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About the strip > The 90s

1990

The new decade had been christened the “Nice Nineties” (to distinguish it from the brash, vulgar Eighties) almost before it had begun. But would events bear it out?

Clive’s affair with Ruth now took the form of clandestine weekends away. 

04 Feb 90

Today strip

Alex’s bank was involved in a counter-surveillance operation for some weeks.

16 Feb 90

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The City Programme, presented by Danielle Donougher and Steve Clarke, was required viewing for the banking fraternity. Alex appeared on it to respond to recent negative publicity for his bank over mass sackings.

01 Mar 90

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Militant Welsh Nationalists were angry about affluent English people buying holiday homes in Wales. Clive’s cottage in Powys was torched.

01 Apr 90

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One of the most popular Alex jokes ever, ran during Glyndebourne this year. 

26 Jun 90

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In summer Alex and Clive both fell victim to one of the waves of firings that swept across The City. 

11 Jul 90

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Banks would assuage their conscience by sending sacked employees to "outplacement" - where they were offered an office which they could use to find themselves a new job (and sometimes to not admit to their wives that they’d lost their old job). Alex and Clive found themselves in such an establishment.

21 Aug 90

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They endured a few months on reduced circumstances.

01 Sep 90

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Clive was reduced to selling insurance door-to-door.

24 Sep 90

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Meanwhile, Greg, Alex’s journalist brother, who had been in Lebanon filing stories about the militias there, was seen being smuggled out of Kuwait, and was in position to be embedded with troops for next year’s impending Gulf War.

25 Sep 90

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On 3rd October Germany was reunified, which provoked some nervousness in the rest of Europe.

04 Oct 90

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Happily later that month Alex and Clive were re-recruited by their old boss Rupert, who had defected to a rival bank, and they were returned to their old jobs in a new office.

19 Oct 90

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An era ended on November 22nd with the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - an iconic figure for the “wealth generation”.

26 Nov 90

Today strip

1991

This was an example of a two-framer cartoon, which featured two parallel scenes. Unfortunately they used up too many puns to be viable as more than an occasional feature of the strip.

19 Feb 91

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With Nelson Mandela released from prison, there was a dilemma of when to recognise the relaxing of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

15 Jul 91

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There was a new film out: Edward Scissorhands, starring an little-known actor called Johnny Depp. Clive and a colleague from his men’s group went to see it and were traumatised.

29 Jul 91

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Greg's career as a journalist had taken a downturn since the Gulf War and he was reduced to fronting a TV wildlife documentary about gorillas. 

09 Oct 91

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In the autumn Alex and Clive were sole survivors of a plane crash in South America and had to make their way back to civilisation through the Amazonian rainforest. 

15 Nov 91

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Having lost his Welsh holiday home to arson, Clive was faring little better with his other country cottage, which proved to be haunted. 

17 Dec 91

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Alex had been wooed by the Telegraph from his first days at the Independent. But his authors had always resisted the lure of more money, out of a sense of loyalty to the vision behind the Independent. It was not a loyalty that was repaid however. When no pay rises were forthcoming and the newspaper refused to even give Alex any free adverts a chance meeting with a senior person from the Telegraph led to a new offer to jump ship being made and accepted.

Alex signed off from the Independent at the end of 1991 with a rather cheeky strip. However as the Independent hadn't informed its readers of Alex's impending departure the irony of the cartoon was lost on most people.

27 Dec 91

Today strip

1992

However the secret was soon out. Following a rather rancorous advertising campaign, Alex began life at the Daily Telegraph in January. Amid all the excitement and embarrassment of the switch Charles and Russell had omitted to think of any new jokes. They elected to start off at the Telegraph with a story about Alex bedding his Essex-girl secretary Wendy, on the premise that their new employer was unlikely to fire them in their first week at the paper.

