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The election: it’s war Jeremy, but not as we know it

Published on May 26, 2017

Listeners to the Archers may be forgiven for thinking that, with Rob Titchener gone, the world is a serene place in which a few minutes around the kitchen table can sort out any problem. Just this month:

  • A mass infection of every cow in Borsetshire by David Archer and his temporarily wayward daughter is acknowledged as soon as it is known and visits to the neighbours are concluded by promises of complete compensation.
  • The divorce of an agriculture venture capitalist who seemingly is unaware of even the basic principles of divorce law, nevertheless negotiates the splitting of assets with his cuckolded wife over a single cup of coffee, trading “Edinburgh” for “Courcheval” as if it were no more important than a personalised game of monopoly.

Maybe Jeremy Corbyn and his team are fans? For when I hear of all the problems they are going to solve, part of me wonders why we don’t all think what a lovely idea it is for someone else to pay for our dreams of clockwork railways, state funded universities and limitless health and social care? The answer I think is that, most of us, most of the time, can distinguish between the real world and the Archers.

But are our perceptions of the real world correct and helpful? An election reflects what the nation’s view of the real world is and, on current polls, the view is that it’s war Jeremy, but not as we know it. Last year’s referendum was a declaration of independence, akin to the Boston Tea Party. And, like the nascent USA was, we are now at war, albeit a trade rather than physical one, with our erstwhile overlords. In this situation our need for safety (the strongest need other than survival, according to Maslow’s hierarchy) is strong and continuity is the watchword, which I could perhaps better express as strong and stable leadership. Oh…

Defence of the realm, protection of assets (in social care) and reduced borrowings all relate to this fundamental need that will be with us for at least two more years and probably well beyond that.

But one of the other memes that prevails at the moment is the increasing disparity of wealth. In addition to structural issues, which my colleague Andrew McNally sets out so clearly, what every entrepreneur knows is that returns are a function of risk. Taking little or no risk produces small returns, while larger risks return greater profits and losses. It’s the ability to face the prospect of loss that determines whether you will be able to create wealth. I, like most if not all entrepreneurs, have lost money, got things wrong and considered just giving up (three times since you ask). But I kept going, because business is not life and death and the consequences of taking risks are not actually fatal. Those people who create wealth realise that our current economic scenario may look like war but is not actually life and death, that it does contain risks but that they can be overcome, by working diligently. Even if you forget to check the documentation of the new cows you’re buying, nor practise the basic principles of bovine welfare, all is not lost – there’s still apple pie for supper.