No Minister – you don't "listen" by leaving your own lunch

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Lord Davies of Abersoch, Minister of State for Trade & Investment is an ex-banker. That was one of his opening lines to a crowd of about 150 business people at a UK Trade and Investment lunch today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. You would expect then that cutting and running – like a few bankers we could mention – would not be a great move from a Minister three weeks into the job. He declared that “he was here to listen” and get answers about the mobile business – even going to the lengths of asking everyone to email him their suggestions for how UKTI can help British businesses and how it can deliver better services.

He asked the panel several reasonable questions. What will aging consumers want from mobiles? What will happen to payments and to the banking industry with mobile? He is also wondering about auto-translation of messaging. And should the very young be on mobiles? How do developing countries use mobiles to develop trade? All good questions. Perhaps in a global recession, three weeks into a job designed to help British business, the Minister concerned would hang around for the answers.

Unfortunately he left before the panel discussion had had a chance to answer his points.

I checked with the UKTI and a spokesman said “It was a bit unfortunate he had to leave and he should have said why he was leaving, which was actually in his written speech but which he didn’t manage to mention at the end. We are trying to cram his diary to get him to as many events as possible at MWC and he had to rush off to give out an award. If there’s a question you want to put we can get an answer to that next week. He’s quite keen to learn about the industry.”

UPDATE, late 2009:: Since this event we’re happy to point out that Lord Davies has done a much better job after this somewhat false start.

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