Guy’s newsletter: now you’ve won, please have a little faith

I believe that given half a chance, most people, most of the time, are smarter, fairer, more generous and capable of more empathy than our institutions give us credit for. I found both the election campaigns and the result hugely depressing without really understanding why; with the exception of the Greens I feel no more aligned with the policies of the losers than the winners. On reflection I realise the reason for my gloom is a conviction that the institution with the most cynical view of our behavioural motivations is the modern Conservative party.

I’m guessing that, as someone already personally rich, I will be richer under an unfettered Conservative government; but I don’t expect to be happier. What I find so depressing about modern post-Thatcherite Conservatism (and only marginally less so about post-Blairite Labour) is the apparent ubiquitous cynical belief that appealling to personal greed is the only way to get anything done. Considering the almost complete lack of evidence to back up this assumption, it has gained extraordinary traction in Westminster and the City over the last 30 years. In the real world, where businesses have to compete by getting the best out of people, it has largely been abandoned as a piece of failed, ideologically driven dogma.

For the most part, we are emotional beings responding to much deeper, less tangible but more powerful emotional motivators; ask anyone in advertising. Ultimately we all want to feel good about ourselves and at work this falls broadly into three areas: feeling we are learning and getting better at stuff, feeling some control over our lives and feeling a sense of purpose. To believe that ‘carrot and stick’ management is why a nurse will care for a patient, a parole officer will struggle to support a young offender or why a programmer would write exceptional code is crass to the point of incredulity. I suspect it is even more threatening to public services and wellbeing than cuts and austerity.

Both hope and cynicism, given enough voice, can be self-fulfilling prophecies. My plea to Cameron and his team is to have a little faith in the people they lead; we’re not as shallow, selfish or as dumb as you seem to think. Show some trust, give us some hope and we might even surprise you.

Guy Watson

13 responses to “Guy’s newsletter: now you’ve won, please have a little faith

  1. Janet Campbell

    Well said Guy! I am at the other end of the spectrum, 57 and have parted company with my employer at the age of 54 due to being “inconsistent” in meeting sales targets! Loyalty counted for nothing, 26 yrs service counted for nothing, was totally disillusioned, secretly pleased that they went out of business 8 months after I parted ways with them! Through a financial advisor, my saviour, I am living on a very small pension from my private pension pot. I am happier, poorer and unfortunately in a lot of pain with arthritis, probably due to my job! But hey, there are people worse off than myself, if I were rich, I would probably give most of it away to charities, especially animal and environmental ones. I am currently vegetarian and am investigating going vegan!

  2. Thank you. Obviously conservatives will point to the failed communist model, that without constant competition and fear of failure and loss, the underlying motor of greed (and this is where I try to understand where this greed comes from), actually nothing got done. I’ve asked people in the former East of Germany if they are happier now. You get at least a hesitation.

  3. Well said Janet. I am also vegan and was annoyed to find Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s picture splashed across my screen. This is the man who boils animals to death, surely the ultimate cruelty. Last time I saw him on TV, he was sitting on a beach and dropped three baby crabs into a pan of boiling water. He also defended his wife’s family in France where they were producing Foie gras. I for one do not wish to be associated in any way with this man. I wish Riverford would think for a minute over whom they associate with.

    • Janet Campbell

      UGH! foie gras! Just do not understand people, do they not know how they get it or do they just not care! Think it is the latter! Going veggie was easier than I thought, am a bit unsure about vegan, like a lot of seafood, but hardly eat any knowing how it comes to the plate, eggs are going to be a problem, I seem to have formed an attachment to them since giving up meat, although they are free range and of course that makes them more expensive! Not at all keen on HFW!

  4. chrisimpson38

    Thanks so much , Guy . You express my feelings exactly , though I am wondering if large institutions can ever change things from the top . Schumacher College – small is beautiful ! – might cheer you up !

