People at the CBI: Lessons in productivity

AMONG the bevy of Cabinet ministers appearing at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham, the first over the top was the defence secretary George Robertson.

Appearing at a 7.30am breakfast briefing, he happily admitted that he was acting as the "warm-up man" for the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who was scheduled to speak an hour later. "I am supposed to reduce you to tears so he can make you cheerful again," quipped the defence secretary.

Mr Brown, meanwhile, arrived with a mea culpa. His strictures on the productivity of British industry, or rather the lack of it, are well-known but yesterday he was in conciliatory mood.

Noting that the CBI was cramming five Cabinet ministers, three world leaders and 25 sessions into a conference lasting a day and a half, he confessed: "I am not here to lecture you on productivity but to take some lessons from you."

PETER MANDELSON did not flinch from tackling head on the hot subject of the moment - the BBC's self- imposed ban on references to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's private life.

Mr Mandelson said he was delighted to see so many journalists at the CBI and in particular the correspondents of the BBC. He was sure they would report his every word without, of course, mentioning him by name.

Not content with laying into the dear old Beeb, Mr Mandelson then turned his merciless gaze to the Stock Exchange where, according to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, there is "an enormous amount of self- satisfaction".

Disregarding the obvious riposte about "pots" and "kettles", Mr Mandelson said that the Exchange "needs to take a good look at itself".

He went on to recount a story of how he visited Nasdaq, the high-tech US stock exchange, and was surprised to find there was no link to London.

"I asked Nasdaq why no link-up existed," Mr Mandelson told the assembled business leaders, only to be told that the Exchange "was not very interested".

We all know why the BBC doesn't figure among Peter's Friends any more. But I wonder what the poor old folks at the Stock Exchange Tower have done to upset him so?

DR CARLOS MENEM, the Argentinian president, left CBI delegates wondering exactly what sort of medicine he practised.

Addressing the pre-conference dinner on Sunday night he explained that it had been necessary to carry out "major surgery with no anaesthetic" on the Argentine economy when he came to power in 1989.

"Even though the pain was terrible, we had to operate," he said. So with Latin America in financial turmoil, who else might be in need for some Menem-style medical attention, enquired the CBI's director general, Adair Turner, with a tremble in his voice. "Brazil and Mexico" for starters, came the swift reply.

Ouch. Stand by your beds, this is going to hurt.

SPEAKING of medical matters, the inventors of the Pfizer Riser, otherwise known as Viagra, were up in Birmingham to brief journalists on the pill that does wonders for your prowess.

And what was the venue? The Swallow Hotel, of course.

DELEGATES in Birmingham have discovered an exciting new parlour game - counting the number of plugs for McKinsey every time a Cabinet minister speaks.

George Robertson managed no less than two glowing references to the ubiquitous management consultants, while Peter Mandelson paid homage to them once.

Can they really be that good, or it is something to do with the fact that the CBI's Adair Turner was once a McKinsey man himself? Perish the thought...

ONE MAN whose number one priority is to make UK business more competitive is Sir Anthony Cleaver, who was yesterday appointed president-elect of the Institute of Management (IM).

Sir Anthony is chairman of AEA Technology, and amongmany other roles chaired the Royal Society of Arts Inquiry into "Tomorrow's Company".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory