The benefits of bridge building

EDITOR'S BLOG: Austerity has sucked the positivity out of far too many of us.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 17 Apr 2015

The New Miserabilists are furious about the Garden Bridge over the Thames. The brainchild of Joanna Lumley has been dismissed as a ‘luvvies’ folly’ and the Guardian has taken against it for all manner of reasons, including the fact that it will cost £3.5m a year to keep going and, even worse, won’t provide any more public lavatories. Try peeing in one of the bushes if you get desperate.

Never mind the extra 100,000 tourists a year it could bring to the UK, whatever happened to increasing the gaiety of life? The age of austerity really has sucked the positivity out of far too many of us. The bridge’s designer, Thomas Heatherwick, is almost certainly a good thing – Terence Conran called him the ‘Leonardo of our times’ – and Andrew Davidson’s excellent profile gives a great insight into how his business – he also created the new London doubledecker bus and the 2012 Olympic flame – really ticks.

Another feature of Miserabilism is knocking all business as rapacious, deceitful and planet-harming. The current high levels of mistrust for business are nothing new. It’s hard to imagine there was much goodwill towards business following the Wall Street Crash or after the South Sea Bubble. There certainly wasn’t when the antics of arch-crook Robert Maxwell were revealed in the 1980s. And has anyone ever trusted the financial sector to give them a fair deal?

More recently, hearing about Richard Caring sneaking away from his HSBC branch in Geneva with £2m in cash in a suitcase hasn’t done the image of big business any good whatsoever. But I don’t think people feel so negatively about their local greengrocer or dry cleaner. Size and rootlessness seem to lead to customer and public alienation.

On the subject of trust, the Lithuanians will be hoping we keep our side of the Nato bargain if things do cut up rough with the Russians in the Baltic region. I spent three days there during the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of kicking out the Soviets.

A growing number of British businesses are setting up shop in the Baltic states. I wish all Lithuanians a safe and prosperous next 25 and hope Vladimir Putin keeps his nasty nose out of their affairs. The production of this magazine, incidentally, is looked after by a native of Vilnius. A valued mem- ber of both the EU and the MT team she is welcome to stay here in the UK for as long as she likes. And if she decides to return home to further her career, that’s fine too. That’s what freedom of movement and employment is all about.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewGwyther

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