24 Jan 92

Today strip

The Telegraph’s Agony Aunt was sent a spoof letter about the situation and wrote a po-faced reply, not realising she had been ‘punked’. Another senior staff member became convinced that the jokes were all about him. According to the Telegraph’s editor Max Hastings he received sackfuls of mail over the following weeks complaining about the graphic nature of the opening story. There were rumours of cartoons having to be faxed to him in his Range Rover on a grouse moor for his approval. To his credit he ran them, though it took Alex a few years to win over the hard-core Telegraph readership.

The Independent, having officially deemed Alex “passé”, replaced it with a new, supposedly more “zeitgeisty” strip they’d commissioned: “Glibb” about a TV presenter named Jonathan Glibb. It lasted three months..

The Independent staggered on for another 25 years before embracing its digital afterlife in 2016. It employed some good freelance features: Garland, ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, ‘Schott’s Miscellany’… But all of them ended up moving on to other papers eventually. After various mishaps and several run-ins with Wendy’s boyfriend Wayne (including fighting a duel with him) Alex used the end of her probationary period as a way to give her the elbow professionally and romantically.

02 Mar 92

Today strip

Shortly after came the 1992 General election in which, in a bid to alienate Telegraph readers even further, the cartoonists had Alex stand as a Tory candidate. He was campaigning against a Luvvy-Labour candidate called Vanora Hobson, loosely based on Glenda Jackson.

23 Mar 92

Today strip

Charles and Russell were invited to the prestigious Telegraph election night party in 1992, hosted by Conrad Black. They felt rather out of place but enjoyed the lavish culinary hospitality. Margaret Thatcher was there, Norman Parkinson plus other Tory grandees. It was said that many in The Conservative party were not expecting to win and that they were secretly hoping to lose, so that they could have Thatcher back as their leader. But Kinnock managed to blow this scenario with his premature victory celebration in Sheffield three days early and they got another 5 years with John Major instead. The party that was intended to be a wake ended up as a curiously muted celebration.

11 Apr 92

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Penny found out about Alex’s affair and ran him over in her car. He awoke to find himself in hospital.

09 Jun 92

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Penny left Alex for a short while, but soon came back. 

26 Jun 92

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That summer Alex was kidnapped and a huge ransom was demanded from the bank for his safe return. Alex had still not won over some Telegraph readers. The Letters Page published a letter which said simply: “So, Alex has been kidnapped. Please do us all a favour and don’t pay the ransom.”

11 Aug 92

Today strip

Townie “weekenders” buying houses in the country were a social phenomenon of the day

28 Aug 92

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16th September saw the Sterling Crisis when the UK fell out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism - a precursor to the Euro - on "Black Wednesday", which some Eurosceptics at the time dubbed “Golden Wednesday”.

18 Sep 92

Today strip

Rupert had his second major brush with the law as he was arrested on holiday in Spain and committed to trial for fraud:

28 Sep 92

Today strip

Canary Wharf was now open for business and the gradual process of banks relocating there was beginning.

08 Dec 92

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That Christmas Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” was released and Clive had a week-long nightmare about being the Vampire Count himself.

19 Dec 92

Today strip

1993

Greg did an assignment for his newspaper which involved sleeping rough with homeless people over Christmas for a seasonal feature. 

05 Jan 93

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Rupert’s trial took place. He was found guilty and sent to prison:

22 Jan 93

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Rupert was ‘inside’ himself when he made this opportunistic joke about Asil Nadir, the Chief Executive of bust business Polly Peck, who fled justice to Cyprus.  A cartoon for which we received a “herogram” from Max Hastings. 

The strip expanded its fan-base during this time. The original artwork of one of these jokes was bought by a prison inmate. Rupert was later released and his case was dismissed retrospectively on appeal. 

07 May 93

Today strip

The Labour party was trying to fight back under new leadership.

09 May 93

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In cricket the Third Umpire was brought in to adjudicate in Test Matches for the first time.

15 May 93

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Alex took part in a corporate golf day organised by his bank for clients. Vince, the oikish moneybroker, was for some reason also invited.

05 Aug 93

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Alex took his village cricket team on a summer tour.

