The proposal by the Prime Minister to have consumer and possibly worker representatives on the boards of British companies has had a fascinating reception. If it were a leftist suggestion, then it can be pigeonholed as an attack on the interests of investors. But it is not. It is an idea that has emerged as one of the ways in which markets can survive and thrive in an era of inequality.
In some quarters, the response has been silence, disbelief. In others, a hope that it goes away. I don’t believe that it needs to.
In the co-operative sector, we have ample experience of what to do and what not to do, the tips and the hints and the disciplines needed to make this work. At its heart, the power of the model is that you have independent non-executive directors, but they are independently informed about a key element of company culture and performance, rather than, as at present, largely independently ignorant – and reliant on flows of information from the centre.
At present, corporate governance as an information system, is still top down, centrally controlled. Of course, you need some control and sufficient coherence, but the alternative model is what the great Shann Turnbull calls ‘cybernetic governance’ drawi information from multiple stakeholders.
I have published a longer piece on the Prime Minister’s interest in mutuality on Huffington Post and today had a letter on the origins of all this, published in The Times.