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".

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Audit Manager Central Functions

To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

Credit Risk Audit Manager

Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week