Norman conquest?

Torquil Norman has sent me his book, “Kick the tyres, light the fires” for review on this website. He bought the Roundhouse with a charitable fund which he had established from his successful toy business, and renovated it for young people to use for performance and media. Around 6000 young people a year use it, often from difficult backgrounds. His determination raised £30 million for the charity.

His success as an entrepreneur, creating the Big yellow teapot and other subsequent good sellers, was followed by his success as charity fundraiser and inspirer of many a young person through his Roundhouse project. We need more people with such get up and go, willing to take their energy and their cash into the world of the uninspired and down on their lucks.

His book is dedicated to the following main proposition:

“Real freedom brings self reliance and independence of mind which releases unimaginable amounts of enegry. Willingness to fail and openness to change focuses that energy towards solid achievement. But equally, lack of freedom, over-control, too much management and too many rules leads to disinterest, apathy and failure”.

Exactly. The more government seeks to legislate against failure and tries to regulate to prescribe the perfect way to do things, the fewer people who feel they can work through or with the system. Entrepreneurs go on strike and charity workers seek state grants to pay for the Compliance officers they need.

He is very critical of the expensive and complex tax and benefits system, believing it has damaged incentives to work and left more people in poverty than a system which encouraged more self reliance. He favours a National Community service, asking people who have been out of work for longer than six months to carry out some worthwhile work in their community.

He wants to see prison reform, with much more emphasis on educating young people out of crime and helping them find worthwhile things to do. He is conscious of the need to tackle drug addiction and mental health problems which underly a large number of UK prison inmates.

He rightly welcomes the last government’s Total Place initiative to find out how much public money goes into each area and how it can be better spent. He favours much more local and community decision making, and more of the local and charitable initiatives that go in to the Big Society idea.

His book is a hectic, energetic and unruly one. Some of the big ideas are not thought through in detail, with round numbers that would not survive the scrutiny of the civil service. Nonetheless it is a welcome contribution to the debate from an energetic businessman and charity worker. He is someone with passion for reform and a strong social conscience. We have need of many more such people if we are going to turn the Uk round. He is right about the stifling impact of so much heavy handed centralised government.

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  1. michael read
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    "His book is a hectic, energetic and unruly one". You're much too diplomatic.

    Build the new Jerusalem on big yellow teapots, indeed.

    He's a (unflattering word about his clarity of thought).

  2. Lola
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    "Real freedom brings self reliance and independence of mind which releases unimaginable amounts of enegry. Willingness to fail and openness to change focuses that energy towards solid achievement. But equally, lack of freedom, over-control, too much management and too many rules leads to disinterest, apathy and failure”.

    Well, you'd better go away and explain that to Osborne and Hoban regarding their design and remit of the proposed replacement of the FSA and the ludicrous Retail Distribution Review.

  3. Ex Liverpool Rioter
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Oh Yes lets spin the "Con-Lib" sound byte here!

    Try getting carjacked, try getting broken into 3 times, try having a gun pointed at you because "its their area"…….

    I could go on, ……………………let me explain it to you…………..IF THE BASTARDS ARE LOCKED UP, THEY CAN NOT DO ANY MORE CRIME !!!!!

    What in Gods name do you think happens when they get out?????

    Go get a £500 a week job with British Aerospace?…..Not.

    You still pay their housing, their Tax Credits….& suffer THEM!


    • Alan Jutson
      Posted June 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Mike, I assume you are not in favour of Ken Clarkes comments then !.

      I agree with you, build more prisons and let us have some proper sentencing,

      By all means try a bit of education, rehabilitation and training, but whilst they are in prison and have to attend such courses.

      Our system has become a laughing stock because we cannot give proper sentences, as we do not have enough room in prisons.

      Yes some crimes do perhaps not require prison but habitual offenders need to be taken off the streets for a period. Private (Designed Built and run) Prisons of which we have a number, seem to cost less per inmate than those run by the State, WHY.

      Difficult to make a comparison of results of Private v State run prison reoffending as many prisoners may have served time in both, but perhaps worth investigating.

  4. A.Sedgwick
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Mr.Norman is in tune with a lot of people who regard all our Governments as too timid. A no brainer has to be to simplify the tax and benefit system so that incomes up to say £15K p.a. do not pay income tax or N.I. These should be amalgamated which incidentally would involve some pensioners paying more income tax.
    The incentive of people getting all their earnings should help to motivate many and free those trapped on benefits.
    What does GO give the low paid another £1000 tax relief after the Libdems twisted his arm up his back and the bureaucracy lives on – talk about low horizons.

  5. christina sarginson
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this man is an inspiration to us all. I am in business myself and have had many comments from individuals who have been trained by my company who have said that the training we have delivered for equality and diversity has changed their mind set and their lives. It is a fantastic feeling to do work like this and very rewarding, I hope he continues to do this for many years to come, he will make a difference to people’s lives and that is the most wonderful thing of all.

  6. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Many themes have a favourable resonance with me. Let me respond to just one, drug addiction in prison.

    If what is frequently reported is true, then drugs a readily available in prison. If illegal drug use can not be eliminated in prison then I can only conclude that the authorities are either acquiescing or simple do not care. Talk of tackling illegal drug use in the general population is so much hot air.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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