Wednesday 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher debate - Ed Miliband nearly made me cry

I watched some of the debate in the Houses of Parliament today. Some excellent speeches and I thought that Ed Miliband (see the full text of the speech here) set an example for his party and others by making a speech that landed a few punches (including one on David Cameron – read the speech) while still being respectful and dignified. 

I know that she was a divisive figure (everyone keeps harping on about it) but the time to gloat and celebrate and dance in the streets (if that’s the way you feel) was when she stepped down not when a frail old lady dies. I have been somewhat shocked by what some people that I know have put on facebook – too much rhetoric and not enough knowledge – some of them are too young to have lived through that time.

Everyone is trotting out their Thatcher anecdote – me too!  Anyone who knows me knows that I am rarely if ever lost for words – in fact shutting me up is usually the problem.

It was the biennial Red Cross Christmas Fair at the Mansion House in the City of London and I was at the opening night.  Margaret Thatcher was then PM and she was there as guest of honour but no speeches or any formalities.  I was standing at the Glovers stall buying a pair of leather gloves and looked up and she was standing next to me.  She was trying on a pair of red leather gloves and said to me “I do like a nice bright pair of gloves to brighten up a dark suit”.  I was so surprised that my response was rather like a fish gasping for breath – the mouth opened a couple of times but no sound came out and then she was gone. All the things I could have said......

(Thanks to my time at Breast Cancer Campaign I managed to meet all subsequent Prime Ministers, including the current one.  I was better prepared and delivered my elevator pitch before they were whisked away!)

Friday 5 April 2013

By popular demand.....

Some years ago one of our local councillors told me that when a politician says they have been inundated with letters from constituents on a subject it usually means they have received about five letters.  This may be too cynical a view but if I tell you that I have been more than inundated with requests to continue the blog you will know there have been more than five requests!

My blog has always had a theme – for some years it was the day job and then it was my year as Master of the Needlemakers’ Company. I don't have a theme at the moment so these will be slightly random (hopefully not too rambling) posts.  I don’t have a full-time day job any more and it would have been inappropriate to start writing about Needlemakers’ activities during the new Master’s first few months.  The City of London puts the immediate past Lord Mayor (referred to rather worryingly as the Late Lord Mayor) into “purdah” for six months so that the toes of the new Lord Mayor are not trodden on. So my “purdah” is now over .......

The Master of the Needlemakers is a maker of needles – well, amongst many other things.  Here is the link to his biography - George Borthwick.  He is having a fabulous year with much more to come. 

The Needlemakers had our Spring lunch this week on HQS Wellington (Spring – what Spring?  We watched the snowflakes fall as we had our drinks on deck.). The Wellington sailed the trade routes, protecting Britain and vital supplies along convoy routes during World War Two and is now moored at Temple Stairs and is the headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.  The lunch was excellent and, as at all our functions, the atmosphere convivial and a good time had by all.

Our very stimulating speaker was Chris Jones, Director General of the City and Guilds Institute. The Needlemakers Company was one of 16 Livery Companies that founded City & Guilds in 1878. They have been at the forefront of technical and vocational education ever since: from awarding their first certificates in 1879 in Cotton Manufacture to delivering online assessments in today’s electronic world. I have written about them before – see City and Guilds Coporate Responsibility Report.

This is very much in line with the Master’s theme of “back to basics” this year – our basics in industry.  There can hardly have been a more important time for this than now.  In recent years there has been much focus on university education and now the costs and the value are hotly debated.  Skills training has never received the same profile much to the disadvantage of thousands of young people and, of course, the industries that require these skills and are having to search abroad to fill their vacancies.  I hope that this is a turning point!

Watch this space for my rant on employability..........