Margareta Pagano: Some Britons aren't too posh to push for economic success
Margareta Pagano is a former business editor of the Independent on Sunday who now writes columns and business interviews for a range of publications, including the Independent, Independent on Sunday and London Evening Standard.
Sunday 31 March 2013
Lord Heseltine's comments last week suggesting that the British may be too wealthy to push for economic recovery have predictably caused a flutter, especially in the blogosphere, where Tarzan is now being accused of being an uncaring rich Tory toff who doesn't give a toss about the poor.
Hezza may be a Tory and a toff, but he's not uncaring, and it's a pity the point he was raising was missed. What he said was this: "It's a question of whether the national will is there; whether we want it [economic recovery]. And the richer you get the less imperative there is."
You can understand why Hezza – himself a businessman – might say this as he's just back from India, where he saw great poverty. Compared to many living in India and other parts of the developing world, the UK's living standards are comfortable for the majority. But he's wrong to say the Brits lack the will to succeed.
Take the 17-year-old computer whizz Nick D'Aloisio, who sold his mobile app Summly to Yahoo for £20m last week. D'Aloisio came from what appears to be a comfortable Wimbledon home, but has been experimenting with technology since he was 10; nature or nurture?
Then you had the Dragons' Den star Peter Jones, investing in Jessops, the camera chain that went bust a few months ago; a decision which would have drawn derision from his fellow judges if he had asked them first. But Jones is pinning hopes – and £5m of his fortune – in resurrecting 40 shops and re-employing 300 of the chain's staff. It's a fantastic act of faith, and good luck to him.
These are just a couple of examples of individual drive, and there are hundreds more examples taking place every minute.
No, what Hezza might have inadvertently spotted is a lack of national will at the top of the pyramid – those who run government, the banks and the UK's big corporates. They are the ones who are far too comfortable, and where radical reform is still need to break up many industry monopolies.
Go for it, Tarzan – shake up the money tree.
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