Phil Vickery brings out a timely cookbook as those with diabetes more likely to die of coronavirus

Phil Vickery has had a productive lockdown. The television chef recently found an old unicycle in his garage. He first learned how to ride it 25 years ago and decided to take it up again at the grand old age of 59 ‘because I had nothing else to do,’ he says cheerily when we meet over Zoom. He holds the unicycle up to the screen like a small boy displaying his most prized possession. He is wearing a grey fleece and sporting an impressive sun tan – the result of tinkering about outside putting a new clutch in his Land Rover and changing all the brake pads.

Vickery is also still doing his day job, cooking from his garden in Buckinghamshire for ITV’s flagship daytime programme, This Morning. Occasionally he will be interrupted live on air by his farming neighbours Dave and Mike, who ask him to keep the noise down while, for example, he’s barbecuing a piece of chicken for the cameras.

‘I’ve got quite a few annoying neighbours,’ Vickery says, before indiscreetly going on to list them by name.

He’s about to publish his 14th book, Diabetes Meal Planner, which provides healthy, balanced recipes for anyone living with diabetes. All the recipes have been approved by Diabetes UK and written with the food scientist Bea Harling. Vickery is not diabetic himself, but enjoys the challenge of coming up with a series of precise, calorie-controlled recipes that still taste delicious.

People with diabetes are especially vulnerable to Covid-19 and, with the obesity crisis facing Britain, Vickery points out that his book can be used by anyone who wants – or needs – to eat more healthily.

Phil Vickery points out that his book can be used by anyone who wants – or needs – to eat more healthily

‘Essentially, it’s a health diet book. I was slightly worried when I saw McDonald’s re-open and there was a queue outside 50 cars long. No judgment, but I worry people might slip back into bad habits after lockdown.’

He says he fell into this kind of cooking by accident 20 years ago when he owned a Christmas pudding company and one day they couldn’t buy organic flour at the right price, so they opted for a gluten-free alternative and the pudding became an instant bestseller.

Vickery went on to write a gluten-free cookbook for coeliacs ‘and it sold more than 350,000 copies in 17 countries,’ he says proudly. Diabetes seemed the next logical step, and he published Phil Vickery’s Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook in 2017. It, too, became a bestseller and this is the follow-up.

There are some who accuse him of cashing in on other people’s medical conditions ‘but they must remember that, for 40 years, I’ve been cooking professionally… Suddenly self-proclaimed experts are publishing diet books and it makes me very, very angry. I don’t know how people write two books a year! I write one a year and that takes me an absolute age. They have no clue what they’re talking about.’ This time, he won’t name any names.

BUT he’s right – it is easy to forget Phil Vickery’s pedigree. On television, he’s a natural: handsome and enthusiastic, with a speedy, informative patter that tells you exactly how to knock up an easy kedgeree in 20 minutes. Yet he never wanted an on-screen career, and for years was the head chef at The Castle Hotel restaurant in Taunton, where he won a Michelin star.

‘Underneath it all, I laugh and joke, but I’m very serious about what I do.’

He hates the term ‘celebrity chef’ because ‘it conjures up all sorts of falseness. I’m not a “television chef”. I’m a chef who does a bit of telly’.

Vickery married presenter Fern Britton in 2000 and the couple announced they were separating earlier this year

Vickery married presenter Fern Britton in 2000 and the couple announced they were separating earlier this year

The only reason he agreed to appear on the BBC’s breezy afternoon show, Ready, Steady, Cook in 1996 was, he says, because they kept hassling him, and after saying no twice, he gave in ‘for commercial reasons… it filled the restaurant overnight’.

It was on Ready, Steady, Cook that he first met the presenter, Fern Britton. They married in 2000. Britton had five-year-old twin boys and a 21-month-old girl from a former marriage, and Vickery ‘brought them up as my own’. They later had a daughter, Winnie, who is now 19. The couple announced they were separating earlier this year.

