Monday 20 April 2009

To Loughborough with the PM

Up at 6.00 am to go to Loughborough! Indeed, the University no less. The Prime Minister launching "New Industry, New Jobs". I have the surreal experience of seeing Peter Mandleson; wandering through the train and asking me if it is coach G? Yes, I say but not your coach - that's the special one that comes with a Copper and a dog! Still, I got a Prime Ministerial handshake on the way off the train, and a chat with Sue Nye.

The PM is launching the Government's policy on industry, or "industrial activism" as it is termed. A very new labour paper; the very title " New Industry, New jobs" is a tad unimaginative. I wonder whether the over use of "new" is now so so "old"? - but credit where it is due. A good Report and Gordon is on fine form. He speaks without notes and is impressive.

You might think this would feature the third sector in a key role. But no. Mentions yes. Central no. Yet this is an industry with a turnover bigger than the car industry and employing more people than the banks.

Is the lack of joined up thinking apparent? The Paper suggests a 3i style Investment fund to offer growth capital to start up businesses. Yet the Government have in front of them a proposal to establish a Social Investment Fund with money from dormant bank accounts, and yet they are allowing the Banks to give them the run around. Why not set this Bank up now? However, the advantage of the event being chaired by Phil Hope MP, the Minister for the East Midlands, and former Third Sector Minister, is that I get to ask a question. The best questions are the simple ones. So I ask "when are you going to set up the Social Investment Bank?". It gets a grin from the PM. And he does respond by saying they will report on this soon. Afterwards he talks to me about it and says "do carry on hassling me on this". I shall.

Sometimes the value of these events lie in the unexpected meeting. Chatting to a Director of a high technology industry he tells me of a new book "The Spirit Level" by Richard Wilkinson (Prof at Nottingham Uni) who has demonstrated that the greater the inequality in a country the higher the incidence of crime, drugs and teenage pregnancy and depression. It has just been published. I've got my PA to order it. Makes a lot of sense. And yet more evidence for a strengthened role for the third sector. ACEVO will carry on pushing that line.

And I share a taxi with Baroness Onora O'Neill - one of the finest brains in the country (former head of Newnham, Cambridge). No chat about the weather from her. A discussion about the perils of quaisi precision in audited accounts!

Yesterday was my father's 81st birthday so the Bubbs gathered in Bromley at my sister Sara's (who is 50 on Wednesday, but she 'd rather I didn't mention that). Much talk over lunch about the authorship of the spoof Robin Bogg blog. Suggestions that it is:

A) me
B) my brother-in-law (a respected senior civil servant)
C) one of my staff

are all hotly denied.

The sun is out. Its been a good morning!

1 comment:

NTemple said...

The Spirit Level is booth interesting and important, Stephen. Well worth a read, IMHO.