Outlook: New man at CBI

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The Independent Online
THE LATEST rider of industry's hobby horse was put on display yesterday. After three McKinsey men in a row, the Confederation of British Industry has changed jockeys and plumped for a lawyer cum-corporate financier as its next director general.

Digby Jones has taken a big pay cut to leave KPMG. He'll have to rub along on a measly pounds 250,000 while he is indulging in the CBI's favourite past-times - helping steer Britain into the euro and cutting a swathe through government red tape. He styles himself as the man who will represent all shapes and sizes of business, not just the big battalions of industry, while bringing a regional dimension into the metropolitan mentality of Centre Point.

Twenty years in the law and one year as vice-chairman with an accountancy firm may not be everyone's idea of the perfect CV for a job as the voice of British industry. But the CBI has long since abandoned the notion that it needed to be led by someone who had ever done anything as vulgar as run a proper business.

Mr Digby gave the game away by listing his ability to communicate as one of the two key attributes that attracted the headhunters all the way to the West Midlands for their man. But he does have some things going for him. First, he is not a politician (seemingly, the CBI switchboard was jammed with enquiries from Westminster). Second, he should last the five-year term, having demonstrated his stamina by cycling from John `O Groats to Lands End in aid of charity. But if Mr Jones is to make his mark and make the CBI relevant again, then he will have to convince Britain's new breed of young entrepreneurs that the organisation is relevant to them.