Jeeves and the modern spirit
The demand for butlers is booming, says The Independent, though “today’s butler is just as likely to be a female polyglot armed with impeccable manners and an MBA”. This surging demand is mainly due to the super-rich, with wealthy plutocrats from powerhouses such as China and Russia scrabbling “to acquire the trappings of ‘old money’”.
Recruiting agencies in London specialising in training and placing butlers report “a dramatic spike in calls from foreign clients seeking a classically trained, high-end factotum”. Courses for would-be Jeeveses, we’re told, have year-long waiting lists. One top agency, Bespoke Bureau, has supplied 345 butlers so far this year, twice as many as in the whole of 2011 and four times as many as in 2010.
Anthony Seddon-Holland, a former British Army officer turned third-generation butler who runs the British Butlers Guild, says: “It is undoubtedly a very different job from the one that my father and grandfather did. The skill set for the modern butler is much broader – it ranges from the traditional role of laying out the clothes in the morning to something much more managerial.”
A very different job? It certainly is. I doubt Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson would have satisfied many of Mr Seddon-Holland’s clients – one reportedly wanted a butler with five languages and an MBA and insisted she was a woman. Nor would Mr Carson have dreamt of the salaries modern butlers can take home – some reportedly earn £150,000 per annum. As for signing the confidentiality agreements the super-rich are so keen on, the very idea would turned Mr Carson puce with rage. Who could blame him?
Daily Mail or Daily Worker?
“Osborne: the great train snobbery,” said The Daily Telegraph above a picture of George Osborne on a train. Apparently,the Chancellor was told to move out of a first-class carriage because he hadn’t paid the correct fare. In the end one of Osborne’s aides “begrudgingly” coughed up the £160 required to upgrade.
“You might think the readers of The Daily Telegraph are not the sort to imagine that to sit in the first-class compartment is the mark of Cain,” commented Dominic Lawson in The Independent. “This is not the Daily Worker we’re talking about. On the same day, the Daily Mail also excoriated the Chancellor for daring to upgrade to the first-class compartment of the West Coast Trains service from Wilmslow to London Euston. ‘Just Who Does He Think He Is?’ asked the Daily Mail of its readers, most of whom I suspect would be thinking: that’s the Chancellor doing what I would be doing if I were in that job.”
Lawson’s theory, and I’m sure he’s right, is that newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail are scared of press regulation and are having a go at intimidating the government into backing off. I doubt this particular effort will be very successful.
Tabloid money… Wanted: inquiry judges. Qualifications: none
• While our government busies itself “slashing benefits”, it is “happy days for the megabucks yanks who are merrily ripping this country off for millions”, says Alison Phillips in the Daily Mirror. “An investigation this week revealed during the past 14 years Starbucks has paid just £8.6m in UK tax.” Meanwhile, “they have littered our high streets with identikit stores selling us over-priced, under-flavoured buckets of coffee! And Starbucks aren’t the only ones”.
Apple manages to avoid £570m in British tax and Google avoids £224m, paying a paltry £6m a year. “Facebook and Google manage to show accounting losses in Britain by paying bonuses to staff in share options, which enables them to avoid paying corporation tax for years to come. Yes, okay, it might be legal, but it’s not moral.” So why isn’t the law changed? “These US gazillionaires must be laughing their Stetsons off at us.”
• “It must be very depressing to be unemployed,” says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun, “but don’t worry. I have a plan. Simply become an inquiry judge. These days, every little thing that goes wrong is investigated using the power of hindsight and every single one has to be chaired by someone. It could be you. It’s not like you need any qualifications to sit there listening to highly paid lawyers droning on… Take this Jimmy Savile nonsense.” Someone will sit in a room for weeks before concluding that “a deeply disturbed individual with idiotic hair molested some children”. What can we do about it now exactly? “He’s dead.”
• “I am just trying to keep the sun tan up,” said trade envoy Lord Marland of his official visit to Mozambique, writes Rod Liddle in The Sun. A newspaper called his comments “extraordinary”, pointing out that “holidaymakers ‘flock to the beaches of Mozambique’”. No, they don’t. Not if they’ve any sense. “It’s a malaria-ridden, Third World rathole littered with unexploded mines, with no health facilities, an Aids epidemic and it’s full of thieves. Isn’t Marland allowed an ironic joke once in a while?”