Cutting room: Kerbside insights on Gordon Brown's big spend, how the French mean business, and why, for Tony Blair, there is nothing like a Dane ... Evan Davis at large

Cutting room: Kerbside insights on Gordon Brown's big spend, how the French mean business, and why, for Tony Blair, there is nothing like a Dane ... Evan Davis at large - One of the mildly depressing things about being a television journalist is that, alt

by JULIAN ANDERSON
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

One of the mildly depressing things about being a television journalist is that, although lots of people profess to have seen you on the box, few can remember anything you have said. When you are invited to appear, don't spend too long crafting the company line, as the only durable legacy of your appearance will be a number of acquaintances saying: 'Didn't I see you on the telly recently?' Unless, of course, you make the most horrendous gaffe, in which case everybody will remember exactly what you said, and it will be little consolation that you will frequently be invited to appear again.

I am fully aware of this. Yet I was distressed recently to find the most positive reaction to anything I have done on Newsnight in the past year was for a little series of appearances in the run-up to the Chancellor's big July spending review. As a kind of surreal presentational gimmick, I was stationed at a desk - replete with telephone, desk lamp and papers - on a pavement outside the Treasury.

'Loved the desk,' friends have been saying.

'And what about my interpretation of the Chancellor's capital spending plans?' I reply, only to confront a bemused expression, or one of complete indifference.

But the real purpose of this story is to report a small detail of life inside the Treasury, Britain's most formidable Department of State. The 'desk on the pavement' gag was adopted only after a Treasury press officer turned down our request to film inside the Chancellor's office. The reason given was that the Chancellor doesn't really have an office at the moment, and is instead camping in what was a secretary's room. It is all, apparently, to accommodate the Treasury's renovation programme.

Perhaps we should have told this to the viewers, as it clearly speaks volumes of the Chancellor's commitment to capital spending, far more than any on-street desk performance art.

Talking of TV, I hope Peter Jay's ambitious series The Road to Riches is repeated soon, as I missed a couple and I am quite a fan. I'm glad the producers prevented Peter from calling it The Wealth of Man, because that would have distracted everybody from the merits of the series in a petty argument about the role of women in the economic development of the species.

Suddenly everyone is talking about France - including MT (see page 60).

There's nothing like the upswing of the economic cycle and a couple of successes of the national soccer team to restore confidence in a nation's psyche.

But French business seems to be on the ascendancy too. Could it be that French executives have learned a thing or two from their Anglo-Saxon rivals in the past decade? I have just spent a few days in Paris talking to senior French executives (most of the French companies we visited were within about 200 metres of the Arc de Triomphe). My impression, albeit anecdotal: they are of extremely enviable calibre; they do not need lessons on how to create value for shareholders; and they are as invigorated by takeovers and mergers as the British.

Among those I met was Maurice Levy, whose company, Publicis, has just bought Saatchi & Saatchi. We filmed him on one side of the expansive roof terrace of the Publicis HQ, while over on the other side a far more professional model shoot was in progress. Levy was impressively undistracted.

Would he ever be seeking the Tory party account for Saatchi & Saatchi again, I asked? He said he didn't think it was the job of the advertising men to make up for the failings of politicians. Perhaps that's because if France has problems with its competitiveness, they stem more from the politicians than from the companies.

Am I the only person in the world who thinks the Danish euro referendum on 28 September is going to be the most important vote for the British this year? If the Danes vote against joining, Tony Blair may draw important conclusions about how difficult it is to turn public opinion in favour of the euro in a successful economy on the periphery of the continent.

Don't forget, it was the Danes who set the eurosceptic cat among the Conservative pigeons between 1992 and 1997 by voting no to the Maastricht Treaty. It's no exaggeration to say that Denmark (population 3.5 million of working age) might determine whether we Brits vote on the euro before or after, say, the World Cup in Germany, 2006. All in all, in spite of the attention we lavish on the US election process, it is the Danes who seem to be holding a primary of real consequence for us.

Evan Davis is the economics editor of BBC2's Newsnight.

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