Monday, 26 September 2022


 Grow’s the only way to go

Yes, I admit it. I’ve been too obsessed with the pronouncements of our new Prime Monster. And that’s why I’m having so many peculiar dreams. 

Liz Truss Appointed UK Prime Minister, Defeating Rishi Sunak – Deadline

Recounting ones’ dreams is unforgivably boring but here goes anyway.


I’m at home, feeling a bit odd but itching to tell my wife about my new plans.

“Growth” I say importantly.

“Where?” She says looking concerned.

No, not a growth. I’m talking about growth of our life, our income and our self-perception.

“Have you been drinking?” she asks.

“We need a proper meeting now “ I say “to sort out our strategy, our direction of travel and our key beliefs.”

Silence. Or was that a snort?

I plough on with my prepared speech.

We have been leading a life of restraint and sluggardly growth…I want explosive growth and I want it now. I want to invest in impressing my network. I’m going to have daily lunches with the brightest and best I know but first I’m going to start with an image renovation. I’m buying a red Porsche, wearing red braces, red socks and getting red framed spectacles. Red is the new hot colour for my world of growth. Red Hot is my new life.”

Porsche 911 Turbo Review 2022 | Top Gear

I pause, slightly moist eyed at the power of my words. A quiet voice interrupts my thoughts.

And where’s the money coming from for this …new life?”

We must borrow for tomorrow. The more we spend the more they lend.”

I didn’t see the book flung at me until too late. As I slumped to the floor I heard my wife say:

Red also means something else. It means stop.

And then I woke up.



It’s been a strange week. 

I’ve been wondering if we can trust a Truss and I’m really not sure at all. I’ve lived under 15 prime ministers. Liz is the most unusual and Kwasi Kwarteng reminds me of Antony Barber, Heath’s “dash for growth”  Chancellor in 1972.

Official portrait for Kwasi Kwarteng - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament

Truss seems fearless, carefree and a bit careless. In business I’ve lived with go-for- growth CEOS and it always ends in tears. That’s usually because events outside their control scupper their well laid plans. When Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked what was the greatest challenge for a statesman, he replied: ‘Events, dear boy, events’.

Big events seemed all that interested Boris Johnson. But all he did was so dishevelled I often wondered if he changed his pants. He relied on instinct but not strategy. He was an accident-prone shambles. 

The Truss is different. She and her new team aren’t boring. I expect planned chaos but she’s seized the mantle and is vigorously shaking it. She’s clearly read Joseph Schumpeter (ex-Professor at Harvard University) who created the concept of “creative destruction.”


Here’s a definition :

“Creative destruction is based on the principle that old assumptions need to be broken so that new innovations can benefit from existing resources and energy.”

That has a good radical, courageous sound to it but like heroic surgery in applying it you can sometimes destroy more than you intended. It lives in the world of “oops!”

So we are sitting and waiting. The rich are getting richer. The poor are staying poor. Does trickle down of wealth work? We shall see but the pundits are sceptical.

One of Truss’ more interesting new appointments is Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Health. In response to a very long question in the Commons recently she stood up said ”Yes” and sat down.

RED ALERT! stock illustration. Illustration of insignia - 86703879

No. Life won’t be boring. But we’re on red alert from now on. Pay attention.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022


 I’ve always been an agnostic about the importance of leadership. Too often an autocratic leader like Fred Goodwin or Bob Diamond (respectively one-time CEOs of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays) led their business close to destruction or ignominy. 

Fred the Shred wasn't all that bad, says RBS boss | Scotland | The Times

People have fallen in love with the idea of the “Leader” – the Mao, the Stalin. People who get things done. That was Boris Johnson’s claim – “Get Brexit done" except it’s getting undone messily unless the Irish Protocol is sorted out.

Actually I’m more than agnostic. I’m enraged by power seekers who muck up things steeped in their own self-worth. Putin does that, Xi Jinping does that, Trump does that. Yet the mythology continues. Last week buried under beautifully written royal tributes in the Times what they call “Raconteur” had a section on “The Future CEO”. 

Future CEO 2019 - Raconteur

It did not make riveting reading. Most of all I found it rather mechanistic MBA stuff when really what the leadership role is, as Jack Welch CEO  of GE said (the most sensible thing he ever said in fact):

“When you were made a leader you weren't given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.”

