I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve lost all respect for politicians, and I think I’ve found the answer. Paradoxically, it’s because they’ve become more like me.  

Let me explain… 

I’ve always admired conviction politicians – people like Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner. I may not agree with what they have to say, but I know when they say it, that it comes from the heart. They truly believe what they’re saying – they truly believe that what they’re proposing is right for the country. 

But politicians like these are of a dying breed. In fact they may have died out already. You’ll note I haven’t given you any examples from the modern era. That’s because I can’t think of any. There’s not really a place in modern politics, for people like this. 

The new approach is characterised by people like Tony Blair and David Cameron – chameleon-like characters who, if truthful, would respond to the question “What do you stand for?” with: 

“What do you want me to stand for. I’m flexible.” 

To my mind, this is morally indefensible, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to forge a political career on that footing. The idea that you form policies on the basis of what people say they want, rather than what you believe to be right, just seems ridiculous. Surely the whole point of going into politics is to bring about changes and improvements in the precise direction you believe to be right – not to deliver some half-arsed compromise, ordered up by an electorate primarily motivated by self-interest, greed and envy… 

If I’m going to find out what people want, and then deliver it to them, I’ll do it in a business thank you very much. The money is better and you get to sleep at night. And that’s what I choose to do. 

In a business, it’s called marketing ~ and it’s ethical and deserving of respect. In politics, it’s called opportunism ~ and it’s unethical, and deserving of contempt. In business, you have to give people what they want, but as a politician you should be giving them what they need. There’s a massive difference. 

If you go into politics, please become a conviction politician. I’ll vote for you at least. But if you go into business, please don’t become a conviction marketer. There’s no surer way to the poor house. 

Let me explain what I mean… 

So many people launch a business or money-making enterprise on the back of a conviction. They have an idea for a product or service, and believe that it’s something people need and will pay for. They have no evidence for this, other than their own firmly-held belief. I speak to people like this all the time. 

They approach me with a product or service they’d like me to sell for them. They’ve often spent months (sometimes years) perfecting their offering, without ever going to the trouble of finding out whether people actually want what they’ve perfected. When I ask them about their market research, their test promotions, or their target market, there’s no response other than: “Well, we haven’t done that yet.” 

And what they’ve ended up with, is something perfectly crafted ~ but something there’s a strong possibility that nobody wants to buy. Such is their belief, their conviction, in the product, that they’re blinded to the realities of the market. That’s fine for a politician on a crusade to bring about change he believes in, and being paid to do it, but out-and-out disaster for any entrepreneur who stands or falls on sales and profit. 

Take a leaf out of the modern politicians book… 

Find out what people want and then set about delivering it to them. Don’t waste time and energy trying to sell what you think they need. Sell them what they want instead. And don’t fall in love with your product. Be prepared to adapt and change it into a form that will attract the maximum number of buyers. 

As a politician it’s what makes you a contemptible opportunist ~ but as a marketer it’s what makes you rich.   


 John Harrison

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