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// Thoughts for September


of the past seven days has caused alarm bells to be rung loud and clear.


Know what a strawberry is? No…not with cream, the fuel of SW19 on a hot afternoon as a Swiss automaton amazingly wins again, but it's what Singapore calls the little darlings who think the world is theirs – the Millennials. You see, they bruise easily! Selfish, self-obsessed snowflakes; beautiful until the pressure comes on; then they melt away. The absolute antithesis of what they and 21st century society think they are.


One morning recently, my immediate boss at one of the multi-nationals I advise had a problem. A quality guy in his twenties had formally complained to him about how he had been abused by a client. Evidently (and the facts are not in dispute) the client (the FD of a FTSE 100 client) said when they agreed to meet at 0900 the following day that the chap had been 15 minutes late at their last two meetings and if it happened again then he would take his work away. The beneficiary of the client's money (geddit?!) said that he was always late for most things in his life, that it didn't matter, the quality of what he did was more important and he wasn't going to be spoken to like that. Both sides agree that there had been no verbal excess on either side, just an exchange of deeply opposing views. What's worse, he complained about it and expected his boss to "do something about it"! Needless to say, the company I advise wanted to stay in business, (for no better reason than for the benefit of you and me since I bet our pension trustees have shares in it), "What part of ‘this guy is paying your wages’ do you not understand?" was observed in words of one syllable and our poor little darling strawberry did a passable impersonation of a snowflake as he was read his rights.


Anywhere in New York, at four in the morning, you can go on your Uber, or Lyft, or Jono app and by playing them off against each other a private car will be at your door inside two minutes. You command the universe! Your meals can all arrive at your door to the minute you command. You can say/do what you want, where you want, to whom you want, without correlative responsibility or even a token nod to the wider world in which you live, move and have your being.


The one-dimensional, "self-space" bollocks of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter provides the "I'm in control” unilateral societal modus operandi that creates millions of Little Princes. Never in the rather exceptional (if terrifying at times) progress of mankind has so much control been put in the unaccountable hands of the inexperienced. Communications are conducted on a unilateral basis. There is none of the inconvenient challenges of bi-lateral comms aka "looking someone in the eye". You can just put it out there and never have to look anyone in the face, never have to be accountable for one's actions; just keep building the snowman or the punnet of strawberries.


Such a self-obsessed society can afford to leave the ‘big stuff’ to...er...Corbyn! It makes 'em feel good, smack the Establishment. There's no need to try to emulate kicking a policeman in the head in Grosvenor Square in an anti-Vietnam demo in 1968 (sound familiar Jack Straw?); in 2017 you just vote for a bunch of totalitarian, anti- business, terrorist-sympathising Marxists. You can leave all the difficult stuff to...er...Jezza! Smack the rich bastards, pull up the drawbridge, everyone can have prizes. Who cares who pays for it? Blame the world's capitalists for everything; nationalise the lot! I voted didn't I, so now just leave me to nurse my post-Glasto, substance-abuse-nurtured hangover in an aura of feel-good and let me turn up late to get on with my selfish, individualistic, Uber-calling, social-media driven, warm cocoon-inviting world.


The age of Paxman and Humphreys may be over. "Be gentle" may be the order of the day. "Everyone can have prizes" – even in the ‘World of


the Big Interview’. Why is the norm a sofa chat of "Hi, I'm here to ask you a few questions about how tasty/sickly (delete as appropriate) is the candy floss in La-La Land?" rather than "Why is this b*****d lying to me?". Evidently the awkward question has to be left in the holster. We're all off to a land of free university education (aka the poor devil who pays his taxes having done an apprenticeship pays for a Cor- bynista to do three years learning Norwegian Aardvark Sexing at Nether Wallop Poly!) and the nationalisation of everything that moves (in La-La Land everything is either forbidden or compulsory). Anyone who has the temerity to voice publicly their disapproval will get a disgusting roasting on the wonderfully communicative, two-way (not!) social media and probably a brick through their window and possibly something worse through their letter box ...shades of the 1930s elsewhere methinks! Not so avuncular now, are we Jezza! The first thing that lot would do in power is abolish General Elections...that's what Marxists do!


But it ain't like that "out there". This is Asia's century. We bossed the 19th century and the Yanks had the 20th. This is Asia's time. My experience of the past week has taught me in words of one-syllable that free-trade deals with Singapore and Australia (and presumably New Zealand when they've got over the All Blacks not being quite so good as they thought they were) are there for the signing. We need to come at it with a massive dose of humility; an apology for Heath's mob leaving them all high 'n dry in 1973 as we ran headlong into Germany's em- brace, cutting off our ties with countries that sent two generations of men to die so we could be free, wouldn't go amiss. An appreciation that we need them more than they need us, would be welcome. But we are a free-trading, open market, trade-based economy that truly is a free- trade exemplar to the world, to Asia's century and they know it and want us. Do not fall for the Remoaner canard of it all being too difficult – it ain't. We really can do something rather marvellous with all this, but there has to be a step change in expectation and effort required.


Not for my country the protectionism of a France-influenced EU or the isolationism of a Trumpian-America; let us get out there and crack it. As for those darling snowflakes, still recovering from a Glasto-fuelled hangover of Corbynesque proportions, I would just observe that no-one, absolutely no-one, owes you a living. There are literally hundreds of millions of Asian women and men who want your lunch, wham! Straight off your plate! Please, please believe me, Jezza and his anti-business, totalitarian, terrorist- sympathising Marxist mates ain't going to save you.


The world, the real world, the one I see outside my aircraft window this Saturday afternoon is not walking to the beat of your drum and has no intention of doing so anytime soon.


Lord Digby Jones


Lord Digby Jones was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry 2000-2006 & UK Minister of State for Trade & Investment 2007-08. He chairs some five companies, a Board of Governors of a College of Education & is Patron of several charities in the areas of Cancer Research & Relief & the Royal Navy. He is an author (his second book "Fixing Business" was published by Wiley earlier this year) & broadcaster on television & radio; he delivers speeches & lectures on various topics around the world.


/ 79


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