I’ve been told not to broach this topic during the course of our conversation, but there’s a recipe in the book that mentions her (gazpacho, we are told, is Britton’s favourite soup) and when I ask him at the end of the interview if there’s anything he would like to say that I haven’t covered, it is the one moment his innate cheerfulness seems to flag. ‘I don’t talk about my wife,’ he says, looking down at the floor. ‘Just because it is what it is. And that’s it really.’

He is not much given to introspection. His approach to life is to ‘Dust yourself off and get on with it.’

When his colleague, Phillip Schofield, announced he was gay on This Morning in February, Vickery thought ‘good luck to him. He wants to be happy with his life. I don’t have any problem with that.’ Co-presenter Holly Willoughby is ‘a lovely girl. She never changes.’

For Vickery, life is for living rather than worrying about.

He recalls a conversation he once had in a radio studio with the philosopher Alain de Botton who told him: ‘You only need to worry about the things you can change.’

‘That’s it,’ Vickery says now. ‘So I just get on with it.’

It’s partly why, after being approached by producers to be a contestant on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, he never made the cut.

Vickery is also still doing his day job, cooking from his garden in Buckinghamshire for ITV’s flagship daytime programme, This Morning

Vickery is also still doing his day job, cooking from his garden in Buckinghamshire for ITV’s flagship daytime programme, This Morning 

‘About five or six years ago, I interviewed for it,’ he says, and then he role-plays the interview:

Producers: ‘Do you cry a lot?’

Vickery: ‘No.’

Producers: ‘Would you be scared to jump out of a helicopter?’

Vickery: ‘That would be fine.’

Producers: ‘Do you have a phobia of snakes?’

Vickery: ‘You see that snake? I’ll catch that snake and I’ll eat it.

‘Then they called me up and said, “You’re a bit macho for us.” ’

I start to laugh. Vickery is a very funny raconteur. ‘No really! That was what he said. That’s a true story.’ When was the last time he cried?

‘I cried quite recently actually. Just a few tears. I was listening to a song from Toy Story 2.’

He spends the next ten minutes trying to find the song on his phone. He cried because the song reminds him of his daughter who is in lockdown in Cornwall and he misses her.

‘I’ve not seen her since Christmas. Yes, so there you go. A little tear.’ But then, he adds swiftly: ‘I manned up and got out of it.’

I’m hazarding a guess that he’s never been in therapy?

‘No!’ Vickery shouts, genuinely alarmed. ‘Why did you ask that? I’ll be really honest with you. I went through a horrific court case about 20 years ago and at one point I could have lost everything and I defended myself and I fought that for a year and I won. And that gave me such a massive confidence. It made me stand up for myself.’

He’s talking about being sacked from The Castle Hotel in 2000 after his then-boss alleged Vickery was spending too much time on television and not enough time in the kitchen.

Vickery took his employer to a tribunal which found in his favour. He was awarded damages and remained a shareholder.

‘My father has got little plaque in his shed and it says, “Blessed is he who expects nothing for he shall not be disappointed.” It’s really true.

‘I just get on with my life. Things come at you; you have to deal with it and move on.’

His parents, Robert, a former post office engineer, and Teresa, encouraged their three sons to be independent. Vickery has an older brother, Chris, a doctor in the Far East, and a younger brother, Mike, who works as a farrier ‘and I see him once every five years’.

The boys were brought up in Folkestone, Kent, and raised Catholic although as soon as he turned 18, Vickery stopped going to church. His parents were bemused by his desire to be a chef, but he’d always loved cooking, ever since the village hall caretaker gave him a copy of Warne’s Everyday Cookery (first published in 1872) left over from a jumble sale stall.

Vickery leaps up from his chair and fishes out the book from his shelves, bringing it closer to his computer screen so that I can see the annotations he made in the back, where he wrote his first ever recipe. ‘And there it is: Bread Pudding,’ he says proudly. ‘Can you see that?’

It was on Ready, Steady, Cook that he first met wife Fern Britton. Pictured on Culinary Genius TV series which Britton hosted in April 2017

It was on Ready, Steady, Cook that he first met wife Fern Britton. Pictured on Culinary Genius TV series which Britton hosted in April 2017

As much as he loved cooking, Vickery’s parents thought ‘it was not good enough for me [as a career]. Life chucks a lot of crap at you sometimes.’

