Friday 22 May 2015

On to the Victorians

A friend has passed on to me a cutting from a ten yea old copy (21/01/2005) of the Guardian which reports the creation of a seven mile walk in York to celebrate the life and work of Joseph Rowntree (1836 - 1925).  Rowntree, a Quaker, established the famous cocoa and chocolate business and the article cites him as "one of Britain's greatest and most interesting philanthropists."  Rowntree was "far ahead of his time as a progressive employer, radical thinker and social innovator" who "was a pioneer in modern employment, from pension schemes to employee shareholding and works councils."

Apparently he lived a modest life, often walked to work and took quite family holidays in Scarborough  (where I spent VE Day: see earlier post).

Rowntree left most of his fortune to various trusts and you can read about the scope of their work on

All this seems light years away from the short term profit maximising ethos which seems to dominate the thinking of the hard headed, grasping captains of  finance,commerce and industry today,  and I regret that things are likely to get even worse in the next five years.

In the meantime the broad left should be thinking how we can create an alternative ethos, of long term consideration not only for profit but also for people and the planet, for which we can campaign with confidence and enthusiasm at the next election.

What's left of we Liberal Democrats, with our long tradition of advocacy of profit sharing and employee participation, should take a leading role in this.

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