  5. As an avid supporter of all things Riverford for several years, having advocated it and subscribed for the box not because I am motivated by greed and it’s cheaper than supermarkets (it’s not) but because I want to do the right thing and support green and sustainable growing and buying, I was so disappointed to read this blog in my vegetable box. I supported the conservatives in the election: I am not a bad person. I did it for the reasons that I do have a serious concern for the society we live in and the countryside I am so fond of. While the Green Party may share some of the same values I have (which I support) I do not a minute think the post blairite Labour Party do or that it would be “less depressing” than the conservatives. Far from it – I think would be gravely worse and take us back to the brink of recession. I do not however judge anyone who does vote labour, nor preach at them from my desk or from their veg box. Why? Because I believe we all want the same thing and we are all good people just of very different opinions. I also quite frankly do not think it is my place (as it is also not Guy’s).

    So while I will continue to buy riverford as I am motivated in supporting a good ethical business – I no longer feel good about doing so and, every time I open the box, I’ll feel preached at from the pulpit of Guy Watson. I would question his motives in deciding to judge and ostracise so many of his loyal customers….who share so many of the same values as him.

  6. Janet Campbell

    Georgina, Guy is as entitled to his opinion as are you! This from a Green voter this time and a Tory in previous times, but never labour even tho I am working class!

  7. Thanks Janet. Of course Guy is entitled to an opinion about party policies and, if he wishes to make his business political, he can even choose to use his business channels to support or challenge policies, as many businesses do. However, his article above, as he almost accepts himself, is not about policies. Rather it is a cynical view that anyone in the conservatives or supporting the conservatives must be motivated by personal greed or at least a shared “belief that appealing to greed is the only way to get things done”. Now who is making assumptions about people’s motivations…..

    • Janet Campbell

      Sorry Georgina, got to disagree! Don’t know Guy personally, but I do not think I would describe him as cynical! Every business has to make a profit, else they would go under! Not all Tory’s are greedy I am sure, not all Tory’s approve of hunting I am sure, it would not do for us to be all the same! I think Guy, along with myself, has the courage of his convictions in stating his beliefs! I on many occasions tell people who ask, I once voted for Maggie Thatcher, not normally something you would do here in the labour heartlands. Let’s agree to disagree and continue to enjoy the fruits of Guy’s teams labour! [no pun intended] Got asparagus in my box recently, first time have had it! Amazed at all the fuss re: this veg to be honest!

    • Georgina, I think you have misunderstood Guy’s letter, perhaps because you feel yourself targeted by it?

      As I read it, Guy doesn’t condemn how people voted or pick on tory voters, he calls out the modus operandi of those at the top (including Labour, note) and I would argue in many areas of society.

      I voted conservative yet I agree with most of what he says; working on the edge of financial services for a long time I’ve seen this change in motivation – and been sucked in by it myself at times. You could say I’m a recovering greed-motivator 🙂

      All the best!

  8. One thing the Conservatives are really bad at is communication if you really believe that their core message is that the only way to get things done is to appeal to personal greed.

    I voted Conservative for two reasons:

    1/ I believe the number one role of a government is to protect its citizens from total calamity. Recessions come every ten to fifteen years. We are due another one soon. It may be as bad as the last, or even worse. If we enter another recession with our national debt and deficit already very high, we will then get into an unsustainable position, just as Greece has done. In Greece recently pensioners could not withdraw their pensions, hospitals have run out of medicines, civil servants were not paid. Can you imagine how this affects the lives of real people? They are filled with terror that they might not have any food or health care. Its becoming a matter of survival. We are so complacent in Britain. We don’t believe this could ever happen to us. But it could. I believe the Conservatives is the only party responsible enough to protect our citizens from this potentially catastrophic and terrifying situation.

    2/ There is this well-meaning idea about that the limits of public spending are only set by the limits of our goodwill and compassion. This idea is profoundly dangerous. It always results in governments that believe in it running up massive debts and running out of money. No! The ultimate, sustainable limit on public spending is the sustainable availability of money. And the amount of money that is sustainably available is dependent on having a strong economy. The Conservatives are more likely to ensure a strong sustainable economy than the other parties and this will ultimately result in more money being available for education, healthcare and other vital services.

    Martin Dean

    • Janet Campbell

      Well said Martin, the key is balance and as every person running a household knows you cannot spend more than you earn! It is a fine line to “balance the books!” so to speak! Great Britain PLC needs a steady hand on the tiller and honestly at the moment nationally Cameron is the best we have! This from a person who is totally independent of all parties, no affinity with any of them, they all make promises they can’t/don’t/ want to keep!

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