Over the years, it is clear that Vickery has made a virtue of his self-sufficiency and I get the sense that he sees needing help as a weakness, as if admitting to vulnerability would be the start of some fatal unravelling.

‘My father has never given me one penny – apart from my 21st birthday when he gave me a hundred quid. I’ve never gone to him. I’ve never asked him. Just the way it is. And I’ve had times when I had nothing.

‘In my 20s, I sold my television to pay the MoT on my car. I never went to him. It wasn’t in my head to ask them. So we’ve been hugely independent. And once you do that a bit, it gives you a certain… I don’t know, an inner strength.’ How do his parents, both in their 80s, feel about his career now?

‘They quite like seeing me on telly and we went to The Ivy for dinner and they loved all that… My mum calls me to tell me off when I do something on telly she doesn’t agree with.’

When was the last time?

‘I had a tin of Carnation milk and I didn’t scrape out properly with a spatula. She calls me up and she just says: “Now Philip, I need to talk to you…” ’

Vickery wrote a gluten-free cookbook for coeliacs and it sold more than 350,000 copies in 17 countries

Vickery wrote a gluten-free cookbook for coeliacs and it sold more than 350,000 copies in 17 countries

What is Vickery like as a dad?

‘Ask my daughter.’

I press him on whether he feels he was more involved than his own parents were. ‘Oh God, yes. I wanted to be, and that was quite fortuitous because it coincided with me coming out of full-time cooking. So I was there [for the children].’

He’s turning 60 next year. Does he have any plans to mark the occasion, perhaps by getting a tattoo or piercing?

‘Oh God, no, no, no! I’m thinking of going to America eating from north of Kentucky down to Texas.’

Vickery looks younger than his years, and always has. He tells me he was asked for ID buying drinks in a pub well into his 20s.

‘I do moisturise every day,’ he says.

Does he wear SPF?

‘What’s that?’

It’s sunscreen.

‘Oh yes, absolutely. Yes I do. Because I’m outdoors a lot.’

All in all, he considers himself to have been ‘very lucky in life. I’ve had a fabulous career. Someone said to me the other day, “When you’re dead, what would you like people to say about you?” And I said, “All I want them to say is actually, he was all right.” That’s it.’

I tell him I promise to say that if I outlive him. He’s been a highly entertaining interviewee.

So yes, Phil Vickery is more than all right – and a surprisingly good unicyclist, too.

  • Diabetes Meal Planner, by Phil Vickery, will be published by Kyle Books on June 8, priced £22.



Elton John lays off staff and bandmates after taking a £60m hit

Elton John lays off staff and bandmates after taking a £60m hit when his farewell tour is cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic (even though he’s worth £360m)

Sir Elton John has taken a staggering £60million financial hit after coronavirus forced him to cancel his farewell tour. 

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the singer and partner David Furnish have been left ‘bereft’ as they had anticipated the cash would see him into his retirement. 

It is understood that Sir Elton, 73, is unlikely to receive any insurance payout for the losses. 

The cancellation of the tour has even resulted in his long-serving band – including guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel ­Olsson – being laid off until it becomes clear if concerts scheduled for later this year will take place. 

British singer Elton John (R) and guitarist Davey Johnstone perform during a concert as part of the singer’s ‘Greatest hits Live 2012’ world tour at the Ondrej Nepela arena in Bratislava July 10, 2012. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa (SLOVAKIA – Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) – GM1E87B07I101

A number of the domestic staff at the star’s £20million home in the US city of Atlanta have also been told they are not needed. 

Sir Elton and Mr Furnish, 58, last week flew back to Britain from Los Angeles on a private jet. Despite being worth an estimated £360million, according to the recent Sunday Times Rich List, Sir Elton is now thought to be assessing if he will need to make further savings and, if so, where. 

Thirty-four US dates of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour have so far been cancelled or postponed, and it is increasingly likely that some or all of the 48 gigs scheduled from September to December will also be affected. 

Elton John performs onstage during his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour at PPL Center on September 8, 2018 in Allentown, Pennsylvania

Elton John performs onstage during his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour at PPL Center on September 8, 2018 in Allentown, Pennsylvania

The financial impact meant Sir Elton considered using the Government’s furlough scheme to pay staff at his London-based company, Rocket Entertainment. 

Employees were initially told they would receive 80 per cent of their salaries from the scheme set up by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, but the singer then decided he would meet the cost from his own pocket.

‘The tour was forecast to make over £60million this year. That revenue has literally disappeared overnight,’ said a source close to the veteran entertainer. ‘Nobody expected this. 

Elton John's long term band who have performed with the legendary singer for decades

Elton John’s long term band who have performed with the legendary singer for decades

The touring concert business has literally ground to a halt and will be one of the very last businesses to return to operations. 

With no vaccine or effective treatment on the horizon, the worst case scenario is that it could be 2021 before the tour is up and running again.’ 

Sir Elton is famous for his lavish spending. In 2000, it was claimed that he had splashed out £40million in just 20 months, including £293,000 on flowers. 

Sir Elton John performs at Liverpool Arena, Liverpool, England, 14th June 2016 as part of his Wonderful Crazy Night Tour

Sir Elton John performs at Liverpool Arena, Liverpool, England, 14th June 2016 as part of his Wonderful Crazy Night Tour

He has properties in the US, France and Britain and also owns a £21million yacht – Wabi Sabi – which sleeps up to 18 guests in eight plush rooms, each with its own en suite. It also has room for 18 crew. 

Last summer Sir Elton and Mr Furnish entertained the Beckham family while the yacht was docked in the South of France. 

The effect of Covid-19 on Sir Elton’s tour is likely to hit his ranking in next year’s Sunday Times Rich List, which this year saw him rise from equal 399th to equal 363rd in the list of the UK’s wealthiest people. 

According to compilers, his fortune rose by £40million – from £320million to £360million. 



The delicious way to beat diabetes with Phil Vickery

The delicious way to beat diabetes with Phil Vickery

A staggering third of people who have died of coronavirus also had diabetes, so now is the time to beat it – TV chef Phil Vickery’s fabulous recipes will make it easy

For Phil’s jerk-seasoned fish tacos, see here

Easy, tasty, healthy 

It’s a grim new statistic: official figures reveal that a third of those who’ve died from coronavirus this year also had diabetes. As Phil Vickery reveals here, fighting, beating and managing it is more crucial than ever 

Phil Vickery

Phil Vickery 

More people than ever have diabetes – it affects more of us than all cancers and dementia combined. It is not always the easiest of conditions to understand, and not enough people appreciate the damage it can do. Symptoms include being unusually thirsty, feeling tired all the time and needing to pee more than usual.

By spotting symptoms early, taking prescribed medications and making healthy changes to diet and lifestyle, you can reduce your chances of developing diabetes complications.

The list of ingredients that you can eat if you have diabetes is very varied, but when you are building balanced, nutritional recipes, you need to be extremely careful – and it takes a huge amount of time and effort to get things right. You have to be strict not only when developing or cooking the recipes, but also to ensure you give the correct advice. Research is being published all the time and there have been significant changes even in the three years since the publication of my book Phil Vickery’s Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook.

For my latest book, Diabetes Meal Planner, I have tried to write easy, colourful and tasty recipes that will inspire you to get involved and cook. We have also taken into consideration shopping, so have kept ingredients to a minimum. Some recipes are very simple. We make no excuse for that – as a wise chef once said to me, ‘The fewer ingredients, the less you can hide.’ The overriding factor is the need to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet, keeping an eye on calorie intake if you’re managing your weight [the nutritional values listed under each recipe are per portion]. But it also goes without saying that keeping active is crucial. I’m no doctor, but my brother is, so we often chat about diets, and he stresses the need for a combination of moderate exercise and a balanced diet.

People with diabetes spend around three hours with a healthcare professional every year; for the remaining 8,757 hours they must manage their diabetes themselves. An important part of this self-care is eating healthy, balanced meals. There isn’t a special plan for diabetics to follow; dietary guidelines are similar to those recommended for everyone. Making healthier food choices is good for everybody. This means including more whole grains, fruit, vegetables – especially green leafy varieties – and pulses such as beans and lentils. Also incorporate healthy fats: for example, oily fish, avocado and nuts. And eat less refined grains and processed meats, as well as sugary food and drinks. Lower your salt and saturated fat intake. Eat less red meat – maybe once or twice a week – and choose better quality produce, if possible.

Diabetes Meal Planner by Phil Vickery

Diabetes Meal Planner by Phil Vickery

Before making any changes to your diet it is best to check with your healthcare team, especially if the diet is restrictive and/or you’re on medication. Unless advised, it’s best to eat a variety of healthy foods rather than take vitamin and mineral supplements to get the essential nutrients and manage your diabetes.

BUY PHIL’S BOOK WITH A 50% DISCOUNT

Diabetes Meal Planner by Phil Vickery will be published by Kyle Books on 8 June, price £22. To order a copy for £11 until 14 June, go to whsmith.co.uk and enter the code YOUVICKERY at the checkout. Book number: 9780857837783. For terms and conditions see www.whsmith.co.uk/terms

 



Beijing now admits that coronavirus DIDN’T start in Wuhan’s market… so where DID it come from

China has become used to public confessions on television. But this time the words came from one of the nation’s top officials and had seismic global implications.

‘At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim,’ said Gao Fu, director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

This was a stunning admission. For the same scientist had unequivocally pointed the finger of blame at Wuhan’s market where wild animals were sold when his country eventually told the world about a deadly new virus in the city.

The market was shut and cleaned up like a crime scene, in the words of another expert, as global attention focused on the ghastly trade in wild animals.

Gao’s initial analysis had made sense after previous outbreaks of zoonotic viruses (diseases that jump from animals to humans). Yet suspicion grew over the Chinese government’s failure to share data from animals sampled in the market following its early cover-ups.

Now Gao has admitted no viruses were detected in animal samples and they were found only in environmental samples, including sewage

Now Gao has admitted no viruses were detected in animal samples. He said they were found only in environmental samples, including sewage – before adding an intriguing aside that ‘the novel coronavirus had existed long before’.

No-one should doubt the significance of the statement since Gau is not just China’s top epidemiologist but also a member of the country’s top political advisory body.

Curiously, his revelation followed a television interview with Wang Yanyi, director of Wuhan Institute of Virology, in which she insisted that claims about the disease having leaked from her top-security unit were ‘pure fabrication’.

Gau’s sudden reversal came after a series of studies cast doubt on his original claim.

A landmark Lancet paper found only 27 of the first 41 confirmed cases were ‘exposed’ to the market – and only one of the four initial cases in the first two weeks of December.

Two weeks ago, The Mail on Sunday revealed another key academic paper by three America-based biologists that said all available data suggested the disease was taken into the market by someone already infected. So what does this all mean?

Sadly, the amount of massive research findings seems to be deepening rather than dispersing confusion over coronavirus, which is much more unpredictable than a simple respiratory virus in the way it attacks the body.

As Gao said in another interview, this is the seventh coronavirus to infect humans, yet none of its predecessors acted like this strange one.

‘The behaviour of this virus isn’t like a coronavirus,’ he said.

With regard to those three American biologists, they were ‘surprised’ to find the virus ‘already pre-adapted to human transmission’, contrasting its previously known stability with a coronavirus that evolved quickly during the global Sars epidemic between 2002 and 2004. Last week, I revealed that Australian scientists had similarly found Sars-CoV-2 – the new strain of coronavirus that causes disease – is ‘uniquely adapted to infect humans’.

Genetic stability makes it easier to find vaccines. But Nikolai Petrovsky, the vaccine researcher who headed the Australian team, said the virus was ‘not typical of a normal zoonotic infection’ since it suddenly appeared with ‘exceptional’ ability to enter humans from day one. He also highlighted the ‘furin cleavage site’, ‘which allows the spike protein to bind efficiently to cells in several human tissues, increasing infectivity, and does not exist in the most similar coronaviruses.

