20 MAY 1995, Page 29


Lloyd's gets ready to unveil its strategy, as borrowed from Moshe Dayan


Latest word from the leaning tower of Lime Street is that Lloyd's of London is pinning its hopes on the Moshe Dayan Plan. This is based on the forward thinking (which may be apocryphal) of Israel's com- mander in the Six Day War. Fainthearted civilians asked him what he would do if he lost it. 'Start another one,' he told them, 'in the wife's name.' Lloyd's own generalship lacks his brio. The losses have been heavy, the fuel is running low, and in the ranks there is open mutiny. Now the high com- mand must fight its own battle to reassert its authority. Any day now it will unveil its long-awaited master plan, on Dayan lines. The ghastly results for 1992 (last of the five lean years) and all of Lloyd's earlier unfin- ished business will be set on one side, along with the reserves provided for them. A fire- break — Lloyd's new jargon word — will isolate them from the Lloyd's of the fat years which began in 1993. The crazy sys- tem of accounting will be speeded up so that the three good years will all pay out together. Lloyd's will try again to broke a settlement for its unhappy and litigious members, this time offering to cap their lia- bilities. If they know that the cheque they write will be their last, then (or so Lloyd's hopes) they will grit their teeth and write it. The habit of not paying is spreading, and that is the high command's biggest worry of all. Lloyd's can be solvent (the Board of Trade says so) and amply reserved (two or three times as well as the Americans) but that is not the same as being flush with cash, and cash is a business's lifeblood.

My word, my bond

TO RAISE cash, I recommend Lloyd's to organise a good big bond issue, underwrit- ten by the dozen or so public companies which under the new rules are now doing business in the markets. They will have to chip in for something — everybody will and a bond would look better than passing the hat round. Ingenuity is at a premium. We may now be at the turning point fore- cast by a shrewd Lloyd's professional two years ago. When the press said that Lloyd's Was going bust, he told his members, that would be the time for them to throw up their arms in joy — for then they would at last know that Lloyd's would do something about it. I have been warning, for two years and more, that Lloyd's was caught up in the plot of Bleak House, and might sink without trace in a morass of litigation in which the only winners were the lawyers. So it still might. The latest twist comes from the Court of Appeal, which has ruled that when aggrieved members sue for damages, if there is not enough money to meet all legit- imate claims, the test should be: first sue, first served. If that's justice I'm Ian Hislop.

Never the same again

THIS MUST be the last of Lloyd's last chances. It got the previous one a dozen years ago, when Ian Hay Davison was parachuted in to sort the place out. It had been the home of major frauds. Promising to remove Lloyd's rotten apples, he soon realised that something was wrong with the barrel. Lloyd's resented this intruder who had come to tell it what to do, and as soon as they could, the Lloyd's establishment got rid of him. Whatrhappened at Lloyd's, so they thought, was their business. This dis- graceful episode cast a long shadow and Lloyd's has lived in it ever since. So much that was unique to Lloyd's was wrong with it. Now its well-wishers must hope that it will never be the same again.

De morte viri boni

EVERY beatification needs a devil's advo- cate, so I may be allowed to recall that the Blessed Arnold Goodman first made his name at The Spectator's expense. He advised the triple pillars of the Labour Party Bevan, Crossman, Phillips — in their action for libel. Robert Graves's daughter, Jenny Nicholson, had described them as filling themselves like tanks with whisky and coffee, while at a conference in Venice. Goodman briefed Beyfus and won them £2,500 each in the big pounds of those days (add a nought for today's values) and on top of that there were his costs. Bevan might have preferred Bollinger, but Phillips was enjoying himself and Crossman went on to admit that the harmless story was true. To me this dubious piece of litigation taught an early lesson. I have been careful, ever since, not to suggest that a public figure might be under the influence of coffee.

Match of the day

NEXT WE shall hear that Warburg has converted to calvinism. The City's answer to Jemima Goldsmith, this sparky number has quite got over her unfortunate walk-out with Morgan Stanley. You never can tell with Americans, she thinks — they may have white shoes and Harvard accents but they're boys from the Bronx at heart. Now a rapid rebound sees her locked in the arms of an older suitor, a rich Swiss. The two of them fit, she says, giggling, like the clunk of a Rolls-Royce door. Sadly her British admirer, Nat Westminster, shakes his decent head. What (he mutters) can she possibly see in this fellow — their back- grounds are different, their cultures are dif- ferent, he's got no sense of humour, he'll teach her to sing `Schweitzerdeutschland Uber Alles . . . ' I could have made her happy, NW thinks. I could have tried, any- way. She knew how I felt about her. Why didn't she even ring up? She does pick some ripe ones, though. Fancy her going for Rupert: love them and leave them on the carpet . . . Gosh, do you suppose there's some reason why she has to get mar- ried in a hurry? Spot that well-cut wedding dress? I shall miss her, though. We all will.

Jobbery all round

I DO hope Lord Nolan is going to give me a job on the Public Standards Board. Some- thing non-executive and part-time would be fine. I know g growth industry when I see one. The only catch lies in the table he has published, rating different groups of people in response to the question: would you gen- erally trust them to tell the truth? Journal- ists have slipped and now come bottom of the poll, with 10 per cent, which puts them 1 per cent below Government ministers and 3 per cent below politicians. So maybe they were making the sleaze story up, in which case there is nothing for- Nolan to worry about, and no job for me.