25 Aug 93

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Business in the City had traditionally been done by word of mouth, but Information technology was now beginning to become an important part of its operations.

30 Aug 93

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On 24th April an IRA bomb in Bishopsgate had seriously disrupted commercial activity. Banks took retrospective precautions.

17 Sep 93

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Alex and Clive went to The Gulf on business.

05 Oct 93

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Ruth secretly gave birth to Clive’s lovechild. Clive was present (well sort of..)

04 Dec 93

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Alex fell asleep during his son Christopher’s school Nativity play but had a rather bizarre dream.

22 Dec 93

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President Clinton’s sex life caused an international scandal.

23 Dec 93

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1994

Alex did his first deal for Northern metal basher Mr Hardcastle, who was to become a long-term client.

14 Feb 94

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The bluff Hardcastle was naturally suspicious of the flash City types who were advising him.

22 Feb 94

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The early 90s Recession was over and life was going well for Alex and his ilk.

29 Apr 94

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Although Alex’s parents who were Lloyds names were suffering some financial hardships.

30 Apr 94

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India was a hot new emerging market. Alex and Clive travelled on business there.

03 May 94

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Takeovers were happening in the City again.

27 May 94

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It was the 25th anniversary of the Moon landings.

08 Jul 94

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Newfangled items such as laptop computers and modems were beginning to make remote working a possibility, though such devices were still rare.

12 Jul 94

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Rail strikes were a common occurrence of the decade with their inevitable impact on people’s working lives.

14 Jul 94

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“Dress down” started to permeate the City, though at this stage it was confined to American banks and Fridays.

22 Jul 94

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The continuing rail strikes gave many men the excuse they had been looking for to buy motorbikes. Even Clive got in on it.

15 Aug 94

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Post Communist Russia was entering the business world. Alex and Clive did a trip there over the summer.

12 Sep 94

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“Road rage” was becoming an identifiable phenomenon. 

21 Sep 94

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After 25 years of armed conflict the IRA declared a ceasefire which was widely welcomed.  

28 Sep 94

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With the City thriving again Christmas parties were lavish and often held in London landmark locations.

22 Dec 94

Today strip

1995

It was a year when several banks which were once synonymous with the City of London found themselves in trouble. SG Warburg was taken over by the Swiss.

21 Feb 95

Today strip

On the 26th of February the actions of a rogue trader called Nick Leeson caused Barings Bank to collapse.

28 Feb 95

Today strip

And over at the Bank of England there was a widely publicised sex scandal involving senior personnel.

(The line was a bastardisation of advertising strapline “We’re the bank that likes to say ‘Yes’ “; the catchphrase used to promote the TSB.)
 

23 Mar 95

Today strip

Alex and Clive went to post-apartheid South Africa on business.

08 Jun 95

Today strip

Barings had been brought down by the use of complex financial instruments called “derivatives”. That summer the Bank of England launched an official inquiry into what had happened.

14 Jul 95

Today strip

During the summer the strip ran a fantasy story based on the best-selling book ‘The Coming War with Japan’. (August was always a quiet month for news in the City and a good time to run them. These days the cartoonists merely take a holiday.)  

01 Aug 95

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Dress down was still struggling to gain acceptance in the City.

12 Sep 95

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It was the year of ‘Ladettes’.

31 Oct 95

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Maybe it was the pressure of the job, but both Charles’ and Russell’s marriages to their wives broke up nearly simultaneously in 1995. It was a gruelling time but they got some quite funny divorce jokes out of it. 

01 Dec 95

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 The Christmas party season was a heavy one that year. 

16 Dec 95

Today strip

1996

The ceasefire didn’t hold and the IRA resumed its mainland bombing campaign in Docklands on the 8th of February.

22 Feb 96

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Trainspotting was the iconic film of the year. 

27 Feb 96

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There was a new form of communication - electronic mail (or e-mail as it was commonly known). It brought its own perils. 

26 Mar 96

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Smoking began to be banned in offices.

