Thursday, 31 March 2011

New Eden

I have received an interesting article from a friend and a colleague of mine, Dave Croydon, which I would like to share with you and hope you find it as interesting and thought-provoking as I did...

An acquaintance of mine recently expressed the opinion that anyone who showed any desire to become a politician should automatically be disbarred, as a result, from ever becoming one. It ranks alongside Groucho Marx's comment that he wouldn't want to join any club that would have him as a member.

This was brought back to me forcibly a week or three ago, when I heard interviewed on the Saturday morning Radio 4 programme, Saturday Live, Tim Smit, the man behind the Eden Project - and therefore someone for whom the word 'Vision' can be taken as built in.

He was asked for his recipe for getting the country out of the mire, as opposed to the current lot's recipe of cuts, cuts and more cuts. His reasoned and wholly reasonable response drew mountains of approving e-mails, even before the end of the show, with many exhortations that he be made Prime Minister immediately.

The problem with politicians - it's easy to state problems: less easy to suggest viable solutions - is that very, very few have done much in their lives outside the world of politics, and the exceptions have generally been associated with large corporate Britain. When it comes to the SME market, they may talk a good story, but really they haven't a clue. Even the sainted Vince.

So the sector that represents up to 95% of the British economy's economic output, and by common consent where any growth and recovery will gestate, is being hog-tied by rules and regulations designed with corporate Britain in mind. I've railed about this before (and will doubtless do so again), but the contrast between existing policy and Tim Smit's ideas could not be starker.

So what was he recommending?


Reproduced below is a more or less verbatim quotation of the Eden Project's Tim Smit's recipe for growth. Since I couldn't better it myself, I thought I'd share it with you. I took the precaution of re-visiting it on i-Player, to make sure it's accurate.

Interviewer: "Why is Britain such a risk averse nation?

Tim Smit: "1. Most of the politicians we've got in charge have never had a day job. [That's what I said - Ed]

"2. Most of the people in charge of distributing money have only ever made their money on the back of speculation, such as betting against their own currencies, and have given up the tradition of investing in people who make things with their hands.

"3. This country's wealth was built on the back of men and women who made things, and now it's actually the financial world, which does not trust the men and women who make things; they want to bet on currency.

"4. If you're ruled by an accountancy fear, where you know the cost of everything without understanding the cost of not doing things, you can bring yourself to your knees.

"5.You can kill a company in your desire to constrict access to money, because that's the prudent 'mumsy' way to do things."

Interviewer: "So what would you do?"

Tim Smit: "Blow a lot of money: I'd do exactly the opposite of what is being done now. I'd commit myself in a crash and burn style to transforming the technology and energy infra-structure of this country. By doing it, you will build on what's best in Britain, which is its engineering skill. If you give it that impetus, you'll become a world leader, and the market will then follow you, and the investment will be seen to be worthwhile."

In my next missive, I'm going to re-vist this theme with a few thoughts of my own on, in particular, the existing energy policy of successive governments, and the huge potential for massive structural change that is currently being missed by the usual suspects with little or no vision.

You can listen to the interview at:

Sometimes, the most effective response to any given situation is the exact opposite to the apparently obvious one. Many fortunes have been gained by buying shares or property when everyone else was selling. There are supporters of 'contrariness' who will assert that it is nearly always better to go against the grain of general public opinion. Why would that be? Answers to the e-mail address below.

David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail: