Tuesday, 24 April 2012

There are times in history that call for great leadership. I would suggest that now is one of them

In challenging times when our focus should be on key issues it is depressing to see that nationally, our so called leaders, consider that reflecting upon who ate what, where and with whom carries greater importance than encouraging growth in our economy. There are times in history that call for great leadership I would suggest that now is one of them. We do not need a great debate on hot pies, queues at petrol stations and the usual party political tit for tat. It is time that national leaders of all parties started to ‘man up’ and begin doing what is best for the country.

That times are difficult is beyond dispute but thankfully, despite the seemingly endless shenanigans of the Westminster village, many businesses continue to display admirable levels of resilience and are ‘turning the corner’. It is a great shame that they are not receiving the support they need to fully capitalise on their efforts. I am not talking about handouts, I know there is very little public money available, what we need is a range of clear strategies focused on encouraging a competitive business environment. In any event spending vast sums of public money rarely has a long term effect, one has only to go back to Tony Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ response when asked about his main priorities. Businesses were complaining of difficulties in recruiting skilled staff then and, 15 years and billions of pounds later, it still has difficulty recruiting people with appropriate skills.

Leadership requires conviction and an ability to overcome difficult challenges. Arguably our lack of leadership is illustrated in our inability to overcome what might be described as the ‘too difficult’ strategy issues, take for the example of a lack of an aviation policy. I recognise that this is a controversial issue but, if we are to remain a major trading nation, we must be able, conveniently, to visit our trading partners in other parts of the world. We also need them to visit us. In the past forty years, while many of our competitors have moved forward with numerous major developments, we have built a couple of terminal buildings and increased landing fees making us one of the most expensive places on earth for business people to visit.

Whether it be resolving issues concerning skills, international travel, roads, railways, housing, high speed broadband or a plethora of other infrastructure issues it seems that we have become followers not leaders. We have become bickerers and point makers more interested in promoting narrow vested interests and proving points rather than achieving things. Perhaps, the recently introduced planning regulations will improve the situation, we shall see.

There are numerous other ‘too difficult issues’ many of which are exacerbated by the speed of change in our modern world, they nonetheless must be addressed if we are to maintain our position as a leading trading nation. To paraphrase Einstein it is a sign of insanity to keep doing things the same way expecting a different outcomes, had he been alive today he might well have warned about the dangers of pursuing similar strategies whilst the environment is changing around you.

What might be seen as political rough and tumble in Westminster amongst the national press has consequences elsewhere. I am frankly not concerned about the dietary whims of David Cameron, Ed Milliband and their dinner guests, I am even less interested in their ongoing games. We have overcome a number of challenges in recent years but there will inevitably be more to follow. We do not have time to mess about, we need to address important issues not waste time satisfying the self indulgent mores of the Westminster Village. It needs to change the way it does business, and fast.