Monthly Archives: April 2011

News International, the publisher of the News of the World, has admitted liability in eight cases relating to the phone hacking scandal and offered an “unreserved apology”. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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.”

 Read more

Jim Pickard

We brought you news a few weeks ago that Andy Coulson had set up a new PR consultancy and its first client is a forum for future world leaders.

Now documents from Companies House show that Coulson and his wife Eloise set up the business from their south London home. It was incorporated on February 7. Read more

Elizabeth Rigby


Lord Young is in the news again today and back on form, slamming Nick Clegg’s proposals to extend paternity leave before the deputy prime minister is even out of the blocks.

While the small business lobby will be cheering on their champion, I find myself more fascinated by another story that came out of our interview with the peer (published in today’s FT). It is the fact that Lord Young’s youngest daughter Judith is expecting her first child in a couple of weeks — at the age of 51.

David Cameron’s former business adviser, who has five grandchildren by his elder daughter Karen, is clearly delighted by this minor miracle. And so too I expect is Judith. Read more

Jim Pickard

Some may see in Nick Clegg’s “social mobility strategy” an element of hypocrisy given that his smooth ascent through the ranks was aided by his family’s own impeccable connections.

The FT recently wrote in a profile of the deputy prime minister, describing him as the son of a City banker, raised in the “prosperous rolling hills” of the Chilterns and expensively educated. As it noted:

At Cambridge University he joined the Conservative association and his early career was tracked by Lord Carrington, a former Tory foreign secretary (and next-door neighbour) who recommended him for a job in Brussels with another Tory grandee, Leon Brittan, the EU trade commissioner.

Now, however, Clegg wants to pull up the drawbridge. Today he will say that interships have been the preserve of the “sharp-elbowed and well connected”:

“A country that is socially mobile bases opportunity on your ability and drive, not on who your father’s friends are”.

Clegg may argue that he has seen the system from within and is therefore Read more

Jim Pickard

The shape of cuts by Britain’s local authorities has emerged after the FT waded through more than 2,400 “savings plans” from the 2011/12 budgets of 20 councils from various regions and political hues.

My colleagues have extrapolated their findings to reveal which services are taking the deepest cuts: According to their research, adult social care is being hit the worst at 9.7 per cent for the coming year – equivalent to £1.4bn in England. Read more

Jim Pickard

Earlier in the week I reported how a senior Nato figure had suggested a “flicker” of al-Qaeda among the Libyan rebels, although this idea was later played down.

In the House of Lords today as peers debated the Libya action they were not exactly generous in their praise for our new allies – although they stopped short of mentioning AQ. Here is a sample of the comments: Read more

Jim Pickard

The Telegraph and the Mail have today covered the story that the government will unveil a new universal state pension in an imminent green paper. The £140/week pension (rising to £155 in four years’ time) is roughly as anticipated when the story first broke last autumn. It is a less complicated system than the current basis state pension which can be topped up with additional benefits such as the pension credit.

What has barely been noted, however, is that the coalition nearly endured a defeat in the House of Lords on Wednesday night over its long-standing plans to lift Britain’s retirement age. Read more