George Pitcher: Big business and Labour can make a winning team

The Government cannot achieve its aim of a better society on its own. Advances will only come if it forms a coalition with big business, argues George Pitcher

I’m afraid I have problems with the new name for PwC Consulting, the consultancy arm of audit and accountancy outfit PricewaterhouseCoopers. With the assistance of branding consultants from Wolff Olins, PwC is to be known henceforth as Monday.

Monday apparently has clear brand associations, which Wolff Olins will have researched. According to a PwC spokesperson, Monday inspires images of “fresh thinking, doughnuts and hot coffee”. It could just as easily have been hot thinking, fresh doughnuts and coffee.

And the company’s assertion that the name signifies “a new beginning”, as in the start of a new week, must surely come as a surprise to the Christian church. But that’s the problem, with brand names – they can mean whatever you want them to mean.

For myself, Monday means “slightly hung over and tetchy”, although I do see that the resulting acronym would be unhelpful. But had I been surveyed, I think the most ready association that would have come to mind would have been the Monday Club.

Now, I don’t think that a management consultancy that is trying to be forward-thinking and of the future should necessarily associate itself with a reactionary and right-wing Conservative dining club. But I could be wrong.

The world is moving to the right and is being led there by President George W. Bush’s insistence that the right-wing American way is the correct model for world order. This is confirmed by our own Labour government.

While the global Right were celebrating at the International Democratic Union in Washington at the start of this week (on Monday, naturally), New Labour were also consolidating the Third Way. This prompted Peter Mandelson, still revered as the architect of New Labour, to muse in The Times that “globalisation punishes hard any country ignoring the realities of the market or prudent public finances. In this strictly narrow sense we are all Thatcherites now.”

You might just as well say we’re all members of the Monday Club now. The Left is as enthusiastic about free-market economics and globalisation as the Right has traditionally been.

This is bad news for Conservatives, who see more of their policy-making territory colonised by the soft Left, and good news for consultancy firms such as Monday, which thrive in such markets. But it’s all too much for some Labour ministers, watching former socialist colleagues behave like their former oppressors.

For these recidivists, the old enemy is not the Conservative Party, but the capitalism and enterprise on which it has depended for its livelihood. To see their old caring, sharing party cosy up to what old socialists have always called big business is almost too much to bear.

At the same Third Way seminar at the weekend that Mandelson was addressing, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt danced to a different tune. “Labour, like other left-of-centre parties, is open to accusations of too-close relations with business,” said the secretary of state with most direct influence on business policy. “If we did fall into that trap, it would be a disaster We must have much clearer principles, based on the public interest on government’s role in relation to business.”

This is fascinating stuff, because it means the trade and industry secretary is flying in the face of her colleagues, as they form the kind of relationships with big business that have more normally been the nuptial rights of the Tories.

I have never believed that contributions to the cause from the likes of Ecclestone and Mittal are the real story of Labour’s love affair with business. Nor do I think that Mandelson & Co are simply awestruck by the glamour and money of business. They are more complex individuals than that.

What they see is that the Third Way – if it is to be interpreted as a mission to make the world a better place in which to live – cannot be achieved by government alone. There has to be a coalition with big business if meaningful advances in social inclusion, the environment and the conduct of the global economy are to be made.

The minister for corporate social responsibility (CSR) said it last month when the Government published its second annual report on the subject: “CSR offers a new alternative to the ide

a that economic and social goals must always be in conflict [There] is an opportunity for business and society to work together to create a better society.”

Trade secretary Hewitt should grasp what is going on in The Project if she has a finely developed sense of ambition. But she’s not the only one. There is a woeful lack of attention being given to this co-venture between the Government and industry by those who have a responsibility to decide whether it’s a worthwhile exercise or not.

Businesses almost invariably believe that CSR is about appointing sensitive people to audit their social and environmental responsibilities. It is, potentially, a whole lot more than that.

And if the new breed of management consultants spent less time on branding and following the globalisation bandwagon, they might find a leadership role in defining the viability of the Government’s ambitious co-venture with business.

Perhaps it’s time to wake up and smell some fresh thinking, if not coffee. We could make a start on Monday.

George Pitcher is a partner at communications management consultancy Luther Pendragon


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