If as a leader you were to do nothing else that’d be enough. It’s what we want from any manager of a sporting team. When they stop doing that they stop being a meaningful leader.

Emma Duncan recently wrote an interesting piece about the quiet leader. She reflected that Queen Elizabeth rarely put a foot wrong because she was very cautious about where she put her feet.

Diamond Jubilee: Queen takes Windsor walkabout - BBC News

She was often quite dull. “Have you come far?” became a joke but she was always there smiling and being available. In private she was witty, I believe, and a mischievous mimic. She did her job quietly but her presence now, suddenly removed, has led millions to understand what she meant to us. Emma then compared her style to that of Keir Starmer who whilst a calm, sometimes dull, performer in the House of Commons is good company in private and, I’m told by those who’ve met him, “is very impressive.” Maybe bringing the best out of a talented Shadow Front Bench is what we need from him. More Atlee; less Churchill.

Keir Starmer: Boris Johnson made promises about reopening schools and broke  them - Keir Starmer - Mirror Online

Yet I keep on hearing people talking about the need for charisma, presumably to wow the floating voters or, in business, the markets. I also hear people say the down to earth Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, is more impressive than the supposedly charismatic Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Equally after that wayward genius, Steve Jobs, we now have Tim Cook as CEO of Apple leading the biggest company in the world which is valued at around $2.4 trillion. The most low key leader you’ve ever seen… indeed he’s virtually invisible.

Apple boss Tim Cook faces backlash to £73m pay package - BBC News

If what you want is noise, excitement but not a clue how to do anything you choose Bolsonaro or Berlusconi (note – all the Bad Boys start with “B” – apart from Biden who is coping quietly.) They make great copy so the media loves them. They ride motorbikes, scantily clad girls or their luck.

But in the world today our leaders of business, governments or global institutions have a responsibility to others not just themselves. If nothing else the Queen has taught us keeping a low profile, being available for photoshoots (lovely clothes, lovely smile) but avoiding giving them a story is a profound legacy.

“When you were made a leader you weren't given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.”

Yes. That’s it.

Monday, 12 September 2022


This is what the scornful Alan Rickman as Snape said to Harry Potter in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Severus Snape | Heroes, Villains and Antiheroes Wiki | Fandom


I recalled it, Potter, last week when the news broke of your departure as Brighton and Hove FC manager. You’ve been manager at the club for just over 3 years during which time the club struggled to avoid relegation in the first two years and last year did better finishing mid table. This year, despite losing three key players, it’s done exceptionally and after 6 games the team lies 4th two places above Chelsea which is where you and your coaching team have been lured.

Chelsea fans will be able to buy tickets for UCL tie vs Real Madrid at  Stamford Bridge

This is a story about money and loyalty. You were, personally,  one off the bottom in the Premier Division in terms of remuneration earning just £2 million a year. At Chelsea you’ll earn annually over £10 million with a five-year contract and Brighton will pocket around £20 million from Chelsea in buying out your contact. 

In a world where star footballers earn £350,000 a week the numbers have become eyewatering, large enough to turn anyone’s head but that’s where the problem lies. When money becomes the only thing that counts, we enter the shady world of Dr Faustus who, in Christopher Marlowe’s play sold his soul to the devil in return for acquiring material wealth.

Mephistopheles tells Faustus what he faces from his own experience:

“Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?” 

How far do you agree that the play “Dr. Faustus” is a compelling drama of a  man whose mounting ambitions inevitably brings about his hellish fall as he  stubbornly rejects repeated advice


And so it is Potter. You had got Brighton playing a sublime possession game (you were in the top 4 in the Premier League for ball possession), you were a winner with the possibility of a top six finish or better, your magic would have grown and the esteem with which you were held would have grown.

Here’s what you said yourself, not the words of a greedy man, more those of the sort of person like Julian Richer of Richer Sounds who also wants to make the world a better place:

“People think that coaching is about winning football matches - which, of course, it is - but throughout my career it has also been about helping people become better, more able to deal with life and be more successful in their lives, on and off the football pitch.”

