Diary - Digby Jones

A sprint to London to talks at No 10, then a banquet in honour of the Chinese president's visit to t

Having survived the London Marathon this year, I feel I have earned my sporting stripes as I walk through the doors of Nike's UK headquarters in Sunderland on a north-east visit. Discussions with the new general manager inevitably turn to globalisation and tensions within the EU over imports from developing economies such as China. There is little new in the world - a century ago Churchill jumped ship from the Conservative Party (temporarily, as it turned out) over its moves towards protectionism. But as a continent we will be the losers if we try to hold back the tide of international trade. And it's good to be a Brit in this debate - we are the free-traders of the world. The west's economic future will be secured by producing goods and services where value is added through innovation and expertise - export successes such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce and BMW's Mini. The British consumer has rightly grown accustomed to the great-value choices that are commonplace in our supermarkets and high streets, and will not thank EU governments for halting the flow.

Crack of dawn at Newcastle airport for a quick sprint to London and on to No 10. Amid the gathering gloom as the scale of the Labour rebellion on the anti-terror laws emerges, I am there with a team of CBI member companies to talk about energy and the risk of gas and electricity shortages for manufacturers this winter. Energy is the lifeblood of this country, yet with North Sea production diminishing and insufficient storage capacity due to planning delays, combined with an amber alert from the Met Office of a colder-than-average winter, some big factories could be forced to send people home for days at a time. The wide cross-section of trade groups and companies at the meeting gives the lie to suggestions that business is scaremongering on this issue. Our concerns have certainly registered with senior officials in Downing Street, but why do we have to be at five-to-midnight before we see concerted action?

When your mind is bent on beating the competition, what better than a banquet to mark the Chinese president's visit to the UK? Protesters outside shouting "Shame on you" as Princess Michael of Kent talks to President Hu Jintao rather miss the point. The greatest opportunity to open up new freedoms for the Chinese people is through free countries like ours engaging and trading with this rapidly growing economy. That is how the benefits of democratic capitalism will spread.

Flying to Scotland - must be Thursday. I'm meeting two great business success stories, Standard Life and Kwik-Fit, then speaking at a couple of conferences on education and transport. I must thump the table once too often about the importance of transport, as on Friday morning the man upstairs starts having fun with some high winds. My flight departure is looking extremely dodgy, so I hotfoot it to Glasgow station and just catch the next train to Birmingham. I travel in comfort and on time back "home" for one of the best events of the week - speaking at the farewell reception for our outgoing Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu. What a proud moment as he heads off to be Britain's first ever black archbishop. He leaves behind some wonderful memories.

Another Rugby Union victory over Australia - a welcome reminder of our incredible World Cup victory in 2003. With a smile, I recall sitting next to the Australian PM, John Howard, at a dinner in Canberra this summer and giving him running updates on the score in the latest Ashes Test. Text messages from the office keep you in touch anywhere in the world - especially when the issue is of such global importance as beating the Australians (again) at cricket.

More good news. David Davis's office confirms that he will speak at our annual conference at Islington's Business Design Centre on 28 November. The line-up now has the full complement of leadership hopefuls - Davis, Cameron and, of course, Gordon Brown.

Appointed editor of the FT - no, it has nothing to do with the departure of the editor Andrew Gowers, last week's NS diarist, who will be much missed by the business community. Rather, I have been invited to edit FT.com for the day, a wheeze to kick off Enterprise Week, which aims to spotlight to young people the enormous benefits of taking risks and being entrepreneurial in life. I produce a fantastic front page. Next stop: editor of the New Statesman?

Digby Jones is director general of the CBI

Next Article