11 Apr 96

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Building societies began to demutualise, leading to big windfall pay-outs for customers and sowing the seeds of the next-but-one crisis.

16 Apr 96

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Alex had a mental breakdown and was committed to a psychiatric institution for a short time. However he soon resumed his normal life.

24 May 96

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Information technology was increasingly a part of everyone’s life including in the schoolroom.

26 Sep 96

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Alex had a new female boss called Jane. They soon became romantically entangled.

01 Nov 96

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It turned out Jane had actually managed to take advantage of almost everyone in the entire department by the time she moved on to a new job that Christmas. 

17 Dec 96

Today strip

1997

High profile women were starting to make successful City careers for themselves.

15 Mar 97

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Following the collapse of Barings Bank the previous year City bosses were becoming concerned about their traders covering up potentially huge losses from complex financial instruments which almost no one understood.

26 Mar 97

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Tony Blair’s New Labour swept to victory in the General Election of 1997.  

03 May 97

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The continuing rise of e-mail was resisted by old-school management.

12 Jun 97

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There was also a new phenomenon called the “internet”. Some people even suggested it could one day threaten City jobs. 

05 Jul 97

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Someone actually tried to murder Alex.

14 Aug 97

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Alex suffered amnesia and was never able to identify his assailant.

18 Sep 97

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So the crime was never solved (ew think it might have been Clive..)

Riding scooters became briefly highly fashionable.

17 Oct 97

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After a real life story about a successful banker deciding to leave his job to become a priest Alex had a dream about being headhunted by God.

28 Nov 97

Today strip

1998

The Christmas blockbuster movie of 1997 was James Cameron’s “Titanic”. In January Alex was a passenger on board the ill-fated liner in a fantasy story. 

24 Jan 98

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It was a World Cup year and Alex took full advantage. 

30 Jun 98

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Mobile telephones were now so ubiquitous that even cartoonists started using them.

25 Jul 98

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Many bankers had so much extra money at this time that they were looking for ways to invest it in ‘real world’ commerce. The first of several of Clive’s business ventures opened: a restaurant. 

05 Sep 98

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Markets were starting to look wobbly again. Following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Russia defaulted on its debts in the summer, bringing down the star-studded Wall Street hedge fund LTCM.

20 Oct 98

Today strip

An employee in Alex’s department “went postal” and took several colleagues in the office hostage shortly before Christmas.

20 Nov 98

Today strip

1999

The dotcom boom was hotting up and internet stocks were considered “sexy”, though not everyone agreed. 

12 Feb 99

Today strip

Alex had a one night stand with a female colleague on a business trip.

04 Mar 99

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Reality TV was becoming increasingly fashionable. One “fly on the wall” documentary of the time was set in a City office and Megabank duly followed suit in the strip.

19 May 99

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The annual anti-capitalist “Stop The City” march was gathering momentum.  

21 May 99

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In the run-up to year 2000 there were increasing fears of the damage that might be wreaked by the ‘Millennium bug’ (or “Y2K bug” as the techies like to call it) which could cause the computers which increasingly powered the global economy to spontaneously shut down.

12 Jun 99

Today strip

Alex and Clive were imprisoned in Colditz for a summer fantasy story that reflected the perceived ascendancy of strict, efficient, German banks at that time.

18 Jun 99

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The man who brought down Barings Bank, trader Nick Leeson returned to the UK.

03 Jul 99

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Alex checked into rehab to be treated for work addiction.

07 Jul 99

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With the economy thriving Alex worked on amassing his air miles with regular business travel.

17 Jul 99

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Clive’s latest business venture was a lap-dancing bar.

27 Jul 99

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The dotcom frenzy was now reaching its apogee. Alex lost no time in capitalising on it.

15 Oct 99

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Banks had to adapt their graduate recruitment policy at the Milk Round to the new tech boom.

24 Nov 99

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As the Millennium drew to a close Alex found himself increasingly usurped by a tech-savvy junior called Robin Thorne.

09 Dec 99

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