In an appearance on BBC’s The Politics Show yesterday, I noted that the US just ended a gruelling 2-year election cycle. While not as yet coming together, they are in the sausage making stage (legislation drafting) to attempt to right the financial ship of state. Timing-wise it is not a moment too soon.
What will happen then to the UK economy as we enter our own up to 18-month long election and transition cycle? Labour and the Tories cannot even share the same House of Commons chamber civilly. Prime Ministers’ Questions, while great weekly political theatre, is an embarrassing show of snarkiness on both sides more resembling a fraternity house quiz night (with only the beer missing), than the serious political debate and discussion needed NOW to right the economy.
Who in any party (Labour, Tory, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru – here in Wales– or even the discredited UKIP) will stand, lead and bring the nation’s leaders together to solve the banking, manufacturing, retailing and job problems facing this nation? Why are taxpayers allowing non-answers from elected officials during interviews and a Parliament that leaves every day at 5:00 pm and returns the next day at 9:00 am? More than just ‘showing-up’ is needed when 2 million people in the UK will lose their job and the headlines daily read like war zone statistics as High Street retailers and manufacturing entities shut down taking thousands of jobs away forever.
The UK Parliament, like the US Congress under Bush, is in need of adult supervision. You, the taxpayer, (dare I say it?) need a unitary executive with the power and authority to knock heads together. The UK and Wales (where I live) cannot afford to watch or let this government just coast to the inevitable election without real, drastic and dramatic change.
And that change is more than simply pumping more funds into the benefits teat for all to suckle and feel good under. Economic development is a team and full contact sport. It demands a strong public/private partnership where selfless individuals toil to build their community’s economic base.
When I arrived in the UK five years ago, I was impressed with the marketing of the Welsh Development Authority (WDA). I’d seen their adverts on BA global flights trying to sell the country as the place for inbound investment. Now the WDA is gone and authority for developing business in Wales lays at the feet of an Assembly who despite millions of pounds spent, have not been up to the task.
When any organisation operates under the guise of transparency and cannot answer an inquiry in less than 21-days or move to help growing businesses expand and create jobs, yet has no accountability or penalty for failure, we have a problem Houston.
And I know firsthand of what I speak here. In 1984, I was our bank’s representative to the Beacon Council in Miami. Miami in the 1980s was not the tropical nirvana you see today. It was a mixed race, crime ridden disaster zone where riots were commonplace between Black and white and black and Hispanic. The joke was: so you say crime is not so bad, what do you do? Answer: “I’m a tail gunner on a bread truck.”
And we were tasked with developing the base to build the local economy.
In seven years much progress was made through this public/private partnership. The foundation was laid and during that time we (emphasis on the lack of the pronoun “I” allowed by anyone(!) because it was a strong team) convinced Citigroup to place their 3,00 employee consumer finance operation there, helped American Airlines set up a major Latin American and Caribbean Hub, attracted an NBA and Major League Baseball team, rebuilt South Beach from a collection of nursing homes to the designer and fashion Hub it is today, attracted a major festival market to Bayside and built up a solid economic base.
How? We all worked together. It was extraordinary give and take and we never took our eye off the ultimate prize. There was no self-interest allowed and our only interest was building the base which then raised all boats in the area with its rising tide. We knew our businesses would eventually all benefit from an expanded base; we just did not expect to be paid up front. Therein lies the rub. We knew there would be enough for all. We eliminated all differences and parochial thinking because we had to.
This is anything but an arrogant American exercise of ‘we did it this way, so you must too.’ I have deep affection borering on love for this beautiful land. As I said, it has been five years of living here as a grateful taxpaying guest in your country. And as a business owner and taxpayer I felt a need to speak up. It is though a cumulative expression of frustration at the inaction of the last several years by our elected leaders in both Westminster and Cardiff. Now is the time for openness, true leadership, expansion and real action, not hunkering down and praying it either goes away or no one notices.
In other words, real leadership from real leaders.