Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt during a toast during the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London (Picture: Alamy)

The rich had their glasses ready for Jeremy Hunt’s budget this week. Spencer House, an 18th century ­aristocratic palace, overlooking Green Park in Mayfair, London, has this week been temporarily renamed Bollinger House to celebrate the launch next week of a £350 a bottle champagne.

The launch will be celebrated with a seemingly endless supply of the new Bollinger RD 2008 and a black-tie ­banquet for more than 100 people. It is the latest in a series of ­expensive vintage champagnes capitalising on booming demand as wealthy people ­continue to party hard to make up for lost opulence during the pandemic.

Champagne shipments hit a record £5.3 billion last year, according to the Comite Champagne, the trade association of producers in northern France, which expects sales to be even stronger in 2023.

Charles Goemaere, Comite Champagne’s general manager, said ­producers had been slightly caught off guard by the strength of demand after the return to normality after the coronavirus crisis. LVMH, the luxury goods ­company behind Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Dom Perignon said in November that it was “running out of stock on our best champagnes” as wealthy people were, it said, enjoying a new “roaring 20s” age of decadence.

Matthew O’Connell, chief ­executive of fine wine trading platform LiveTrade, said the average prices for top champagnes—including Bollinger, Cristal, Krug, Dom Perignon—increased by 23 percent last year on top of a 42 ­percent increase in 2021.

He said the price increase had been led by a growing number of very wealthy people. “Yes, the cost of living crisis and ­inflation affects most people, but the ultra high net worth people we are ­selling to are very insulated. They might have lost money on shares in the last six months, but their ­spending power certainly hasn’t decreased,” he said.

Tom Gearing, co-founder and chief executive of investment firm Cult Wine Investment, said average champagne prices in his company’s index had risen by 52 percent over the past three years. Asked why he thought champagne prices have risen during the cost of living crisis, Gearing said, “It doesn’t affect the richest people. Luxury goods are doing better than ever during a cost of living crisis—I’d arguably say luxury is doing better than it ever has done.”

Accused abuse cop case files

A Metropolitan Police officer appeared in court last week to face charges of raping and assaulting a woman. PC Jorden Brown of Dagenham is charged with one count of rape and three counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Brown is accused of carrying out the offences between November 2018 and October 2019, while off-duty.
A serving Greater Manchester Police officer has been charged with rape. PC James Stonehouse was charged with the alleged offence last week and is due to appear at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court on 11 April.
A serving Dorset cop has pleaded not guilty to sexual offence charges, including two counts of rape. PC Ravi Canhye appeared Bournemouth Crown Court last week charged with eight sexual offences including two counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, and two counts of sexual assault.
A former Metropolitan Police officer faces a retrial for the alleged rape of a woman while serving in the force. An Old Bailey jury was discharged last month after failing to reach a verdict in the trial of Stephen Kyere. The defendant is accused of having sex with a woman without her consent at her home after flashing his warrant card at her during a night out in  2004.

…prison officer accused

A prison officer raped a young woman who was extremely drunk and couldn’t stop being sick, a court heard last week. The alleged rape was discovered after the woman’s friends burst in on them and the defendant is accused of saying, “Oh no, I’m in trouble now.”

Glenn Coleman is accused of raping and sexually assaulting the woman in Cardiff last year. It is alleged he came with her in a taxi to her accommodation, stripped her naked, and raped her in bed. He denies the offences. The case continues.

Concert goers are anti-cop terrorists 

In January state troopers in Georgia in the US shot dead environmental activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Teran.

Now the state authorities have charged 23 people who continue to protest over the building of a huge military‑style police training centre in Atlanta with “domestic terrorism”. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to 35 years. Over the past several months 18 others have also been charged with the same offence, bringing the total number facing these grave charges to 41.

The latest moves follow a demonstration at the site. Defend the Atlanta Forest tweeted that the 23 people arrested were not violent agitators “but peaceful concert-goers who were nowhere near the demonstration”.

Activists oppose the spending of millions of dollars on the £70 million police facility.

They point out that it would be surrounded by poor neighbourhoods in a city with a high degree of inequality.

The British government has given £20 billion more in support to fossil fuel producers than those of renewables since 2015. Renewable energy received £60 billion in support over that time, but fossil fuel companies collected £80 billion. Analysis by the House of Commons library found that a fifth of the money given directly to the fossil fuel industry was to support new extraction and mining. In 2021, support for fossil fuel extraction rose by 20 percent to nearly £2 billion.

Former Shell boss Ben van Beurden grabbed a pay package of £9.7 million last year, up more than 50 percent from 2021. In the nine years he was Shell CEO he trousered more than £86 million.

Meanwhile there will soon be 8.4 million people living in fuel poverty in Britain. Shell reported the ­highest annual profits £32.2 billion, double the previous year’s total.

Tory Brine paid £1,600 a month for lobbying    

A top Tory stands accused of trampling on lobbying rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Brine, the chair of the Commons health and social care select committee, lobbied the chief executive of the NHS and ministers on behalf of a firm paying him £1,600 a month for “strategic advice”.

The Telegraph newspaper’s Lockdown Files, a leaked cache of more than 100,000 pandemic-era WhatsApp messages, revealed that Brine told Michael Gove in February 2021 he had been “trying for months” to convince the NHS to hire anaesthetists through Remedium, a recruitment firm.

He said he had contacted Lord Stevens, then head of NHS England, and the Department of Health and Social Care.

Brine’s declarations to the MPs’ Register of Financial Interests show he was paid £1,600 a month by Remedium between July 2020 and December 2021.

The parliamentary code of conduct says MPs cannot lobby ministers on behalf of organisations they have been paid by within six months.

Things they say

‘The Tories and the system’

Presenter Gary Neville on what lies behind Gary Lineker’s removal from Match of the Day

‘Self-confessed Labour supporter’

How the Daily Mail newspaper described Neville

‘He went too far’

Labour’s Emily Thornberry not exactly backing Lineker

‘I wouldn’t personally say what Gary Lineker has said’

Labour leader Keir Starmer

‘Outrageous and appalling behaviour’

Tory MP Jonathan Gullis on Lineker’s comments


Rishi Sunak on the Tory plans to send back all refugees without a hearing

‘BBC bosses are in the shit.’

TV presenter Fern Britton

‘While I’m at it, the inhumanity of this govt towards desperate refugees is appalling.’


‘Bring back Gary Lineker’

A passerby disrupting a live BBC broadcast in London on Saturday

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