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Mr Javid goes to Brussels

Last week was probably not a good one for Sajid Javid’s ego.

Having been labelled a clown by Middlesbrough Football Club chairman Steve Gibson, the business secretary was then called “discourteous and incompetent” by that great arbiter of modern etiquette, John Bercow.

All of this was because of Mr Javid’s handling - or, as his many critics would say, lack of handling - of the crisis that threatens the future of up to one in five of this country’s 30,000 steelworkers.

But today, all that could change. Today, Mr Javid was hoping to ditch the red nose in favour of shining armour as he Eurostarred it over to Brussels to take on the bureaucratic might of the European Commission.

At stake is a government support package to provide relief from escalating fuel costs for steel producers forced to pay European green energy levies.

As long as the measure is not found to breach EU state aid rules, Mr Javid can come back to Westminster claiming to be the industry’s white knight.

The frontbencher is, after all, part of a government claiming to be doing everything it can to help our steel producers and the communities that have been crippled by the sudden amputation of their leading sources of employment.

But is that true?

As steelworkers marched on parliament today to demand action, Unite general secretary Tony Burke said it was dealing with the symptoms rather than the  causes of the current crisis.

And yesterday, answering questions from MPs at a select committee hearing, UK Steel director Gareth Stace expressed his bewilderment as to why Mr Javid’s rescue mission to Belgium had not come sooner.

“You’ll need to ask the minister himself,” Mr Stace said, eyebrows suitably arched, when asked why the talks had been sought months ago, when the first stirrings of trouble were being felt in the mills.

Writing in the Guardian today, Aditya Chakrabortty suggests the government has less interest in rescuing the industry than it claims. It now falls to Mr Javid and his friends to prove their critics wrong.

Heartbreak hotel

Today’s biggest contractor news involved Kier and its legal battle over work it undertook on a boutique Mayfair hotel for the Dorchester Group. Unlike many construction disputes, this one could even go to trial, so watch this space.

Eastern promise

And what would a CN Briefing be these days without mention of China? Today, deputy news editor Robyn Wilson looks at why British projects are suddenly so attractive to Far East firms.

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