Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Let them eat chocolate… and give everyone a pay rise while you're at it


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Indy Politics

It’s not easy to trump top politicians – David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Balls, et al. But the man from Hotel Chocolat, virtuoso extraordinaire of the higher-brand development speak, managed it.

Britain had once led the world in all things chocolate, CEO Angus Thirlwell explained to the British Chambers of Commerce conference today. But then it went badly wrong, thanks to setbacks like “two world wars” and “progressive adulteration of chocolate recipes.” Now his company had “pressed the reset button on British perceptions of what chocolate could be.” It had created a “proposition where we brought back the emotional quality of chocolate… taking you in your mind to an exciting place… We were ahead of the curve, creating an interactivity around British chocolate.”

He then announced the company was reviving the hot chocolate drinking parlours – or “completely interactive social spaces” – that Samuel Pepys had apparently enjoyed before the hated cocoa tax converted them to coffee houses. And producing a range from gentle to “serious dark fundamentalist chocolates.”

Since the audience were by now salivating or retching, depending on taste, this was a hard act for Ed Balls to follow. He joked self-deprecatingly about his “Bill Somebody” moment on Newsnight. And he boldly warned that the Chambers’ idea of bring forward an EU referendum “only adds to the uncertainty and risk for British businesses.”

But it was an uphill struggle. For John Longworth, the Chambers’ Director General – can it be long before he becomes Sir John? – was clear that his members “fundamentally support” the PM’s “courageous” stance on Europe. He name-checked the BBC’s Economics Editor by dismissing the – in his view gloom-laden “disease of Pestonism”. And he raised the hackneyed to an art form. Young entrepreneurs were “going for it.” It was time to “craft a better destiny.” And if we all set out to fulfil George Osborne’s nice vague prophecy that Britain could be the world’s richest country by 2030 and didn’t quite make it, “What’s not to like?”

So a slightly leaner looking Cameron had it easy. So easy that he earned Neil Kinnock’s enduring wrath by perverting the former Labour leader’s 1983 trope “I warn you not to be ill, I warn you not to get old” with a litany of his own: “I warn you not to create wealth – because they’ll demonise you,” etc. And shamelessly poached a TUC slogan: “It’s time to give Britain a pay rise.” Cameron knows Prime Ministerial exhortations don’t raise private sector pay. Any more than he intends to lift the 1 per cent public sector wage limit. But there, he’d said it. You can take the PM out of the PR man – but not the PR man out of the PM.