Yesterday I started to write a blog. It was a spur of the moment thing and I was incensed by something I had just read. Hours and words later, I realised it was really a rant against politicians, bankers, health service chiefs and men in power generally. Quite topical you might think and who would not agree?
I saw a fairly obvious and consistent link between power and corruption. The famous quote of John Dalberg-Acton (Lord Acton) came to mind. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” This was very insightful considering he wrote this in 1887.
I have however consigned my original blog to the waste bin, as only Victor Meldrew would have had the stamina to read it all. In short it just went on about how the few feather their own beds and how each political party gets caught out time and time again with corruption or funding scandals. The banks likewise lurch from one manipulation to the next mis-selling violation without taking breath and still the senior management take home millions.
Even the famous TV presenter with a best selling global motor show illustrates how power and wealth corrupt. I admire his talent and the show in question, but please explain how a millionaire can bully and physically abuse someone over food. I do not have his wealth nor probably his education but I can order and organise my own food. His actions regardless of the circumstances were disgraceful and he only did it because he could get away with it. Yes, he has lost his job but firstly he could live more comfortably than you or I if he never worked again and secondly he will find open arms wanting him for a new TV show once again paying millions. We have mortgages to pay and families to feed so we could never be that stupid or self centred.
Today I read an obituary and as solemn an event as anyone’s passing is, I was inspired and felt there are those that not only see the truth but also are prepared to speak up. The man in question was Lord Gavron who died aged 84 on February 7th this year. I have been buying books from his company for years but never knew his name.
What impressed me about his life was not only the money he made but most importantly how he used it and his sense of justice. Part of his fortune was made after he invested in some ailing companies, stuck with them through good and bad and by building a great workforce and using his management skills he eventually floated them on the stock market. He became a multi-millionaire but remained very modest and said he never wanted to become famous for making money.
At a retirement party he was once asked what it was like to be “That Rich”. His reply was surprising “When I made my first million I did two things: I bought a Rolls Royce and then I sold it. I realised that whatever I wanted it was not a Rolls Royce. The thing about having a lot of money is that you can do what you want, but you may discover that what you want is relatively modest and then you have to decide what you do with the rest.” Poignant words in today’s circumstances.
His answer was to give much of it away through charitable trusts helping health and welfare, prisons and prison reform, art and education, social policy and research. He also became active in politics but not in a tribal way and fought for social justice. In the House of Lords he spoke on a number of issues and most recently on the question of executive pay he commented; “Have they suddenly become 50 times more intelligent or 50 times more effective? No – they get so much because they help themselves.”
This is a man I respect and agree with; I had never heard of him before today but I salute him. The country has lost a great soul - Lord Gavron 1930 - 2015