Thursday, 21 February 2013

Six years of blogging

I belatedly realised the other day that I've just passed my sixth birthday blogging. So I thought I would bung up a few short thoughts on how things stand six years on....

1. My view of the world has shifted a bit. I no longer accept many of the cornerstones of mainstream corporate governance, such as the general emphasis on disclosure as a policy tool, in addition to more specific ideas such as the use of performance-related pay to guide behaviour. In broader economic terms I am ever more convinced that the declining share of wealth going to labour is at the heart of much of what has gone wrong, and that rebuilding the ability of working people to claim their fair share is a massive part of the solution.

2. Linked to that, my own focus has drifted, I've blogged less about what unions are doing, though probably more about what Labour is doing. This is probably due to my day-to-day work, where I do more policy-related work and deal less than I used to with union-specific issues. However, given my over-arching political & economic view of the world, this is something I think I need to rebalance again. There are a lot of people giving advice to Labour, not so many to labour, so I'm going to try and up the union-related content again.

3. The topics that dominate the headlines even in the microcosm I inhabit have changed. I was blogging a lot five years ago about private equity, and there was a lot of TU commentary about it. That has all gone rather quiet, at least in the UK. Instead we've seen a much greater focus on reforming the financial sector, as opposed to battling bits of it.

4. I can't write as well as I used to, which is largely because I don't have the same time to commit to the blog. This is massively outweighed by the reason I can't spend as much time on blogging these days, who has just turned four! In retrospect I am very glad I didn't stop blogging a couple of years back & I'm grateful to people for encouraging me to stick with it. 

5. On the crisis, the big point I draw from it is that a big dividing line in politics, including within the Left, is how significant it is. I tend to the view that, while it's still too early to tell where we are heading, it is very clear that it has hollowed out a lot of the intellectual architecture around markets/ownership/governance etc that existed in 2007. Some things are still left standing that I think are basically facades, and could fall if subjected to a proper push. In addition, because of the confusion over what actually works, I think ideas that have until recently seemed untouchable or unthinkable are back in play.

On the same point, I think that there is corresponding legitimacy crisis for some parts of society. Banks are the most obvious example, but there are others. I have worked in a policy environment where certain organisations' views have been given a greater weight than others because of who they notionally represent, and thus how important they are within a given sector. But in the same way they have until recently been given greater weight, they could be given lesser weight in future. For example, there is no reason why policymakers should necessarily give the views of investor trade bodies more weight than those of trade unions when thinking about governance issues.

6. Finally a couple of (hopeful) predictions for the years ahead. I hope we are beginning to see a rethinking of the value of performance-related pay. I have been expecting this for a few years now, and we're starting to see a few signs that disillusionment is setting in. I don't underestimate how much of a shift this will be, since it's been an article of faith in mainstream corp gov for two decades that you need to use pay to control executive behaviour. But if a more behaviourally-informed approach to corp gov develops I don't see how we can ignore the evidence that performance-related pay isn't suited to either complex tasks, or long-term ones.

Secondly, I think we are seeing the first signs that a concerted push on the Left for a greater employee role in governance is on the cards. I put my hands up and admit this is not something I immediately expected as the crisis hit, but that goes to show you how existing 'common sense' in corp gov as been discredited and, as such, others have been given space to develop. As I've blogged recently, there's a lot of talk now on the 'thinky' bit of the Left. If we want to see this develop we need to start getting a practical programme together.  

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