So the countdown is firmly underway; but unfortunately this one doesn’t include an advent calendar or any nice surprises at the end. Or even a man with a beard. I’m talking of course about the Pre Budget Report. The midnight oil may be burning at HM Treasury as they try to work out how to plug the yawning deficit, but they’ve still found the time to send out the invites to their annual drinks do. With prudence being replaced by the race for growth, are we in for a better class of nibbles?
I’ve covered Budgets as a government number cruncher, a city economist and a financial broadcaster – and whichever point of view you take, this one will be unprecedented. But they all have their own challenges.
The first time I fronted coverage with David Dimbleby, I was preparing to do a complicated (backwards) walk and talk around a Liverpool factory floor live on camera, culminating with vaulting on a workbench to get reaction from business owners. I got ready to start from the front of a machine used to test drugs, from which dangled a pair of latex gloves. As I quaked 30 seconds before we go to air, the voice of the great man boomed in my ear “Hello Dharshini – why are you standing in front of a pair of giant condoms……?” I made it on to the work bench. But only just.
It’s bush tucker trial time (I’m told) for a bunch of triple-z-rated celebs in the Pacific. But my vote for toughest challenge in the urban jungle has to go to Sir David Walker, the author of the report into city governance, who I spoke to last week. I was curious how he treaded that wobbly tightrope between keeping the City in pole position and sating those baying for banker blood. Not an easy task, he agreed. Many said the Square Mile got off lightly. But some City folk I spoke to labelled it “guff” and “just an excuse for Joe Public to whinge about exactly how many of us earn over a million”. Sometimes you just can’t keep anyone happy.
Cyber Monday this week, the kick off of the pre-Christmas online shopping season. (Who are these super-organised people?) But if you’re looking for something different, how about the rock memorabilia from the likes of Snow Patrol and David Byrne (pictured) being auctioned off online by the charity Mines Action Group this week? It reminded me of the time I interviewed the former Talking Heads front man in New York about digital music rights a couple of years ago. Not only did he agree to speak fresh off a transatlantic flight but he cycled across town (in midtown Manhattan??) and parked his bike outside the studio while he popped in and waited patiently to go on air. All because he thought it an important topic. And without the slightest hint of an entourage. A true gent. Mariah take note.
It was the CBI annual conference last week – but not as we used to know it. Gone was the sterile Birmingham conference centre of old, when the highlight was navigating the Bullring and bickering over that evening’s curry house of choice, usually during the speech of some junior minister. Instead, it was three courses and a divine crème brulee in one of Mayfair’s finest – washed down with not one but three party leaders. All accompanied by an impressive media attendance, jostling for camera space like one big dysfunctional family. So what did the great and good of UK PLC make of it? More than one chief executive was spied using the “main event of the day” as en excuse to nip out and catch up on phone calls. One muttered “whoever this beauty contest is aimed at, it isn’t us”. The “voice of business” speaks.
I’ve returned to financial journalism after an 18 months spell on the dark side – that is PR for the country’s biggest retailer. From check out to camera. And from the juggernaut taking over our high streets to… the juggernaut winning the battle in our living rooms. With financial news thrown into the spotlight, there’s never been a better time to be back. In case I feel homesick the Sky News Centre has a birds eye view of the neighbouring Tesco.
Dharshini David is a Sky News Business Correspondent. Sky News’ live Pre-budget Report coverage next Wednesday (9 December) will include the Chancellor’s Speech at 12.30. Dharshini will be joining Dermot Murnaghan, Adam Boulton and Anna Jones to crunch the numbers and explain how voters will be affected.
• Victoria Bates is away