Some experts say this might have evolved through mutation during ‘unrecognised transmission in humans’ after crossing from an animal. Certainly it would help to find any intermediate host such as civets that ‘amplified’ the Sars virus from bats.

Matters are complicated by Donald Trump’s finger-pointing at Beijing and the fact that a proven lab leak would be catastrophic for China’s President Xi Jinping

Matters are complicated by Donald Trump’s finger-pointing at Beijing and the fact that a proven lab leak would be catastrophic for China’s President Xi Jinping

A paper by Professor Yong-Zhen Zhang, a prominent Chinese expert, said this was ‘arguably the most important’ difference between the new virus and its closest known relative, a virus called RaTG13 derived from a bat by Wuhan scientists.

Prof Zhang also noted the viruses closest to the new one were sampled from bats in Yunnan, 1,000 miles from Wuhan. Although 96 per cent genetically similar, ‘in reality this likely represents more than 20 years of sequence evolution’.

Last week, virology institute director Wang said scientists at her laboratory had isolated and obtained coronaviruses from bats but insisted they had only ‘three strains of live viruses’.

Her claim was dismissed as ‘demonstrably false’ by biosecurity expert Richard Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, New Jersey, who said the institute had published analyses of many more than three strains of live bat coronavirus.

Few doubt this freak virus came in lethal guise from an animal.

‘Nature created this virus and has proven once again to be the most effective bio-terrorist,’ said Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health.

Yet this widely respected geneticist, appointed by Barack Obama, added significantly: ‘Whether [the coronavirus] could have been in some way isolated and studied in this laboratory in Wuhan, we have no way of knowing.’

Here lies the key point. It is foolish at this stage to rule out the possibility, however remote, that this pandemic might be the consequence of a Chinese laboratory leak.

As Professor Petrovsky said, scientists anywhere working with microscopic viruses can make mistakes and there are many examples to prove this point.

Above all, it is crucial to find the origins. If this pandemic is a natural event, it can erupt again from a similar source – and next time with even more explosive impact.

An example is ebola, another zoonotic disease (from fruit bats) that first appeared in 1976. All data indicated outbreaks led to fewer than 300 fatalities – until a subsequent outbreak in West Africa in 2014 led to 11,310 deaths.

Matters are complicated by Donald Trump’s finger-pointing at Beijing and the fact that a proven lab leak would be catastrophic for China’s President Xi Jinping as he tries to exploit the pandemic to push his dictatorial creed and nation’s global leadership.

Perhaps the best argument against the idea of the virus being lab-made came from Susan Weiss, professor of microbiology at Perelman School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.

‘There is no way anyone could design a virus that is this diabolical,’ she said succinctly.



TONY HETHERINGTON: Insurer in Covid-19 no-go

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

Mrs C.D. writes: Congratulations on last Sunday’s report about the rejection of the pub owner’s claim under his business interruption insurance with Lloyd’s of London. We are in the same position. 

We own a small village pub in Devon. As the Government ordered pubs to close, we made a claim under our policy with New India Assurance. Our business interruption cover applies when there is an outbreak of any notifiable disease except Aids within 25 miles. 

The policy is unambiguous but our claim has been rejected. I paid a lot in premiums to ensure we could survive, and now I wonder what I really paid for. 

Barred: Insurers are rejecting claims over pubs closed by virus crisis. Our report last week (see link below)

Although its roots are in Mumbai, the New India Assurance company has been operating in Britain since 1920. It has a number of offices including one at – guess where – the Lloyd’s of London building. Your policy is signed by Mrs Neerja Kapur, the chief executive of New India in Britain. It says you are insured against loss of income resulting from ‘any occurrence of a notifiable disease within a radius of 25 miles of the premises’.

But when you lodged a claim after the Government shut down your pub, Ajul Raj, a branch manager with the insurance company, told you that your pub had not suffered any losses because of Covid-19 itself.

He wrote: ‘We do not know whether there has in fact been an occurrence of a Notifiable Disease within the 25-mile radius of the premises.’ (Yes, there has.) 

