16 January 2012

The 'John Lewis economy': What to make of today's speech by Nick Clegg?

Regular readers will know that I worry about how little from political speeches are shown on prime-time television news programmes these days - as compared with interviews (examined in more detail HERE).

In the discussion after my UK Speechwriters' Guild Christmas lecture last month, someone made the interesting point that was it's no longer necessary for TV companies to do this in the internet age, because keen anoraks can watch as many speeches as they like online.

Another innovation is the close coordination of 'on message' speeches and interviews, as was demonstrated rather skillfully over the weekend by Ed Balls (HERE).

But does anyone watch the speeches?
One problem with some of the speeches that appear online is that they are so earnest or uninspiring (or both) that it's difficult to imagine prime-time news programmes - even in the glory days of the past - managing to select suitable quotable quotes for transmission to a wider audience.

One such example was Nick Clegg's speech at the Mansion House earlier today. It seems to have generated two main sound bites:
  1. a John Lewis economy
  2. The 1980s was the decade of share ownership. I want this to be the decade of employee share ownership.
But what he actually meant by either of these (not to mention the rest of the speech) was a question being widely asked on Twitter during the day.

As I've noted before (HERE), Clegg's communication skills continue to interest me - and this video and transcript look like promising data for closer analysis - comments and suggestions welcome...

Text of this video-clip from the speech:
...we don’t believe our problem is too much capitalism: we think it’s that too few people have capital. We need more individuals to have a real stake in their firms.

More of a John Lewis economy, if you like.

And, what many people don’t realise about employee ownership is that it is a hugely underused tool in unlocking growth.

I don’t value employee ownership because I somehow believe it's it's “nicer” - a more pleasant alternative to the rest of the corporate world. Those are lazy stereotypes. Firms that have engaged employees, who own a chunk of their company, are just as dynamic, just as savvy, as their competitors. In fact, they often perform better: lower absenteeism, lower staff turnover, lower production costs. In general, higher productivity and higher wages. They even weathered the economic downturn better than other companies.

Is employee ownership a panacea? No. Does it guarantee a company will thrive? No of course not. But the evidence and success stories cannot be ignored, and we have to tap this well if we are serious about growth. The 1980s was the decade of share ownership. I want this to be the decade of employee share ownership.


Anonymous said...

What is annoying about the internet is that whilst you can watch speeches, you can only watch the pieces that are uploaded.

I would like to see this speech in full but its not online in full because nobody has uploaded it all. I'm still getting edited clips of Clegg delivering the speech although I can read the full transcript.

But the transcript and the speech are different. If you follow Scottish politics or indeed Scottish Labour, you'll know if they've just elected their second rather dull leader.
Iain Gray was boring, dull to listen to but slightly better to read but Johann Lamont, the current Scottish Labour leader takes the cake.
I've read her piece in the Sunday Herald about how she sees Scotland future, I read her contribution well in fact her moving a motion in the Scottish Parliament on Scotland's constitutional future and agree with a lot that she says but I just can't listen to her speak. Her delivery makes me want to fall asleep. I can't get past the delivery and hear the words, I know its wrong and I believe in the merit of ones ideas not how well you can present but Lamont is really testing it.

Whilst, I can read the transcript, a speech isn't designed to be read but to be heard and so is very hard when you can't get the full speech any where. That being said, Lamont's speeches should be read and not heard, imo anyway.

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