By Paul Goodman
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With both Jeremy Hunt and Sayeeda Warsi under pressure, today's Times (£) reminds us that politicians can return as well as depart. Lord Young resigned some eighteen months ago as David Cameron's business adviser after saying people had "never had it so good" in this "so-called recession".
Yet mirabile dictu, up he pops in the paper's comment pages, with the proud legend below his article: "Lord Young of Graffham is enterprise adviser to the Prime Minister". For those of you who missed it, the man of whom Margaret Thatcher once said "David brings me solutions" was re-appointed last year. He writes:
"I am delighted that along with my report, which is published today, we are launching StartUp Loans to enable young people under 25 to start working for themselves. This will be closely modelled on the programme that has been run so successfully by the Prince’s Trust for decades. It will give every budding entrepreneur an introduction to a mentor who will work with him or her on a business plan and then go before a panel."
The report is the inquiry into small businesses that the Prime Minister originally asked Lord Young to undertake. He insists that "the real advantage of the [Startup Loans] scheme is exposure to a mentor and we have many thousands of ready, able and willing mentors just waiting for the call…My report is essentially a primer for all those who wish to start their own business."
Matthew Elliott has correctly said that the Government has been tardy at using appointments to shape the work of public bodies, but Mr Cameron hasn't been shy of drawing on the experience of the Thatcher era. Kenneth Baker has advised on schools policy. Michael Heseltine uses the Regional Growth Fund to dole out millions of pounds. And then there is Lord Young.
With the Financial Times and in some cases the Daily Telegraph, the Times is one of the few papers that will take pieces from Ministers and advisers fairly regularly. They will be frustrated that one of their main messages on Beecroft simply didn't register last week: that 17 of its 23 recommendations will be implemented, as Mark Prisk pointed out last week on this site.
Downing Street is mulling over new ways of communicating with voters directly, but in the meantime the oped pages are a trusted means when available. I would like to know a little more about how the mentor business will work, but Lord Young is anything but downcast about the grisly background to his announcement: "Ask any successful entrepreneur whether they would prefer to start at the bottom of a recession or at the top of a boom and they will tell you the bottom," he bracingly informs the Times's readers.