10 Feb Trade delegation India chapter one
We were asked to arrive at 7.45am. The No 10 door is incredibly shiny! We leave coats and mobile phones in a hall behind the iconic door. We, the 106 delegates (or their representatives), assemble in a big room overlooking Horse Guard’s Parade at the back of Number 10. We are served mini-smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, delicious little triangular ham and cheese toasties and cocktail sausages. Yummy.
At about 8.30am we proceed into a large conference room to be briefed. The briefings are lead by Lord Green, Minister for Trade and Investment, who is the biggest cheese after the Prime Minister. I have spoken on platforms with Lord Green at UKTI events.
We get practical briefings from the UKTI team. Timings, flights, logistics. We hear from the Rt Hon Gregory Barker, Minister for State for Energy and Climate Change and Minister for Business Engagement with India. Wow, what a moniker! He says that after the Mumbai/Delhi visits he is going to Bangalore, if anybody wants to join him. I was going to Bangalore after Delhi, so I needed to let him know. (After all the briefings we break up and I try and find Greg. He’s scarpered. I tell Benno Hilton , the UKTI PR person that I’d like to be ‘in’ on anything in Bangalore that Greg might be getting up to. Benno tells me he knows Greg’s PA and he will let her know. This worked out really well for us, as I’ll share later…
Next we hear from Nick Baird, Chief Executive of UKTI. After him, we welcome the Prime Minister himself. He says this is the biggest trade delegation to India ever. He says that President Hollande of France was in India the week before, so we have got to be more impressive than the French! He takes questions and comments and gradually a fuller picture of the event and the key focus of the trip begins to emerge.
After the briefing I stay behind to chat to a UKTI organiser and then take the time to gaze out of a window at Horse Guard’s Parade. I then dawdle on the stairs, as there are pictures of all the UK Prime Ministers on the wall. When I get to the hall behind the iconic front door a man says “Ah there you are. You are the last person from the India delegation to leave. The President of Nigeria is arriving in five minutes, so we need to get you out.”
I grab my coat and mobile phone. They open the door and I walk out on a red carpet laid out for me (or possibly it’s for the President of Nigeria)…