Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Yes, the Economy Is Important - but So Is the 4.10 Race at Cheltenham; Business Editor GRAEME WHITFIELD on How the North East's Business Community Caught Up on the Chancellor's Announcements in Their Own Sweet Time

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Yes, the Economy Is Important - but So Is the 4.10 Race at Cheltenham; Business Editor GRAEME WHITFIELD on How the North East's Business Community Caught Up on the Chancellor's Announcements in Their Own Sweet Time

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAEME WHITFIELD

IF a room of business leaders are not bothered about what's in the Budget, it might be reasonable to ask who is.

The North East Chamber of Commerce's President's Club is a gathering of some of the region's most important movers and shakers, which meets three times a year to discuss the state of the business world.

So when its spring meeting coincided with Budget Day, it was agreed that George Osborne's speech would be relayed to the lunch on big screens before a discussion of what the measures announced mean to the North East.

It was an excellent plan - only falling down because it turned out people were not massively bothered. As the captains of industry tucked into their leg of lamb served with minted new potatoes and confit of red cabbage, chatter on each table turned to pretty much anything except the Chancellor's annual address: the EU referendum, devolution, who people fancied for the 4.10 at Cheltenham.

On the big screens, Mr Osborne took to his feet but the chatter continued. Chamber chief executive James Ramsbotham told the room that the Chancellor was about to set out the course for the economy for the next 12 months, but still the chatter continued. Someone turned up the volume to make it easier to hear Mr Osborne, at which point the chatter got louder.

The Budget coverage being relayed to the lunch included a sign language interpreter in the corner of the screen, but it didn't appear to help. A few people tried to follow internet updates on the Budget on their mobiles, but generally people caught up with friends and talked about who was likely to win this weekend's Newcastle-Sunderland derby.

It was left to Mr Ramsbotham to gamely listen in to the best of his abilities and then - following a pudding of a white chocolate and raspberry torte served with a chocolate orange sauce: delicious - to present highlights to the assembled moguls. …

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