at it again [this week], conjuring up cartoon capitalists to titillate his audience,” says Richard Littlejohn in The Sun. “As far as Saint Vinny is concerned, all businessmen are wicked toffs from the pages of The Beano, lighting cigars with £10 notes...
“Cable claimed that sacking staff is an ‘aphrodisiac’ for some business owners. Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Most businessmen are struggling to make a living and want to “hire staff, not sack them… And this buffoon is Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Business. You couldn’t make it up.”