CBI wakes up and smells the cappuccino as it plans next meeting in Islington

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The Independent Online

The CBI is to move its annual conference from the manufacturing heartland of the UK to the New Labour heartland of Islington next year for the first time in a tacit admission that captains of industry and star speakers are reluctant to travel to the provinces.

The CBI is to move its annual conference from the manufacturing heartland of the UK to the New Labour heartland of Islington next year for the first time in a tacit admission that captains of industry and star speakers are reluctant to travel to the provinces.

Next year's conference, which will coincide with the CBI's fortieth anniversary, will be held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, north London, just down the road from the site of the Granita restaurant where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had their famous meal after the death of John Smith.

The Design Centre is just off Upper Street, once part of the proud socialist borough of Islington, a former nuclear-free zone that has been transformed into a cappuccino bar and restaurant paradise.

The conference has been held in Birmingham for six of the last seven years and other regional venues have included Manchester and Glasgow. Digby Jones, the CBI's director general, said: "Would we get one or two more global leaders coming if it was held in London? Yes."

But he insisted the conference would not move permanently to the capital, nor would it be scaled back to a one-day event like the annual convention of the Institute of Directors. The CBI has not yet chosen a venue for 2006, the final year of Mr Jones' tenure, although it is widely expected it will revert to Birmingham so he can receive a send-off in his home city.

Mr Jones said chief executives of FTSE 100 companies could not justify spending two days away from the office but they might be prepared to spend two or three hours at a location in London.

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