Monday, 2 March 2015


I’ve had a recent stint of travelling through Europe and I’ve been reflecting on our frustrating country that I’ve lived in and loved for so long.

Do you remember the 1960s and a wave of “new music”, Herman’s Hermits for instance with “No Milk Today” or “Bus Stop” by the Hollies - prosaic, local love stories….no Empire building here.

Then we had the strike-ridden, high-inflation ‘70s.

The Thatcher axe wielding ‘80s followed when we relearnt the art of combat …. invading  New York and pillaging ad agencies, banks and businesses.

And then the ‘90s, noughties and the current decade when we became middle class, more meritocratic and technophiles. A world in which London started winning the race to become arts, sports and financial centre of the world.

What could go wrong?

Last week I was told what by the guy running Russia for a multinational:
“I love your country but from my perspective it’s fumbling along without any clear strategy….if it were a company it’d be ripe for takeover”.  (Probably Vladimir Putin feels the same.)

Listen to the British news in which pratfalls are celebrated more than success and cynicism rules and you’ll take the point my friend from Russia made. Unlike most of the EU, compared with whom we are doing brilliantly, we seem unable to promote our strengths. Creativity, innovation, arts, media and yes finance (over-cooked as that sector has been).

Psychologists have proved that human beings are more responsive to bad news. Good news seems so cheesy in comparison. That’s why for some Peter Mead’s book “When in Doubt be Nice” was an awkward read. Where was the tabasco wit, the flagrant irony?

Recently a very nice guy said “We must play the ball not the man” to which a very smart and funny German retorted “No. Play the man first - always. Then everyone knows where they stand”.

We need to sharpen up. We are living in a global economy and over the past six weeks at various conferences I’ve reflected on how lacking in confidence we seem despite having a growing economy; English is the language all business speaks and speaks well; we are becoming an increasingly desirable country to visit; our capital city bestrides the world - top of the cultural pops.

To thrive and grow we need to look forward, enjoy our economic status, we need to be confident, fast-footed and relaxed. We need to become traders  again not tubby diplomats.

I’ve loved travelling Europe and its neighbours hearing optimists regardless of their current “temporary little local blips”. My growth conversations with Russians, Egyptians, Turks, Poles and people from the Gulf, ….opportunity-hunters explaining in flawless English why their future looks so great, have felt unusually inspiring and refreshing.

Maybe we don’t want to succeed. Maybe being miserable fatalists is our natural role in life.

But I don’t think so.

We should travel much more, talk up our successes and feel good.

That’s all it takes, Tiger.

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