Chelsea set new expectations very much like old expectations for Graham  Potter - We Ain't Got No History

My anguish about what you’ve done is you’ve turned away from “helping people become better” and I’m not just talking about football here I’m talking about the influence and excellence you conferred on our city of 280,000. The Amex stadium had become a focal point even for those who didn’t much like football. “Our team” had been a factor in taking Brighton to a new level of respectability, style and self-esteem. Keith Waterhouse the playwright said:

“If Brighton were a person, it’s the sort who would be helping the police with their enquiries.”  

That’s no longer the case.

Brighton seeking record third consecutive away win

Never mind. We’ll muddle our way without you and your management team. But just reflect on the missed opportunity you had of turning Brighton into a powerhouse as opposed to trying to tame a bunch of overpaid, big egos.

Many people think you’ve made a shrewd career move. I’m afraid you may have sacrificed your own unique qualities, for money and what some call the big time. 

In time I think you’ll come to regret it as much as we do now.


What Will Happen to the Queen's Corgis? - Queen Elizabeth Dogs

I thought it excessive for me to add to the reams of obituary the death of the Queen has elicited. But I’ve been struck by how thoughtful, elegant and measured what many others have said.

Briefly, she always put on a brilliant, smiling show, remaining quietly above the short-term troubles of her family. She was like a magnificent piece of architecture. A class act for 96 years.

And now - God Save the King

Monday, 5 September 2022


It’s that exquisite time of year when blackberries are at their juiciest and leaves begin to think of falling (but not just yet) and we start to think of new beginnings. New School. University. New job. It’s the season of change. It started last Friday and ends on the last day of November. 

Why blackberries are bitter & how to fix it - Ask the Food Geek

It used to be called “harvest” when we were a fully rural economy. Then the Latin “autumnus” - which derived from augere “to increase.” This verb's perfect participle auctus means “rich” (as in a “rich season”). I really like the idea of Autumn as a rich reason in the sense of harvest and abundance. The alternative “fall” started in the UK and then more widely in the 17th century as a poetic counterpart to “Spring.”  The Americans sensibly took it and made it their norm as, being shrewdly literal, this is the season when leaves fall.  Maybe our continued use of “Autumn” reflects the difference between the literally minded Americans and our own enjoyment of long words. Yes that’s…incontrovertible.

But this year “fall” may seem more descriptive than usual. It’s not likely to be  a bumper harvest of anything  after that drought nor is the economy looking too rosy. The next quarter doesn’t look like being a rich season at all.

Is Britain in drought yet? | The Times

Meanwhile I’m fascinated to see how resourceful people are being. Ghastly thick knit sweaters are emerging from cupboards. Sales of foil are rising ready to be stuck behind radiators. Jamie Oliver is digging out money-saving family menus in his own inimitable cheerful way “oh my Lord – that’s gorgeous” style. We are entering a season of draught proof curtains, a season of mists and thermal underwear. 

What are warm banks and why are they opening? | The Independent


Warm banks,” we’re told are to be set up in art galleries, museums and libraries to help people unable to heat their homes as energy prices soar. The Guardian reports that pensioners in Swansea are buying books from charity shops for just a few pence each and taking them home for fuel. With temperatures plummeting and energy costs rising , thick books like encyclopaedias are particularly sought after.

A certain, not entirely surprising, mood of hysteria has swept through  the British media as we await a new Prime Minister and cabinet. This is beginning to feel not like the fall of leaves but the fall of something more important. Like the fall of the Roman Empire. 

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) Poster #1 - Trailer Addict

The fall of assumptions that this good life we’ve been enjoying for so long is a given. Or the fall in a more biblical sense. There’s a song by The Little River Band (1978) with the lines

“I tried to explain our fall from paradise was meant to be

 it's written down for all to hear, there's not much time, the time is near “


Yes….something like that. We all probably feel that maybe it was all too good to last. Like a bull market. But we have those pragmatic series of energy saving and money saving strategies and one other thing. Optimism. Not the media who are predictably downbeat. Walk the streets of Brighton on Saturday and it’s a cheerful place. I remain astonished by how resilient and good humoured people are.


Finally a personal fall, spectacularly, from a ladder in our garden two weeks ago. I ended up with possibly cracked ribs and general aches and pains but, do you know, I really see the funny side, the Chaplinesque absurdity of my doing something really stupid and avoidable.

Safety Guidelines for Working with Ladders – SafeStart


So welcome to fall. We shall survive. And we’ll help those less fortunate than us as we always do. Happy soft landings.