Daily Archives: April 7, 2011

Jim Pickard

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. 

Jim Pickard

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. 

Jim Pickard

Business leaders in London should let staff work from home or travel outside rush hour to prevent gridlock during the Olympic Games, the government has urged.

Shifting to flexible working would be essential while the Underground, roads and trains contended with the weight of tourist numbers flooding into the capital, said Norman Baker, transport minister. More than 8m tickets are being sold for the 2012 event.

We are going to have a gigantic influx of people all wanting to travel to see events and it is simply not possible for everything to keep running if everyone carries on as normal,” said Mr Baker. “You have got to work differently to do this.”
A third of large companies already plan to allow staff to work flexibly during the games, according to a recent survey from Deloitte.

With just over a year to go before the event, Mr Baker is trying to spread the message that getting companies to cut their transport use could have beneficial effects beyond the Olympics.

Not only would it cut carbon emissions but also support the economy by easing congestion, he said, explaining that sometimes his brief as transport minister meant asking people not to travel.

Describing rush hour as an “insane concept”, he said: “It is crazy that we all travel on the same train on the same day at the same time. We should be able to spread the peak across different times.”