Posh flats in Hyde Park, London (Picture Wikicommons)

“Branded residences”—posh homes linked to a luxury firm—are booming. According to a recent report by property company Knight Frank, the sector is expected to grow by 55 ­percent between now and 2026. By far the biggest market is the US, although Britain, the UAE, Thailand and China are also significant.

One of the first examples of branded properties in London was One Hyde Park, launched in 2011 and with access to Mandarin Oriental hotel services. Its penthouse sold ­pre-launch for £140 million.

“The Candy brothers [the developers of One Hyde Park] wanted to make boring old property part of the luxury goods market,” explains Henry Pryor, a ­property expert. He enthuses, “It turned out that people actually wanted the brand as much, if not more, than they wanted the property. “It’s a bit like owning a Rolex or putting an Aston Martin key ring on the table when you sit down for lunch. These things are very ­important to some people.”

Izzy Pugh, a partner at the marketing consultancy G=mc2, told the Financial Times, “Consumers seek brands that can offer them an effortlessly curated ­lifestyle and a big part of what drives this is ‘aesthetic value’. A branded residence is the ­ultimate aesthetically curated experience. “You can step directly into a world which has been ­hermetically sealed into an aesthetic bubble.”

She adds that it’s an escape from rough people too. “It’s pretty much guaranteed that if you are buying a Ritz‑Carlton branded residence you are going to have a fair bit in common with your neighbours.

“This is useful if you are new to a city or buying a second home. For wealthy people this is a convenient way to make the right choice because someone else has done all the hard work for you.”

Downing Street links to private health firm

A private healthcare firm handed a government contract to reduce regional NHS waiting lists is linked to a Number 10 policy adviser. Bill Morgan, a founding partner of the PR and lobbying firm Evoke Incisive Health (EIH), joined Downing Street as a health policy adviser last November to help drive through NHS “efficiencies”—cuts.

InHealth, a fee-paying client of EIH when Morgan was a founding partner, has since been awarded a contract as an independent sector-led diagnostic centre, to run the south-west network. There are about 114 NHS diagnostic centres, with those run by private providers set to increase from four to 12. Five of the new centres in the south west from Cornwall to Bristol will be run by InHealth, which was founded by a British entrepreneur, Ivan Bradbury.

Morgan is also a member of the elective recovery taskforce (ERT) convened by the health secretary, Steve Barclay, to cut waiting lists. Morgan no longer works for Incisive Health and has no financial connection or continuing interest in his former employer or InHealth. In a letter to the health minister Will Quince, who is chair of the ERT, Liz Kendall, the shadow social care minister, has questioned what measures were taken to manage potential conflicts of interests when the contracts were awarded, and whether Morgan was required to declare his past connection to InHealth when taking the No 10 job.

Stella Vig, the NHS England clinical director for elective care, said the NHS had already increased use of the independent sector by more than a third since April 2021. Record numbers of people are paying for private healthcare, spending up to £3,200 on having a cataract removed and £15,075 on a new hip, as NHS waiting lists increase. Rishi Sunak is registered with a private GP practice that charges £250 for a consultation.

The South African Daily Maverick newspaper had to block internet traffic from India on Wednesday of last week after a large-scale, malicious denial of service attack caused its site to crash.  The offensive came only hours after the publication of the Maverick’s report of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi’s refusal to get off his plane on Tuesday. It said Modi refused to disembark from his plane because South Africa had sent only a cabinet minister to officially welcome him to the Brics summit.

Thousands more people will start the winter behind on their energy bills with some borrowing to pay them, Citizens Advice has warned. A total of 46,431 people with energy debts contacted the charity for advice in the first six months of 2023, a 17 percent increase on the same period last year. The energy cap for a typical annual household bill went down very slightly last week to an average of £1,923 a year from October. But those who contacted Citizens Advice for help had debts averaging £1,711. This is up a third on 2019, the charity said.

Losing MPs will get a bigger trough on way out

You can tell the Tories are worried about the next election. MPs who lose their seats are in line for twice as much money as they can grab now. At the last general election departing MPs were paid two months net pay after losing their seats—almost £10,000. This is supposed to give them time to close their office and manage the redundancies of their staff.

However, Ipsa, the body which sets the rules for MPs’ expenses, now says this is not long enough and that the payout should be doubled to £19,756. The eligibility for the payments has also been expanded to cover those who voluntarily stand down at the election as well as those who lose their seat.

The new system does not need to be approved by parliament as MPs gave Ipsa the powers to make the rules itself. MPs are also eligible for separate, “loss of office” payments. These are similar to traditional redundancy packages. The average payment after the last election was £5,250.

Pushers and dealers are back in with Labour 

Weapons manufacturers, fossil fuel companies and a spy-tech firm are among those sponsoring events at this year’s Labour Party conference Boeing and Babcock, manufacturers of missiles or missile compartments, and Palantir, a spy-tech firm funded by the CIA, will sponsor events hosted by the New Statesman. Fossil fuel companies, private health firms, major banks and the International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, are also among those paying to have a presence at the party’s conference in Liverpool.

British-based Babcock, which has arms deals with the government, and has recently signed a deal with Israel Aerospace Industries, will sponsor a talk entitled “Sovereign capability—how can we make, buy and sell British?” Speaking will be Babcock’s chief corporate affairs officer, John Howie, alongside Labour’s shadow minister for defence procurement Chris Evans and the party’s shadow international trade minister Nia Griffith.

Things they say

‘History will not judge you kindly’

Nadine Dorries’ letter to Rishi Sunak announcing her formal resignation as an MP—at last

‘What exactly has been done or have you achieved? You hold the office of prime minister unelected, without a single vote, not even from your own MPs’

More Dorries

‘You have no mandate from the people, and the government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation, for what?’

More Dorries

‘Your actions have left some 200 or more of my MP colleagues to face an electoral tsunami and the loss of their livelihoods’

More Dories—the letter was 1,800 words

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