Jackals and Hyde

Tomorrow's Business

Marina Hyde is a world class wind-up merchant. The Guardian columnist was good before the crisis, she’s in a league of her own now.

Her job is to prick pomposity, to seek out proud egos and wound them without mercy.

She is very, very good at it. As such, if you find yourself in her sights, there isn’t a great deal you can do, perhaps other than go along with the joke and consider whether she might have a point.

She’s too clever to say something actually libellous, and if as part of the act she fails to give you full credit for something or other, well she’s allowed. She’s not doing HSBC’s third quarter results here.

Last week she laid in to Richard Branson in fine style, likening his pledge of Necker Island in return for a £500 million government bailout to “being offered the chance to underwrite Richard Hammond’s car insurance”.

Virgin took the bait, firing off an angry missive to the editor complaining about this “one sided account”.

The arrival of this letter would have been greeted with glee by The Guardian – they duly ran it in full under the headline “Benevolence of Richard Branson”.

They gave him his right to reply. And made fun of him all over again.

It is very hard to see what Virgin or Sir Richard thought they were likely to achieve here.

Billionaire tax exiles seeking taxpayer bailouts are not going to get good press at the moment (or possibly, ever again).

They might as well accept that with as much grace as they can muster.

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