Anyone who has seen Dawn French salivating over a Terry's chocolate orange in the TV ad could soon see another weighty figure attempting to grab more than his fair share.
Step forward Gordon Brown – poised to snatch up to £700,000 of surplus money from the winding-up of the Insurance Brokers' Registration Council. And he needs the money.
It's less than two years since the government paid back £356m to National Bus Company pensioners, despite Treasury pleas to keep the payback to £200m. (The original plundering of their pension surplus was in 1986 under the Tories).
But £700,000 doesn't go far these days – especially if run-off claims deplete it. The surplus could be enough to redecorate The Lord Chancellor's apartments – assuming the 1997 refurbishment (£650,000) needs the Carol Smillie touch.
But it's hardly enough to pay for even a modest government information advertising campaign. So perhaps our Gordon will do the decent thing and hand the over money to a deserving cause.
The cash originally came from brokers, and brokers should decide where it goes. The best and obvious use is to invest in education for the industry as a whole. If you agree – or disagree – write to Insurance Times and express your views.
Those who forget the past…
Critics of I2i-link were quick to point to past blunders when it was launched in November 2000. History is littered with failed industry initiatives – insurers have owned software houses, invested heavily in them and joined together in ventures such as Mediat, Brokernet and Polaris. None of them have been particularly successful.
“I2i, on the face of it, seems to suggest that nothing has been learnt by past failure and it is destined to go the same way of other industry initiatives,” Insurance Times columnist Tony Cornell wrote soon after its launch.
He may be right. I2i-link lacks the crucial ingredient needed for a successful industry-wide initiative: the overwhelming support of the industry. Half of I2i is jointly owned by the six of the UK's biggest insurers: Allianz, Axa, Norwich Union, RSA, Zurich and Groupama. They underwrite 60% of the market, which means there is still a sizeable chunk left on the outside, with little interest to see it succeed. Secondly, there is only one software house involved: Misys, and there is outright hostility from the other software houses.
It is early days and the I2i-link may still prove to be successful. But perhaps, in the aftermath of May Day, we should quote Marx: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.”