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The Grouch – 28/10/10

Drama over MP’s expenses; stress levels increase at Ear to the Ground and bright young things put to the test

Published on October 28th 2010.


The Grouch – 28/10/10

MP cashes in on expense claim row
Former High Peak MP Tom Levitt was one of the many politicians to make headlines over his expense claims – a new bathroom, a hairdryer and a wreath were among the items on his particular list.

Most of the country’s MPs had to eat a big slice of humble pie following the media furore and be photographed handing over cheques to pay for things the taxpayer had stumped up for on their behalf.

Levitt, however, has spotted another opportunity to cash in. He’s written a play, Making Allowances, which runs for two nights in November. It covers...MPs expenses, and he’s selling tickets for £10 a pop.

The play ‘captures the concerns of the hundreds of MPs who were caught up in that frantic six month scandal of expenses,’ according to the blurb.

‘Making Allowances simply says that these were people too, with human emotions and human weaknesses. From the pen of someone who was right at the heart of it...Tom is turning his hand to writing and performing to tell a story based on his real life experience, which started with the media “conniving with criminals”.’

Something tells me public sympathy might be hard to come by, although I’m sure he’ll sell plenty of tickets in the Commons bar.

Ear to the Ground director takes time to chill out
Manchester-based live communications agency Ear to the Ground is keeping itself busy – if it’s not lining up gigs for MySpace, loading in and out at the Warehouse Project every weekend or fitting out office buildings with massage chairs, the firm is invariably doing something over at Man City for Umbro.

Last weekend saw them help put on the Malcolm Allison Fan Memorial before the Arsenal game. The event reached a global audience through Sky Sports and the BBC and, more importantly, this column.

And it’s a hard life for Jon Drape, live director at the firm. Here he is enjoying a massage at the recent launch of The Hive. Three at once? The Grouch is sure there’s a name for that in certain massage establishments.

The youth of today
Future pro.manchester – the next generation of the city’s bright sparks - launched its 2011 Professional Innovator Challenge this week. The initiative is aimed at recognising innovative flair in rising stars from the financial and professional services community. Ideas have to be pitched to a panel of expert judges and shortlisted finalists face an interview that will be tougher than the underside of Sir Alan Sugar’s feet in winter.

The Challenge is open to members under the age of 35 and students from MMU Business School, so if you’ve got the next big idea, you should probably get involved.The launch took place at Epernay Champagne Bar – always good to get the next wave of corporate bigwigs ingrained in the ways of the Manchester networking scene – and The Grouch was discussing Peel’s short-lived but surprising bid to become a Local Enterprise Partnership with one senior city business leader.

“I bet it caused a few raised heart rates inside the Town Hall,” he mused. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the submission was a one-sided sheet of paper faxed over to BIS at 5.59pm on deadline day, with the words ‘WE’RE IN!’ scribbled on them.”

Ashcroft and animal cruelty
The annual Pro Manchester lunch took place the following day, with Sir Howard Bernstein taking up his usual guest speaker spot.

But Pro Manchester chief executive John Ashcroft provided some lighter moments too, talking about the new strategy to attract investment to Manchester by making it attractive to entrepreneurs.

“In American cities like San Francisco they have ‘connect’ schemes where they talk about the two G’s – attracting Gazelles of Growth. We want the four G’s – we want to create the Grazing Ground for the Gazelles of Growth. When we get them here, we can club them to death to our hearts content.”

Appealing. Don’t all rush in at once.

Swiss roll out
Swiss International Airlines is reopening routes from Manchester to Geneva this winter and has increased its capacity through Manchester by more than a quarter. The Grouch met up with the firm’s management team on a visit to Manchester this week, where they were keen to push Switzerland as a leisure destination – ski trips, etc – as well as a traditional business route.

“There are plenty of ski instructors around that are happy to show you the ropes,” said one of the marketing team, clicking her Powerpoint button to reveal a half-naked muscular man called Tony, posing on the slopes in salopettes and a smile .

The entire media table was made up of men although it still raised an eyebrow. “Looks good,” said one of the older hacks. “I’m not taking my top off in that weather though.”

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Eddy RheadOctober 29th 2010.

Glad to see than Jon Drape is the a live director of Ear To The Ground. Im sure his family and friends will be most relieved.

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