I’m a great believer that there’s something you can call good economic growth. That’s growth which creates real wealth and good jobs, but does so in a way that is lasting and respects the greatest sources of wealth we have – the planet and its people.
There’s never been a time when bringing these things together has been more important – whether to improve the state of Britain’s economy, or to address the most profound challenges of climate change and biodiversity.
For all our recent turbulence, Britain has giant strengths. These can create immense opportunities when we bring them together well: not just great companies and entrepreneurs, but also some great public institutions including our universities, legal system, and the Civil Service. These are globally respected and have huge potential as sources of value.
Most of my 30 year career in and around Government was spent doing what I’ve just described – trying to bring Government and business together to create lasting benefit for society. Then I called it micro-economic policy, and it’s what I did at HMT for 15 years – whether getting private investment into infrastructure or creating a better tax regime for entrepreneurs. It’s also what I did on the Board at Ofcom: I spent 7 years helping to set up the regulator and then run it. It was also a big part of the nearly 10 years I spent as a Permanent Secretary, or CEO-equivalent, across the Department for Transport, Home Office, and for a little while the Department for Business.
In fact one of my proudest achievements as a Permanent Secretary was helping to shift the mindset at DfT so that it was a bit less focussed on extra concrete and steel – the traditional answer to transport problems – and more focussed on radical innovation. The UK’s strong story on EVs today can be traced back to the partnership we created a decade and more ago between business, government and academe: to my mind that’s a model for government and business working together.
Chairing WA’s Advisory Board now gives me the opportunity apply this experience to help WA’s team and clients. One of the reasons I was keen to join WA was that its own approach – the emphasis on collaboration – is really well aligned with my own. And real collaboration starts with really good understanding: not just of the policy challenges and constraints that might be faced by the firms WA advises, but the longer-term goals and the sense of opportunity.
And my hunch is that after the Election, whoever wins, that theme of good growth is itself just going to keep on growing.