09/09/2014 13:55 BST | Updated 09/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Business Bosses Agree We're Better Together

"It was business wot won it!" That was David Cameron's message last night at the Business Leaders' Reception at Number 10, although they may not have been the exact words used by the Prime Minister. He did however make it clear that when he moved into Downing Street four years ago, the entire place, and I mean the country, not the residence, were in pretty bad shape. And there was no money to fix it.

The Government trusted the private sector to come up with the goods and with our backs against the economic wall, and no place to go but the International Monetary Fund, the businesses of the UK (all of it) got down to putting in the framework for refilling the exchequer.

Crucially we didn't end up going cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank or anyone else, and now we're out the other side, stronger some might say than even those who went into 2008 looking down on us in disgust.

Of course Scotland was high on the agenda, and the PM asked us to do everything we can over the coming days to keep the union together. He's right - even as a Londonder born and bred I can see that a Scottish exit will take the 'great' out of Great Britain. We genuinely are better together - and for the first time ever the PM, Chancellor, Miliband, Clegg and yours truly - are all drinking from the same teapot on this one. We've just managed to work our economy back into a reasonable state, what possible good can come of ripping it apart again?


It was a great turn out with Duncan Bannatyne, Jacqueline Gold, John Griffin and many others from the business world. I also managed a word with Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock, who in the last year has done so much great work on the youth unemployment issue. I also managed to bend the PM's ear back on a few things, and had a good talk about apprenticeships with the Chancellor.

I've learned that politics is like business in at least once aspect and that's that it takes time and perseverance to get anything worth doing done. And that's definitely the case for our dream of a fully funded national aprenticeship scheme.

I'll say it again. Give all firms an NIC Holiday for apprentices for three years. Pay the employer the Job Seekers Allowance and turn it into a Job Achiever's Allowance as way of offsetting the company's training costs, reducing unemployment in young people, and building a skilled workforce for the future.

But I'm not complaining, well not much anyhow, because we've come a long way towards it in the last five years since this government got voted in.

It ain't a done deal though, and that's why I'm still on at David Cameron and George Osborne every time I meet them, to get this done, and last night's Business Leaders' Reception at Downing Street was certainly no exception. It was great to see the PM again, and it's fantastic that businesses and the economy are still of utmost importance to him, even at this time when all sorts of atrocities are making headlines across the world. I made it clear just how important it is to get this type of scheme in place, and how it is the number one route to solving youth unemployment and plugging up the skills gap, that we are so acutely starting to feel as the economy picks up.

There's still plenty of work still to do which means we must get a Conservative Government elected in May next year, and before that keep the Union together - Better Together!