Suffolk: John McCarthy and Laura Kuenssberg top bill at IoD conference

FORMER Beirut hostage John McCarthy and ITV News business editor Laura Kuenssberg were among the speakers as the Suffolk branch of the Institute of Directors held its annual conference.

More than 80 business leaders from across the county attended the event, which was held at Woodhall Manor in Sutton, near Woodbridge.

Laura Kuenssberg questioned why politicians did not seek more ideas from business leaders about turning around the economy.

She suggested that Westminster could sometimes get too wrapped up in addressing changes to the public sector, and the “permanent” crisis in the eurozone, which risked a damaging gap opening up between Government and business.

“There can be a fixation with the public sector which can become an obstacle in dealing with business. Something like NHS reform can squeeze everything else out,” she said.

Stephen Drew, senior vice-principal at Passmores Academy in Harlow (“Mr Drew” in the Channel 4 series Educating Essex) spoke about the “Passmores Way” and the leadership in his school.

A relentless “no fail” approach, a culture of “give respect to get respect” and teaching young people to be independent were priorities, he said, as he urged business leaders to support local schools.

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Suffolk resident John McCarthy told his story of capture by Islamic Jihad terrorists in 1986 during civil war in the Lebanon. Over a five year period he was held blindfolded and chained, and was moved 13 times to different hide-aways, each time experiencing false hope that he would be released.

For much of this time, Mr McCarthy shared a cell with Irishman Brian Keenan and, despite coming from different backgrounds, he said they learned to understand each other’s perspectives and their friendship and laughter helped their survival.

Asked which of his survival lessons he’d like to share with business leaders, he said: “Find time for creativity and try to keep a perspective, especially when things are difficult.”

Paul Winter, chairman of IoD Suffolk and chief executive of Ipswich Building Society, said: “There was a buzz about the day and it was terrific that so many business leaders recognised the importance of taking time out to develop personally and to gain from the new ideas and opportunities to learn.”