Despite the fabulous sunshine today I went along to the BCC conference in a conference centre just behind Westminster Abbey to see how Ed Miliband would go down before a business audience.
The most interesting moment was when the Labour leader was asked if he had any background or experience in business. He began by saying that his grandfather was in business in Belgium before World War 2 and then selling handbags in London. As Paul Waugh overheard one businessman say: “Er, a bit long ago.”
Miliband then tried a more honest approach by saying he wouldn’t claim to be a business expert. “Empathy comes not from where you come from but from your ability to listen,” he replied.
We suggested on Monday that Nick Clegg could be a teeny bit hypocritical for laying into “sharp-elbowed” and “well-connected” youngsters who used family and friends to get ahead in their chosen professional field.
Not only had Clegg himself done precisely this (his neighbour Lord Carrington got him a job with Leon Brittan) but his own record vis-a-vis Lib Dem internships has also been patchy. Only “from today” would they always be remunerated (meaning expenses, not a salary), he declared.
Now it emerges – via a Times story (page 16) – that there is a fresh hypocrisy angle to the issue. That is, the government axed a scheme to provide paid internships last week, only five days before the Clegg announcement. The Graduate Internship Scheme had begun in February 2010, creating 8,060 paid internships in seven priority sectors through paying the Higher Education Funding Council.