That’s right. Like the rest of the British public, Mandelson has a soft spot for veteran political journalist John Sergeant, whose recent shock departure from reality TV show Strictly Come Dancing has rocked the nation.
“I’ve been deep in discussions about how to save the best of British business and I’ll be resuming those talks straight after tonight’s event,” Mandelson told a crowd of entrepreneurs and business stars at Tuesday’s National Business Awards, held at Grosvenor House Hotel and sponsored by Orange.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to stick around and show off my John Sergeant-inspired dance moves,” he sighed, before adding: “Good samba moves are a pre-requisite in the BBC these days."
Addressing the dire economic situation, Mandelson said it’s time for “bold new thinking” within the government. “There’s no time to put this off. And for starters, we need to start putting an emphasis on real engineering, not financial engineering.”
Mandelson told the audience that he’s working with banks so that small businesses can continue to access the finance they need. “It’s not an easy job,” he admitted. “But I’ll continue with determination.”
He also reiterated the government’s pledge to cut red tape by 25 per cent by 2010, creating £3.5bn in savings. “I was surprised to learn we’re actually on target,” he joked.
The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform encouraged entrepreneurs to email him with their views, promising he’d “do his best” to convert ideas into reform – and ending his speech with a rousing, “Let the dancing begin!”
Checking the headlines today, it looks like John Sergeant’s "eviction" has prompted a petition signed by around 50,000 angry fans. You can bet Mandelson’s name will be on that list.