The business on...The Trade, Investment and Small Business Minister


Who's that meant to be?


If only we knew. Two months after becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron still hasn't filled the job.

Isn't that a bit remiss of him?

Well, as Mr Cameron and his colleagues keep banging on about rebalancing Britain's economy in order to boost trade and exports, it does seem a little unfortunate they haven't appointed a trade minister.

So what's the hold-up?

In a nutshell, Mr Cameron keeps asking people if they'd like the job and they keep saying no.

Like who?

Initially, the Prime Minister hoped he to persuade Lord Davies, the former Standard Chartered Bank boss, to stay on in the role in which he had served under Labour. No luck there. Next, it is understood he approached Sir John Rose, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, about the position, only to be rebuffed again. Now the Prime Minister is thought to have received a third rejection to his overtures, with BAE Systems' Dick Olver having said thanks but no thanks.

Isn't this rather embarrassing?

Senior figures from business are certainly less than impressed. It doesn't help that the Government keeps promising a new approach to trade. Mr Cameron says he wants his administration to be "messianic" about opening up markets, but can't seem to find a messiah. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has talked of a "new commercialism" on foreign policy, but he hasn't had any luck pinching someone from the commercial sector either. The Chancellor, George Osborne, told MPs this week that "we have to sell ourselves a bit more". But first he needs to appoint a salesman.

What's not to like about the job?

Many business leaders who have moved into Whitehall in the past have been bruised by the experience. Look at the criticism figures such as Lord Sugar and Baroness Vadera have encountered, for example. The former CBI boss Digby Jones, who did the trade job for a while, described it as a "dehumanising and depersonalising experience". The politicians don't quite get this, but not everyone sees becoming a minister as the pinnacle of their career.

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