Secretarial: My sterling support

I Work For... Annabel Elsdon is PA to Nick Herbert, chief executive of Business for Sterling, the campaign against Britain adopting the euro
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The Independent Culture
I'm not wildly political by nature and came to work here last year more by accident than by design. But having been involved in headhunting for 12 years I had begun to feel stagnant, so when the agency suggested this job I was immediately interested. It was great to feel that I could be involved in one of the most important issues in modern history.

I was poorly educated on the subject of economic and monetary union, but if you had forced me to give my opinion on the question of Britain's joining the single European currency I would have said I was in the "wait and see" camp, which meant I was on the right side.

Of course the nature of working for a campaign means that one has to believe in the cause in order to do one's job well. But I didn't need to be brainwashed, the arguments against adopting the euro are perfectly intelligent and reasonable and shared by many very high-profile businessmen.

I met Lord Marsh, who is now the President of our Council and who was then the head of Business for Sterling, at the House of Lords. He is a charming and quite informal man and took me to the bar to chat through the job. Meantime I had to try not to notice the other high-level people in the room, such as Helena Kennedy, who I have always admired. Having worked with top-level people in my last job, I know how important it is not be so impressed by VIPs that one might become giggly or distracted.

Part of the joy of my job is that I grew with it, the idea of joining mid flow would have been very daunting. Initially my job was easier than it is now in the sense that it was much quieter, but after Nick Herbert's appointment before Christmas, as more people began ringing in for information or to offer voluntary and financial support, we had to start thinking of our supporters in terms of thousands rather than hundreds.

Nick has worked as a professional campaigner for Tim Bell and the Countryside Alliance amongst others. He has hugely high energy levels - which is fortunate, because he has to be able to dive off at five minutes' notice to Millbank to respond to a new development or a statement from the pro-Europe camp.

We often have to draw together our response to a Government announcement very quickly. For example, when the National Changeover Plan was announced by the Government instructing businesses to be prepared for the euro - despite the fact that Britain has not agreed to go into the single currency - we had just a few days to write our response.

Yet we remain cross-party and nonpolitical. How could we presume to speak for every business person if we were all Tories? Whilst we work closely with some of the other anti-Euro campaign groups, we often have to react against people who complain that the No campaigns aren't merging. Business for Sterling very much concerns itself specifically with business rather than other issues.

Whilst believing that Britain's business interests would be better served if we retained sterling, because we have a completely different economic cycle than any other country, amongst other things, we still very much want to be part of Europe. The Government says that British businesses want to join the euro currency, whereas we are proving that business opinion is divided.

Most small businesses resent the fact that pounds 29m of tax-payers money is being spent on preparing for something that hasn't happened yet. I am always thrilled when I see one of the members of our Council on a programme such as Question Time, winning over the audience with our arguments.

We operate a nonhierarchical flat structure here. My role for example is office manager, chief cook and bottle washer and my duties include anything from arranging meetings between the Chairman and Sir Stanley Kalms (Chairman of Dixons plc) to changing lightbulbs. I can't be doing with the "it's not my job" attitude.

Similarly it is important that whilst I make my boss accessible, as well as protect him, I am not too deferential. Being helpful and polite doesn't mean tugging one's forelock.

I always get sidetracked from my ongoing projects because every day is different and creates more work and new priorities. Occasionally I will awake in the middle of the night and remember something I haven't done. Yet while my bedroom may be a pigsty, I am always highly organised at work. It would be no good throwing lunches for influential businessmen if the office was in a chaotic state.

One cannot appear to be disorganised and then expect people to believe that we are a credible organisation.

I am excited by the level of people I am dealing with, from Sir John Craven, Chairman of Lonrho plc to Sir Rocco Forte and Lord Sainsbury, and would like to think that when Business for Sterling wins the campaign and draws to its conclusion, one of our Council will ask me to work for him. Once one is used to working for top ranking people one isn't interested in anything else.

I would love to run my own restaurant business but, although I occasionally moonlight as a caterer, I know that as a single woman spending most of her earnings on London living costs, this ambition is likely to remain a pipe dream.

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