The Feed

UnHerd's blog
Congratulations Theo. And thank you

The Chairman of UnHerd’s board, Theodore Agnew, has been appointed as a new minister at the Department for Education – with responsibility for the academies programme. I’m delighted for Theo, not least because I know how much he cares about extending school choice, especially for the disadvantaged.

Theo’s move to Justine Greening’s right hand does mean, however, he has had to resign from UnHerd. I’ll greatly miss his input. Involved from the very beginning he’s been a brilliant advisor on commercial strategy, appointments and editorial shape. During August when the site was beset by technical problems he was also supremely patient but constructive. The kind of boss you want in a crisis.

He spoke at our pre-launch event in early July (pictured above), and this is what he said about one of our principal themes, the reform of western capitalism:

“The immediate over the important is what seems to drive news today. And yet the big life-changing topics such as migration, technology or prosperity get lost in the cacophony of daily drama.

The strand that I wanted to touch on is  responsible capitalism. It seems incredible to anyone of my generation that I would need to stand here and explain that the track record of Marxism and Trotsky was one of misery, starvation or death for tens if not hundreds of millions of people. And yet this country is about 60 Parliamentary seats away from that becoming the driving ideology of a British government.

How did we get there ? I’m not going to answer that in two minutes. But it is clear that capitalism hasn’t covered itself in glory. It has created a large and noisy group of voters who genuinely feel they have been ignored or exploited by it.

As someone who set up his first business when he was 17 and is still trying nearly forty years later I know a lot about capitalism. From cleaning lavatories in Sydney to floating a company which I helped to create on the New York Stock Exchange,  I have travelled its full length.

It is deeply flawed in many respects and UnHerd’s job will be to shine a light on its worst excesses to ensure that it starts to tackle them. But if managed properly it still remains the best model for creating economic prosperity for the greatest number of people.

Over the next few months you will read thoughtful articles from thoughtful people about how we can start to realign capitalism to benefit the communities in which it operates and profits. To show why the spoils of success should not accrete to the top 2% in the feed chain. To offer concrete proposals to start to turn the tide.

Sacred cows such the cartels that operate in energy supply, house building or high street banking will be challenged.  My namesake, Theodore Roosevelt, did it for America 100 or so years ago. It needs to happen again.

Or more practical suggestions such  that the chairman of any large company include in his or her annual report the number of employees in receipt of the Working Tax Credit. With many honourable exceptions, no doubt, there are too many boards who simply don’t understand what it is like to try to live on a so called living wage. Having to write that number down will focus minds.

Capitalism only works if people are given a chance to accumulate capital. The more that can do this the stronger our society becomes.”

Good luck Theo and thanks for all you did in laying foundations for UnHerd.