Mark – my words

Monthly Archives: May 2011

HMG reviews its policy on wine for hospitality

One of the bodies to go up in flames in the coalition’s 2010 Bonfire of the QUANGOs was the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines (GHACPW), which had existed since 1922, making it one of the very first QUANGOs to be created. Its abolition will save virtually nothing, since it consisted only of four Masters of Wine who apart from expenses were unpaid for their duties, and a civil servant who acted as secretary, and whose full-time job presumably is (and remains secure) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The GHACPW used to meet just four mornings a year, deliberating and sampling wines, followed by lunch. It could be argued that their expertise led to the creation of what must be one of the best collections of wine anywhere – if in these straitened times that can be considered a worthwhile achievement. Still, no doubt the symbolism inherent in the abolition of the GHACPW was felt to be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, a review has been conducted into the operation of the hospitality wine cellar at Lancaster House, and it has concluded that “retaining a Government Wine Cellar remains the most cost effective way to supply wine for Government Hospitality functions and State Banquets, but that substantial reform was needed.” The plan is in part to “conduct targeted sales of high value stock in order to pay for future purchases.” And goodness knows they have enough high value stock to see them through a good many years to come.

A series of Freedom of Information requests have resulted in the publication of a partial list of the Government’s hospitality wine stockholding, on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. It’s in two parts, in PDF format, and I should warn you that the files are rather large, as befits the nature and value of the assets they document! Here they are:

So now is your chance to get your bids in for those rare and special wines that your own cellar may lack. A ’55 Château Latour? “The essence of wonderful claret.” A 1961 Bouchard Corton? “A national treasure. Use with extreme caution for heads of state.” The odd magnum of ’64 Krug?

It will be interesting to learn, if we are allowed, to whom these wines are eventually sold, and the values they realise.

I was first alerted to this subject by an article in The Guardian.


What went wrong?

To Katie Ghose and all at the Yes campaign:

What your erstwhile supporters would now like to know is this: how come the Yes campaign screwed up so badly? Did you have the wrong headline messages? (I know that where I live, the “make your mp work harder” line generated massive pushback!) Were you too slow to recognize and challenge the lies that the No campaign produced? Why did you fail to invest in explaining the mechanics and the advantages of AV?

The referendum was a sitting duck for Yes. All the positive arguments were on the Yes side. The No side failed to produce any positive arguments for FPTP. Yet the vote was overwhelmingly lost.

Please use whatever funds remain to commssion a survey from YouGov, or Ipsos Mori, or whoever, to determine why people were persuaded to cast their votes against reform.

You owe it to your supporters. You owe it to the millions who voted Yes. Please.