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Crisis will dominate rest of Parliament

Downing Street is focussed on a chilling thought – the economic crisis will dominate David Cameron’s Premiership until the general election and beyond.

Number 10 officials have feared for some time the writing was on the wall.

But now Downing Street brains are studying how the Prime Minister should govern in a world where all is dominated by the economic gloom.

It is too early to say whether or not this will mean new structures and bodies being put in place as number 10 goes on an economic “war footing”.

Priorities may change as events unfold.

Options are being considered as key figures realise the next three and a half years before polling day – and beyond – will almost certainly be about domestic, EU and global financial mayhem.

The PM today visited the high tech McLaren factory near Woking, Surrey.

There, he was met by Ron Dennis, the brains behind one of Britain’s greatest engineering stories.

But he was shocked to learn that 50% of the cream of our home-grown engineering graduates go straight into investment banking in search of the big bucks.

I’m not surprised.

More than half of the 20-year-old undergraduates I met at the Oxford Union earlier this year had already been signed up to banks and investment houses on starting salaries of between £50,000 and £75,000 a year.

One was a brilliant scientist who’d been offered a research place at Oxford to find a new cure for cancer.

But he’d taken the money instead.

This is a brain drain we cannot afford, ministers believe.

Number 10 and education secretary Michael Gove are trying to find ways of making high value-added industries like high tech engineering Britain’s economic future.

There are big hopes that these could drive export sales and help rebalance the UK economy for the medium to long term.

After all, Britain is the country which gave the world the TV, the internet, the electric telephone and a string of other inventions.

“Why stop now?”, ministers are asking themselves.

As one ministerial aide told me: “It’s not about teaching IT in schools, it’s about teaching pupils to become tomorrow’s computer designers and inventors.”

We will see more of the PM making visits to factories, labs and places where our technologies can be showcased.

Labour’s Ed Miliband is also trying the same trick, desperate to regain ground he squandered by appearing to condemn large swathes of the business world in his ill-judged conference speech in September.

Mr Miliband is slowly turning his attention to law and order and immigration – two issues high on Labour voters’ list of concerns.

Senior Tory strategists believe Mr Cameron’s unshakable optimism is one of the key qualities needed at a time when gloom is dominating all.

It was this cheerful outlook which inspired his conference speech two years ago – promising to deliver Britain a new and sunnier landscape after a brutal mountain climb.

Mr Cameron could not have known the climb was going to take so long or be anything like as hard as it’s going to be.

Written By

George Pascoe-Watson