LDVideo: Nick Clegg calls for ‘John Lewis economy’

Nick Clegg yesterday called on more British companies to offer shares to their employees, arguing it will improve productivity and unlock growth: “We don’t believe our problem is too much capitalism – we think it’s that too few people have capital.”


(Also available on the BBC website here.)

* You can read Nick’s speech in full at the Deputy Prime Minister’s website here;
* Centre Forum’s Tom Frostick’s welcome of Nick’s approach here;
* And our original report with initial LibDemVoice readers’ comments here.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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4 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Jan '12 - 11:35am

    As ever with Nick Clegg, one ends up after reading the speech thinking “OK fair enough, but where’s the real deep insight?”. Employee ownership has been a long-standing Liberal concern, featuring strongly in the Liberal Party’s attempts to build a third way when it faced being ground into extinction between Labour and the Conservatives. What’s in Nick’s speech is textbook stuff – but no more. It looks like an essay from a diligent schoolboy who’s mugged up well, said what he feels neds to be said, but it just lacks that extra sparkle, that extra something which goes beyond the textbook. “Good 2i” as we would say at university.

    The real insight I’d like to see is more engagement with the world as it is now, because like a lot of “textbook” stuff this looks like it’s based on old assumptions and the way the world was when the textbook was written and just maybe now it’s gone through umpteen editions it needs a more thorough update. I would like to see much more demonstration of critical ability, a willingness to acknowledge the arguments against. I would like to see real word insights that come from self experience and wisdom (lack of this is perhaps what makes Nick’s stuff seem so “schoolboy”, because schoolboys of their nature don’t have this real world experience). Also, try to make it a little less cliché ridden, a little less like an attempt to use what a schoolboy would think of as “clever” language.

    One of the biggest problems with employee ownership when it really is that, is that the employee goes down completely with the business. This is why I would myself be VERY wary about having my job and my investment all in that one basket. Another is the extent to which shared ownership can really work. We have the very recent example of the collapse of the Building Society movement to tell us that often people don’t really value much their shared ownership of big institutions – people were willing to give it up in this case for a small payment, most of the building societies that used to exist no longer exist, and with those few that still have this status, my certain knowledge is that most of their members don’t feel their shared ownership status means much and so don’t see it as very much different from an account with a share-holder owned institution. The reality is that most people have better things to do with their time outside their work than to engage in all that is required to be a part-owner of anything, all that reading, all those meetings (even if they would now be on-line). It’s hard enough to get people to vote in local elections, so how are wer really going to get them to be active in shareholders’ meetings?

    In practice, employee share-ownership schemes DO exist, my wife for example has a small number of Sainsbury’s shares which date back from a time years ago when she worked for Sainsbury’s and they had such a scheme. They don’t seem to mean much, the real amount in employees’ hands is tiny. I didn’t see anything from Clegg which suggested how something on a much larger scale could be initiated. So, rather than a big new idea, it looks like it might be just a near futile gesture, a way in which it could be pretended something was being done about the “evils of capitalism” which is actually just a token, rather like those payments to charities the big companies make because it makes them look or feel good.

  • Tony Dawson 18th Jan '12 - 8:55am

    Was the choice of ‘still’ frame for the start of that video deliberately chosen as being more ‘Il Duce’ than ‘Il Divo’? :-)

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