They say that you can tell you're getting older when policemen start looking younger. To that, you can add government junior ministers. With his pudding-basin haircut, Stephen Timms cuts a boyish dash, but he speaks well. He was addressing the first conference of Corporate Community Investment (CCI) practitioners, hosted by the Charities Aid Foundation.
Here was yet another ministerial speech written, it seemed, by a civil servant, yet Timms breathed life into it with passion and pace. There were examples, too: the BUPA Challenges, where staff work on community projects, have done wonders for staff morale; and community involvement can pay real dividends. Timms cited National Grid Transco, which is solving its shortage of gas engineers with a project to train felons in Reading jail so that they can come straight out to a job.
It was a 17-minute tour de force, with the audience warming to Timms' assertion that they didn't want to make CSR a matter of company law and compliance but instead to encourage it through light regulation. No doubt some wondered whether they might have been in the presence of a Tory minister.
One final note to the organisers: CCI practitioners as evidenced by the 200-strong audience were mostly women, yet Timms was the sixth in a string of male speakers. It wasn't until the wrap-up session that any women were seen on the main platform.
Key moment: Accenture high-flying management consultants volunteer to work on half-pay for six months to apply their skills to charitable organisations.
Key lesson: You can bring a prepared text to life by injecting pauses and pacing.
Silver tongue or foot in mouth?: Silver Tongue.