It's not often that I attend conferences where I'm not due to speak, but something urged me to get along to the Chain Reaction event - all about international social leadership - yesterday at London's South Bank.
The attraction for me was a session entitled 'Can Entrepreneurs Change the World?' (to which the answer is of course 'YES WE CAN!') - but I was intrigued to know what the line up of Peter Jones, James Caan and Sir Richard Branson (albeit by video) amongst others made of the debate.
I often make the joke in my after-dinner speeches that Peter Jones rarely bothers to show up at enterprise events unless Gordon Brown is speaking - and true to form an unexpected bonus was the appearance on stage of our very own PM Gordon Brown.
And so we had them. Peter Jones swept in no doubt by his chauffeur driven Maybach to tell us that 'Scarcity is a real driver of innovation' and 'Am I the only one on the positivity bandwagon here?'; James Caan telling us that making money is brilliant because then you have lots to give away to charity like Bill Gates does; and then Sir Richard Branson beamed in via a pre-recorded satellite link where he was clearly sitting on the sun-drenched terrace of his holiday home on Necker Island, telling us how wonderful it is to encourage enterprise.
Finally Gordon Brown joined the debate, who reminded me of a Finance Director I used to have who arrived at every Board Meeting looking a bit shabby and crumpled, so busy scribbling notes on to a bit of a paper during the debate that he didn't really seem to be paying attention to much of what was going on, whose every bit of body language seemed to scream 'No you can't!', only to get up and tell us with as much gusto as he could muster that the UK economy was due to double in the next 20 years and that NOW REALLY IS a great time to be in business.
Meanwhile, back over here in the real world, before I set off for London yesterday morning I opened three emails all about entrepreneurs absolutely on the knife edge brink of bankruptcy, about to lose their homes, and in desperate need of my help (or anybody's help for that matter) while meantime at the weekend my own husband received a letter from his company stating that one person in his team of three at work would be made redundant this week, as a result of the tightening economy. By the way, I don't have an army of PAs handling all my correspondence, plus I go and talk to entrepreneurs around the country at business events every week, so I really do feel that I am at the sharp end of what is really going on.
Maybe I should reassure all of these people that, not to worry, in 20 years' time everything will be OK?
The only speaker who really captured the imagination of the audience yesterday was the fabulous Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, who spoke with passion about the ability of business to deliver so much more than the constricted City-lead profit expectation of big corporates, whose CSR initiatives are nothing more than a few marketing frills to attract extra shoppers. In other words the current system of capitalism and 'much to few' isn't working - not for business, not for individuals and certainly not for the environment. He would be my vote for PM (or at minimum Minister for Business) any day.
It was a great event and I'm glad I went but all of this left me a bit angry.
Real businesses currently on a knife edge don't need this patronising happy clappy rhetoric from those living in a fur lined sunshine bubble any more.
Firstly we need an urgent law which will suspend the ability of any UK citizen to lose their home until the economy has recovered. And we also need an emergency fund which can intervene to help struggling businesses re-finance in the short term as well as give them advice to help them to restructure and adapt their businesses to get back towards profitability in the long term.
And if I were involved in 'restructuring the global financial architecture' I would start with the premise that capitalism as we knew it cannot be the basis for generating future prosperity for our planet and its people.