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Why you need to have a happy workforce

19th May 2022

Waterfly on Liz Truss, Jeremy Clarkson and Boris Johnson

Our round-up of the latest gossip in the education and work sectors


Emily in Kensington

Finito World’s own Emily Prescott has had an exciting few months, moving from her role at The Evening Standard, to become diary editor for The Mail on Sunday. At just 25 this is an impressive achievement. But this isn’t all. We also hear that she’s working on a book on the history of gossip. When she recently interviewed Michael Gove about diary journalism – Gove, who used to work as Diary editor at The Times – told Prescott that it was ‘a nice little apprenticeship.’

But it can be much more than that. Indeed, for Prescott it’s been something of a baptism of fire. When Prescott published a piece about Jeremy Clarkson’s daughter Emily, and reported verbatim her quotes on Instagram about her ignorance of the Russia-Ukraine war, Prescott woke to find her Twitter had blown up after a fiery – and in Waterfly’s opinion, unnecessary – tweet by Clarkson himself calling her both a ‘shit journalist’ and ‘an idiot’. But Prescott’s good nature ensured that she didn’t reply, or even take it too hardly. “He’s just being protective of his daughter – as I’d be in his situation,” she says. Prescott adds with a smile: “I don’t think I’m either of those things, but at least I’ve never punched any of my colleagues.” Clarkson has 7.6 million followers on Twitter; Prescott, around 500. So from punching colleagues to punching down – there’s consistency there. 

Spectating on Boris

Talking of punching down, one person who doesn’t do that, according to The Spectator art critic Martin Gayford, is the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Gayford witnessed Boris up close in his journalism days: “Boris was famous for going up to and over deadline, and certainly did make people quite cross although he probably knew by that stage that he was commanding enough readers to make people put up with it. Charles Moore certainly spiked one or two of his columns and said: ‘If he’s late, use something else’.”

Gayford explains that he didn’t always have much directly to do with Boris when he was editor – except in one respect. “One thing I’d say about Boris is that he was unusually good at sending messages to lowly people such as those toiling on the factory floor of the arts pages when he was editor. You would get messages saying, “Boris liked that piece” and that sort of thing.” So does Gayford ever see something in Downing Street and think that’s a bit like what used to happen at The Spectator? “I’m not sure if you can compare running a country to running a little magazine in a three-storey building in Doughty Street,’ he says, chuckling. Yes, perhaps not.  

King Richard

Sometimes the hurly burly nature of British politics can be glimpsed in a single phone call. When Waterfly called Richard Harrington last year to ask to talk to him, he declined an interview: “You don’t want to talk to me – I’m just not interesting enough,” he said. “The person you really want to talk to is John Bercow.” Since that time, Harrington has become Minister for Refugees and Bercow has not only joined the Labour Party but been the subject of a report into alleged bullying when he was Speaker of the House of Commons. Who’s interesting now?

An Ignob-el Mistake

When we spoke with Gayford, we also asked him of his regrets as a journalist. He was decisive in his reply: “The worst thing is when you’re talking to someone interesting, or of historical importance, and you feel you need to contribute something to the conversation – and so you come in with your ten cents. Then you listen to the tape and wish you hadn’t interrupted. You’ve got to keep your mouth shut.”

Waterfly would add you’ve got to be careful which day you call. Waterfly recalls phoning the Astronomer-Royal Lord Martin Rees last autumn, and found the kindly scientist in an uncharacteristically jittery mood. “I’m so sorry I just have to get off the line,” he said. When Waterfly did so, we went onto the BBC news website, and saw that that morning the Nobel Prize for Physics was being handed out. Rees had wanted us off the line, perhaps having thought we were Stockholm when we phoned. Oops.

Goldsmiths aggrieved

Waterfly has been in and out of the House of Lords these past few months, and in addition to receiving different appraisals of the food – Baroness Anne Jenkin holds a higher opinion of the canteen than does Baroness France d’Souza – Waterfly began to get a feel for the place. On one occasion, D’Souza passed Zac Goldsmith smoking a roll-up in the courtyard. “Ooh, I like your cigarette,” she said. “You must be the only one,” he replied, humorously but a little gloomily.

Waterfly recalled catching up with Ben Goldsmith, who told us: “There are many professions which pay significantly more than an MP earns. I think it is a bit much for the public to expect people working in those professions to take a drastic pay cut in order to enter politics. Some may do it, many more  would not – and why should they?” And you can’t even smoke.

An Artful Innovation

Emily Prescott isn’t the only person in the Finito fraternity going places. Our business mentor Angelina Giovani has made an impressive step creating an innovation in the world of art provenance. “There are a lot of odd and funny requests one gets when working as an art researcher, that can be a dead giveaway as to whether someone is familiar with your line of work or not,” Giovani tells Waterfly.

Two weeks into the first lockdown in London, an art collector rang Giovani to ask whether she could research his client’s 150 artwork collection, which he intended to sell. She tells Waterfly: “We certainly can, I responded: “What’s the time frame? “We’d like for it to be done this week.” I told him that this was like requesting the Pyramids be built in an afternoon.’

But it was out of this exchange that the Collections Provenance Rating was born. The first of its kind – known as the CPR for short – assesses the state of documentation of a collection and offers recommendations based on the result.

Giovani explains: “This allows collectors planning to sell, insure, appraise or use the collection as collateral and borrow money against its value, to speed up the process and have a new insight into possible problematic pieces. This does not eliminate the need for proper due diligence: on the contrary, it helps streamline and make the research process more time and cost-effective.” And that’s how they built the Pyramids.

In Liz We Truss

To the United and Cecil Club Dinner, an occasion which helps raise funding for marginal Conservative seats. The Guest of Honour was none other than the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who, after being barraged with questions about Putin, recalled her time as Secretary of State for International Trade. Once famous for her remarks about cheese, her attention has now turned to another dairy product. In that role, she found that she disapproved of the way in which yoghurt is always made in France, but not always packaged to let you know that. “What we need is for the English to manufacture yoghurt,” she said. “By the way,” she added, “I don’t like yoghurt.” In politics, as in life, it’s always important to cover your blind spots.

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