David Cameron has no plan B for the British economy, but he does have a plan C: the comedian Roy 'Chubby’ Brown.
The prime minister revealed his unlikely new strategy muse at last week’s Two Cities Luncheon, the Tory fundraiser hosted by Hargreave Hale’s Patrick Evershed, where he entertained his City grandee supporters with one of the comic’s lewder jokes.
“Chubby, I hear a rumour that you are fantastically good in bed,” opened Cameron, before delivering Chubby’s punchline: “Yes, I know, I started it.” There was a serious economic analogy, of course.
Cameron, who had spent the morning visiting "Britain’s biggest offshore windfarm" in the Thames Estuary, before being helicoptered to London’s £1bn Nine Elms development to watch the shovels breaking ground, meant that the Tories must shout about their fiscal achievements more loudly if they are to win the next election.
Mark Carney’s full schedule as he got stuck into the Bank of England governor job last week left no time for a catch-up with David Cameron.
But the pair met earlier this year, Cameron told Dashwood, when they enjoyed a “long chat”. “I am very excited about Mark starting,” said the PM. “He has the right skill-set, from his time both in the public and the private sectors.”
= Style-guide power struggles at the G8 =
Spare a thought for our prime minister, who has been having some “difficult days and months” recently.
One particularly “tough” assignment, Cameron joked at two official engagements last week, was last month’s trip to the G8 summit, where never mind negotiating the EU-US trade deal his biggest challenge was wrestling sartorial control from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“It was difficult to get the dress code right,” said Cameron, who was ticked off by City observers for not wearing a tie.
“President Putin wanted it to be bare-chested, on horseback,” added the PM, referring to the Russian leader’s infamous shirtless equestrian holiday snap (below).
“But I went for smart casual, which is more my thing.”
But then Prudential boss Tidjane Thiam, who last year turned down an approach to run the World Bank’s private sector arm, despite a plea from Barack Obama’s chief of staff, is not your average chief executive.
The pair’s special relationship was back on display at last week’s Business Leaders Forum in Tanzania, where Obama singled out Thiam in his speech about rising demand for new products from African consumers.
Overlooking the other 20 business leaders in the audience, including Standard Chartered chief Peter Sands, Obama said the economic growth creates “opportunities for manufacturers, or telecoms companies, or insurers”. “Tidjane, he always wants me to talk about insurance,” name-checked the president.
Thiam in the White House? Perhaps only a matter of time.
Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood’s gloomy forecast last week that economic recovery could take 20 years was only “slightly pessimistic”, according to Mark Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster.
The former businessman, who retains a “special interest” in economic matters, told Dashwood that “at least” 10 more years of pain lie ahead.
“The politicians have got to level with the public that it is going to be a long and sustained recovery,” he said.
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