Some of the most malevolent legacies of the Margaret Thatcher era for British society have been grievously self-evident. Some people have included the deadly sin of greed among them but I’m afraid we can’t lay that one at her feet. Like its six fraternal vices, greed has always been with us. All Thatcher did was turn lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride into attributes. To this day, these are pillars upon which stands the modern Conservative party.
You may be surprised at the inclusion of sloth on this list. Didn’t even her enemies concede that the Iron Lady always proclaimed the rewards of hard work? I would contend that her acolytes certainly all did believe in hard work, so long as it was only the working class that would be made to do it. Under her, the capitalist dream of being granted the means to make money in exchange for doing as little as possible became a reality.
Other consequences of Thatcher – in no particular order – are: Jacob Rees-Mogg; Nigel Farage; an extra decade of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; jingoism; patriotism; the fetishisation of the British armed forces; the DWP; and the great British energy sell-off.
One that rarely makes the list but has been responsible for decades of self-delusion and misplaced optimism has been the pernicious rise of the motivational speaker. To walk in the footsteps of one of these charlatans is to take a trip down the boulevard of broken dreams. It could be argued too that the unholy transubstantiation that turned these snake-oil salesmen into high priests gave birth to a gallery of grotesque jobs that can occasionally be glimpsed on the business networking site LinkedIn.
Occasionally, when I’m getting an attack of the heebie-jeebies, I take a wee peek at LinkedIn to reassure myself that I didn’t take a wrong turning in life. In recent weeks, I’ve been “checked out” by a fine-tuning performance and team motivator, assorted drivers of innovation, three management mentors, two enablers and countless niche business marketers. There are so many people selling “niche” solutions that the word niche itself has now become obsolete.
I feel that the motivational speaking sector and business leader industry should be much more stringently regulated. We simply can’t have these sharp-suited hucksters running around willy, not to mention nilly, telling people that if they get up at 5am and take a NutriBullet smoothie every morning that they’ll be buying their own yacht in the time it takes to say: “I’m running an idea up a flagpole to reach some low-hanging fruit.”
These people live in a twilight, fantasy workplace where the bosses are all enlightened progressives who pay the living wage and grant their staff trade union membership. And where no one ever gets sick and those mergers and buyouts that always result in job losses for the lowest paid never happen. Or where banks never prey on you by enticing you into recalibrating your loan arrangement and then swooping to bankrupt you a year down the line.
It is a land of make-believe where baby spinach and apricot smoothies, dawn workouts, a sunny disposition and adopting the lotus position are enough to combat the cruellest business setbacks. You’d be better off adopting the foetal position each day and chanting the name of your favourite football team for all the good it will do you when the great capitalist bulldozer comes crashing through your door.
British industry doesn’t need motivational speakers – it needs demotivational speakers and I feel that I am the man for the job. All that you require is the requisite degree of cynicism and a questioning attitude to any solution that promises penthouses in exchange for early starts and late finishes. My intro would be short and bitter but it would cut through the bullshit and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to put a spoke in the wheel of capitalism and the purveyors of corporate mince.
“Comrades [for this is a pleasingly gender-neutral term], I want you all to turn to the person on your left and tell them that their hair is a mess and that they’ve still got curry stains on their shirts and that they walk in the shadow of losers [this is very important because basically it means that their day can’t get any worse].
“Next, I’m going to go round every member of the group in a clockwise direction and ask each of you to tell us something extremely dodgy about yourself. This could be your most satisfying memory of fiddling your expenses, getting a day off work on a falsehood or securing a bonus on the back of a colleague’s work. You must celebrate these occasions and take pride in them because they are the means by which many of our government ministers and their party donors reached the very top.
“Now I want those of you who are over the age of 40 and who earn less than 30k a year and still live in rented accommodation to take a step forward. My security officers will escort you politely but firmly to the door. Regrettably, you are beyond redemption and will create a bad vibe in the group. More importantly, you won’t be able to afford my two-week programme at Gleneagles, which you are required to attend if you are to get anything meaningful from my talks.
“We will now take an extended break for elevenses, followed by brunch and lunch. We’ll then break into small discussion groups for what remains of the afternoon. We’ll reconvene in Rogano at 5.30 for networking and professional bonding.”
• Kevin McKenna is an Observer columnist