It’s the countdown to the Christmas break as the Insider does the rounds of the festive frivolities

Mike Langton is saying goodbye to his days as UK commercial director at JLT, and is embracing a new challenge. Mike is one of the key people behind the building of a retirement home in Spain, just 20 miles from Gibraltar. Mike expects a few retired ex-pats will sign up to enjoy their retirement in the sun, and reckons there's a market of around 700,000 of them living in Spain. Looks like all those years as a broker has infused him with the entrepreneurial spirit of the industry. Good luck Mike, or should I say ¡buena suerte!

Swinton’s annual cocktail bash is one of the highlights of the party season, and it didn’t disappoint this year. New chief exec Peter Halpin welcomed the crowd with festive cheer, and Patrick Smith could be seen smiling proudly in the background. The great and the good were out in force, and, as Halpin wryly observed, many of them have been attending the same party on behalf of the same companies since the event began in the early ’90s. Craig the magician was a particular highlight, with an impressive sleight of hand.

Goodwill to all men

And so to the House of Commons, for the annual IIB reception, hosted by chief executive Barbara Bradshaw, who was her usual glamourous self, and president John Greenway MP. Barbara and John both gave speeches that were greeted with enthusiasm by the audience – not to mention the seagulls screeching outside on an unusually mild December day. Among the assembly I was pleased to spot Biba chief executive Eric Galbraith and head of technical services Peter Staddon. It’s good to see the two trade associations getting on so well. Now, I wonder whether 2010 could be the year they finally come together?

A wobbly start

Once more to the House of Commons – it’s a popular venue this time of year – for the ABI’s reception this time. But things got off to a sticky start when host Stewart Jackson MP looked to be a no-show. Even worse, the stage set nearly collapsed during the fireman’s speech! But all was well in the end – Jackson turned up, the stage stayed in place, and the message went out to the media.

The partying before the storm

Next, to Saturday morning breakfast television. The lead BBC bulletin featured the ever so articulate ABI director of general insurance Nick Starling, pontificating on the sofa about the merits of changing a 100-year-old insurance law, payment protection insurance, and just about anything else he cared to express an opinion on. Just thank your lucky stars there wasn’t a flood that week. Nick was, however, looking a little more ruffled than usual, with his collar flared and hair not sporting its usual meticulous parting. Perhaps the ABI has been celebrating Christmas harder than usual this year, ready for when new director-general Kerrie Kelly arrives in the New Year with a sharp knife and sinister smile. She’s got form, we hear.

All I?want for Christmas …

One more bar room gossip-fuelled rumour for you all to soak up before you head off to open presents, slather on the brandy butter, stuff birds and so on for a couple of weeks. I hear that Heath Lambert boss Adrian Colosso is desperately trying to quash rumours that Giles will be buying his outfit in one last audacious transformational deal before the end of the year. Colosso informs a friend of mine that the rumour is “absolute horseshit” but that he “keeps getting asked it”. Surely there couldn’t be a better cultural coming-together in the market? IT