Why businesses and politicians need to get better at disagreeing: Julian Pearce

It is set to be a landmark year for politics in this country and not least in the Yorkshire region. And if I were granted one wish for 2024, it would be that we all work towards a more robust relationship between politicians and the business community, for the greater good.

With the first mayoral term coming to an end in West Yorkshire and elections set for the new office of North Yorkshire Mayor, regional devolution will once again be in the spotlight.

Add to this the inevitable policy tumult of a general election (constituency boundary changes and all) as well as many of the councils across the region putting a third of councillors to the ballot boxes, then we have all the ingredients for some interesting times ahead.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In my line of work, you tend to come across politicians of all colours and at all levels. There is no doubt that political discourse and the ability of businesses to actively engage in policy, can be improved with a more robust relationship between these two pillars of society.

Julian Pearce shares his expert insight. Picture: David LindsayJulian Pearce shares his expert insight. Picture: David Lindsay
Julian Pearce shares his expert insight. Picture: David Lindsay

Many politicians see the value of building relationships with the business community. They speak to and listen to the revenue generators in our towns and cities and seek to understand the stresses and nuances, which can make a genuine difference to economies and people’s lives.

Similarly, there are a fair number of business leaders who will happily take a politician to task about an issue and lobby in a forthright (but fair) way, in order to get a point across.

But on both sides, there are still too many instances whereby a malaise exists as we tread the middle ground, fence-sit, don’t speak our minds and leave meetings feeling unfulfilled.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

My hope is that 2024 can be an end to the conversations whereby businesses and politicians dance around the issues, for fear of offending each other. Politicians are human, as we all are, and should be treated as such.

I’ve attended meetings with ministers whereby they are treated as deities. In my view, if you get the opportunity to meet with someone who has genuine influence, you need to grasp that chance to tell it like it really is.

And of course that robust debate goes both ways. Some businesses will have selfish interests, and politicians should feel free to call that out, if it’s not going to result in the greater good.

We can all benefit from having genuine and forthright conversations – and yes – disagreements. We seem to have backed ourselves into a corner whereby process and formality have overtaken the ability to actually create change.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There are some fantastic groups in our region that make this possible, not least the excellent West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. Bridging the divide between politics and business should be a priority for whoever is in power, nationally, regionally or locally.

But it does raise the question as to how we have allowed there to be such a chasm between the two. What it comes down to, in my view, is the ability to have effective lines of communication at the right levels and have the will on both sides for honest debate.

If we look to sport as an example, rugby players will happily tear each other to shreds on the pitch, and at the end of it, enjoy a pint in the clubhouse. Whilst an extreme example perhaps, this is the attitude we need to make the norm when it comes to political and business engagement.

What can really assist in this quest, is to improve the trust between the two. If business leaders only engage when strictly necessary, and politicians only intervene on the same terms, then respective interests will be poorer for it.

By encouraging more honest discourse, we can all benefit.

Julian Pearce is Founder and Director of communications agency Yasper.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.