Raj explained that your losses were all the fault of trading restrictions that the Government said were ‘in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health’. Those restrictions applied nationally, and did not identify your pub, your village, or any part of Devon, nor did they mention any specific cases of Covid-19 in your area. 

His reading of your policy is that it could only apply if the Government had specifically identified Covid-19 in your area or at your pub, and had revealed those details to close your doors. The fact that without Covid-19 there would have been no closure order and no business interruption does not seem to count. 

To me, this is like saying that on a night in 1912 in the Atlantic, more than a thousand people drowned because they could not swim, while failing to mention that they were passengers on the Titanic. If the ship had not sunk, they would have lived. And if the virus had not struck, your pub would be open for business. It is cause and effect. But to New India and Ajul Raj, the two seem completely unrelated. 

However, the real giveaway line in Raj’s letter almost amounts to a confession. 

He claims: ‘New India’s policies were not designed to respond in the event of a worldwide pandemic such as Covid-19.’

I asked him and his boss Neerja Kapur to show me where your policy sets out this exclusion. They did not respond.

In a nutshell then, they wrote the policy, they sold the policy, and they had every opportunity to spell out that it would not apply in the case of a pandemic, but they failed to do so. They sold you a policy with what amounts to a secret exclusion, and since there was no way that you could know that claims in a pandemic would be refused, I believe this should operate in your favour and not theirs. 

And this is before we unpick the completely impractical picture painted by New India that means you could have claimed if Prime Minister Boris Johnson had issued exactly the same restrictions but had named your pub in his announcement. 

Your pub is not alone in this. Insurers all over the country are turning down claims. I am hearing that some have even used the 25-miles rule to say that claims are disallowed if there are Covid19 cases outside the 25-mile radius as well as inside. 

The Financial Conduct Authority plans to ask the High Court to look over the most common wording used in business interruption policies and rule on exactly what it means. 

I hope a judgment does not come too late for the pub industry and the huge number of jobs involved. When the history of these days is written, it is already clear that large parts of the insurance industry will stand condemned.

Tiny slip could have cost £10,000

M.M. writes: I attempted to transfer £10,000 from NatWest to top up my Isa with Crowd2fund. However, I made a one digit error with the sort code. 

When I realised this, I went to my NatWest branch and pointed out that the recipient’s account could not have been in the name of Crowd2fund, so the transfer should have failed. 

But NatWest told me it relies only on sort codes and account numbers. 

Slip-up: NatWest says it relies only on sort codes and account numbers

Slip-up: NatWest says it relies only on sort codes and account numbers

When banks began to ignore names on cheques and transfers some years ago, I warned it would be disastrous. Since then customers have lost millions of pounds because it is so easy to make a mistake when entering a six digit sort code and typically an eight digit account number. The big banks have now finally brought back name checks. 

When I pressed NatWest, the bank revealed that your £10,000 had ended up in Luxembourg. You then remembered that Crowd2fund used to use a Luxembourg bank. Sure enough your cash was there. Crowd2fund itself managed to recover the money from its dead account. 

NatWest said it was your mistake and ‘customers should be very careful in entering account details for payees, as once funds have left their account, they can be very difficult to retrieve.’

M&S must give credit where credit’s due

B.S. writes: I have a Marks & Spencer credit note that expires soon. I tried to use it online, but it was not accepted. 

M&S told me the expiry date would only be extended in exceptional circumstances. 

Obviously the Covid-19 crisis does not count.

Web of intrigue: Credit notes can only be spent in stores, and its clothes stores are closed

Web of intrigue: Credit notes can only be spent in stores, and its clothes stores are closed

Your credit note can only be spent in a store, and its clothes stores are closed. But when you emailed M&S it replied that the expiry date appears on the credit note and ‘we are bound to follow the terms and conditions’. Surely though, those terms and conditions assume that an M&S store will be open so you can shop?

I contacted the store group’s head office, where staff told me they are working on a case by case basis with customers, and despite what you were told, they will extend expiry dates. With your permission, I gave them your phone number and within hours they called you and offered to swap your £35 credit note for a £55 gift card valid for two years and worth £55. You accepted. 

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

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