Why Blair is making commercial sense

On Tuesday night about 30 chairmen and chief executives from Britain's top 100 companies will sit down to break bread and chew the fat with Tony Blair and some of his colleagues from the Labour Party. It is the latest in a series of meetings which senior party figures have held with the business community over the last few months.

This is more than some pre-election prawn cocktail offensive. It is a genuine attempt to put in place a dialogue which will provide the foundation on which a working relationship can be built should Labour form the next government.

The key themes emerging from these meetings are intriguing. Leaving aside company and industry specific issues, such as the unpopular windfall tax, the questions of Europe and training are most vexing our captains of industry.

On Europe the question is not whether we should sign up for monetary union; it is much more will we still be in Europe at all? There is little doubt that while the business community is equivocal over EMU it is committed to membership of Europe. There are fears that Tory divisions over EMU may ultimately lead to pressure for complete withdrawal. That is a big worry for British business, which is far more international in outlook than British politicians.

Indeed, it is that international perspective which has ensured that the rapport between Blair and his business guests has been more than cordial. An outlook which looks always beyond the domestic market, because that is where the competition is, is bound to be more accommodating and interested than one which is shackled by national borders.

Hence the second theme which has emerged. There is great concern among industrialists about skill shortages and the deficiencies of the training and education infrastructure. This is not a new concern, but clearly the business community has found in Mr Blair a more sympathetic listener than the incumbents within whose gift it is to make improvements.

It is of course easier to listen than to act. The real test of the value of this dialogue between Blair and the businessmen is its durability if Labour is elected.

And one for yourself

Inntrepreneur's announcement on Friday of a new package of discounts, benefits and services for its pub tenants may appear, superficially, to be a cosmetic marketing exercise. In reality it is a quite profound move which could have dramatic repercussions for pub retailing.

In essence, the Inntrepreneur move undermines the horizontal tie which has crept in to replace the old discredited vertical tie. It was the break- up of the vertical tie that allowed the brewers to push their beer into their own pubs by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which was the catalyst for the radical restructuring of the brewing industry.

That restructuring has seen the emergence of powerful pub retailing groups and allowed the likes of Ushers of Trowbridge, which comes to market shortly, to carve a niche for themselves as regional brewers. The pub retailing market has become highly competitive.

Inntrepreneur's innovation changes the basis on which pub tenants operate at a stroke. Tenants in the Inntrepreneur stable will be given a new financial flexibility which will allow them to compete much more effectively with their local competitors. It is up to the tenants to decide how to allocate the discounts they will receive. There is a fair chance that most tenants will pass this on to customers by way of price reductions and investment in the premises. Lower prices and more pleasant pubs mean more customers.

The move must, therefore, be seen as an inspired marketing investment by Inntrepreneur. Not only does it allow its tenants to compete, it also allows Inntrepreneur to compete for tenants. There is always demand for good tenants and if the Inntrepreneur package is more attractive than those offered by other retailers it will begin to cream off the best of the talent.

In the face of such improvements other retailers will have to respond. The pressure will not come slowly from the market but immediately from their tenants who will be envious of the new deal which is being offered to Inntrepreneur tenants.

The losers will be those retailers, in whatever shape or form, who have tended to hog the profit margin they have made on beer sales for themselves. If their tenants are pleading for cheaper prices, who will take the hit? It is unlikely to be the tenants. Particularly vulnerable are those highly leveraged companies which need the cash from their beer margins to finance their debt burden. Whether Ushers will be affected remains to be seen but it is a question those considering an investment should ask.

Market backs the mouse

REPORTS of the demise of Euro Disney in the wake of the departure of chairman Philippe Bourguignon to salvage Club Mediterranee are, to coin a phrase, exaggerated. Anyone prepared to listen to Nigel Reed, well known Disneyland Paris doomster at Paribas Capital Markets, could hear him talking gleefully of the disaster for Euro Disney. Meanwhile, the markets were taking a rather more considered view. Euro Disney's shares remained unchanged at 110p.

The markets recognised that this was a story about Club Med rather than Euro Disney. Bourguignon, who did an excellent job reviving the fortunes of Disneyland Paris, is now being called on to perform a similar task at Club Med, which on Friday reported a 743m franc (pounds 83.4m) loss against an F168.6m profit a year earlier. Now that is disastrous.

Bourguignon leaves Euro Disney in good shape. His departure means elevation for Gilles Pelisson just a little sooner than had been anticipated. He was being groomed for the job, so the transition under this extremely well-respected and talented executive will be smooth.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor