I certainly would have gone into politics earlier. I would have taken an active interest in my thirties, rather than getting involved when I was about 50. I quite like politics: it's a horrible, nasty business full of very strange creatures, political animals who have entirely different characteristics to business people. At the top of business, decision-making is fast and effective, but there is less transparency and less accountability than in politics. At the end of the day, you're accountable by your successes.
Politics is entirely different; there are a lot more people to persuade, including the public to vote for you in the first place. Its whole process is less easily defined because you don't have an end product by which to judge success. Business people get impatient with the process of politics because you can't ever do anything quickly or effectively. You have to try to get agreement with people who fundamentally disagree with you. It's adversarial. With business it's just the opposite: you're dealing with people who are totally single-minded. It doesn't mean you all have to agree with each other; even in business, you might find that people don't agree with a decision. If you're a smart boss, you'll listen to them and either compromise or give up the idea or push ahead, but it's not adversarial. Each politician has a private agenda and that is to climb up faster than your best pal. There's no corporate loyalty, only individual ambition - that's the difference. Yes, I 'd like to have joined that rather challenging, corrupt field much earlier on, as I quite enjoy it - as long as you can go home at night, have a bath and remember it's a big game. But business fed my skills, ego, talents, needs and wants.
It is a wonderful pool to swim in, with lots of nutrients. The real lesson you learn is that you are on an increasingly fast treadmill and you can never stop, not even for one minute.
Lord Kalms was chairman of Dixons Group 1962-2002, and director of the anti-euro lobbying group Business for Sterling 1998-2001.