Do you mind me wearing jeans Lord M?

The Blog’s Chief Gas Correspondent, Ed Cox of ICIS Heren, has been fraternising with the aristocracy and pondering sartorial issues. He writes:


peter mandelson.jpgOne thing about working in the Central London office for ICIS Heren is that you can just pop out for a quick press conference at extremely short notice. So when an email popped into my Inbox yesterday revealing just such an event involving the former master of UK political spin, Peter Mandelson, I thought I would pop along and see what the fuss was about.


With the election looming the government is desperate to be seen promoting British industry so Labour was always going to jump on the back of news that one of the biggest offshore gas developments in years had been agreed. Mandelson and the Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy wanted to shake the hands of France‘s Total who will lead the bold project to source gas from the remote West of Shetland area and bring it to our onshore network.


So, I set off for Westminster, pen in hand with only rolled-up sleeves and an old pair of jeans for company. I liked to think I looked a proper journalist but clearly I came across as the schoolboy in the corner of the staffroom. Where all the staff are wearing suits and ties.

I was expecting a large scale event. The government also wanted to announce that steel maker Corus had won the tender to build the pipes to carry the gas. Indeed the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – it’s had many different faces over the years – was heaving and just what you would hope for from such a buidiing. Smart lifts, smart desks, trendy technology everywhere. Me in jeans of course.


The view was fantastic too, right over Westminster, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. But then I reached the press conference room. Just the six of us journalists then. We were outnumbered by Mandy and his industry chums. So close to such a great man. Say what you like about him but he has some presence. “Any questions?” he asked before saying “No, very well then” after one second and standing up to leave after a brief statement. I thought he might remember me as one of the audience back in Oxford when he gave a speech about the Millennium Dome. He didn’t seem to. Actually, I imagine he’s quite keen to forget that whole millennium thing altogether.


At least the Total guys were rather more forthcoming. It is a huge project and fair play to them for getting involved in one of the toughest, most complicated bits of infrastructure anywhere. And when it comes to British industry it’s great to know a French company can cooperate with a small island that doesn’t much like London and work with an Indian steelmaker to boost our security of supply.  

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