Tonight, I had the sad and solemn duty to announce publicly the passing of my friend Thomas Gad.
Iâm still waiting for someone to come out and tell me that I have been severely pranked.
Thomas was the founder of what we now call Medinge Group. After working for 17 years at Grey Advertising as an international creative director, Thomas set up Brandflight, a leading branding consultancy HQed in Stockholm. He authored 4-D Branding, Managing Brand Me (with his wife, Annette Rosencreutz), and, most recently, Customer Experience Branding.
In 2000, Thomas seized on an idea: why not gather a bunch of leading brand practitioners at Annetteâs familyâs villa at Medinge, three hours west of Stockholm, for a bit of R&R, where they could all discuss ideas around the profession?
Nicholas Ind was one of the people at that first meeting. In a statement tonight, Nick wrote, âI first met Thomas when I was working in Stockholm in 2000âhe invited me to join him at Medinge in the Swedish countryside to talk about branding. So began a professional and personal relationship that was truly fulfilling. Thomas, and his wife Annette, hosted the annual meetings we had at his house every summer after that with unrivalled generosity. My strongest recollection of those days is not the debates we had or flying with Thomas in his sea plane (even though those are also memorable), but Thomas and Annette sitting at the dinner table in the evenings singing songs, telling jokes and bringing everyone together. Thomas was exceptional in the way he made everyone feel welcome and valued in the groupâhe will be deeply missed.â
I came on the scene in 2002, invited by Chris Macrae. The event had become international the year before. Thomas and Annette made me feel incredibly at home at Medinge, and we had an incredibly productive meeting. He had taught me to sing ‘Helan gĂ„r’, for no Swedish gathering is complete without a drinking song.
At the same meeting, I met Ian Ryder, who wrote, âAs a founding member, and now Honorary Life Member, of Medinge Group I couldn’t possibly let such a sad announcement pass without observation. Thomas was a really bright, intellectually and socially, human being who I first met at the inaugural pre-Medinge group meeting in Amsterdam sixteen years ago. Little did we know then that our band of open-minded, globally experienced brand experts would develop into a superb think-tank based out of Thomas’s home in Medinge, Sweden.
âFor many years he and his lovely wife, Annette, hosted with a big heart, the annual gathering at which he played fabulous host to those of us who made it there. A larger-than-life, clever and successful professional, Thomas will be sorely missed by all those lucky enough to have known him.’
By the end of the summer 2002 meeting we had some principles around branding, the idea for a book (which became Beyond Branding), and a desire to formalize ourselves into an organization. The meeting at Medinge would soon become the Medinge Group (the definite article was part of our original name), and we had come to represent brands with a conscience: the idea that brands could do good, and that business could be humane and humanistic. This came about in an environment of real change: Enron, which had been given awards for supposedly doing good, had been exposed as fraudulent; there was a generation of media-savvy young people who could see through the BS and were voting and buying based on causes they supported; and inequality was on the rise, something that the late Economist editor, Norman Macrae (Chrisâs Dad) even then called humankindâs most pressing concern. If everything is a product of its time, then that was true of us; and the issues that we care about the most are still with us, and changes to the way we do business are needed more now than ever.
This is Thomasâs legacy: Medinge Group is an incorporated company with far more members worldwide, holding two meetings per annum: the annual summer retreat in Sweden, and a public event every spring, with the next in Sevilla. The public events, and the Brands with a Conscience awards held in the 2000s, came about during Stanley Mossâs time as CEO. Stanley wrote this morning, âThomas brought his vision and resources to the foundation of Medinge, and served as a critical voice in the international movement for humanistic brands.â We continue today to spread that vision.
We have now been robbed far too early of two of our talents: Colin Morley, in the 7-7 bombings in London in 2005; and, now, Thomas, taken by cancer at age 65. My thoughts go to Annette and to the entire family.
The trouble with the graphic is that the only thing it got right was that two women were killed. Sweden wasnât having a referendum on whether to leave the EU, it was about whether it should adopt the euro. The closest British parallel would have been when then-PM John Major negotiated the Maastricht opt-out in 1991. It also claimed that the polls were for leaving; notwithstanding that that wasnât what the Swedes were voting for, the polls for and against adopting the euro were roughly neck in neck, though the wisdom was that the pro-euro camp would win. By the weekend, the result was that Sweden would keep the krona.
When I argued with some pro-Brexiters about this, they, like most pecksniffians, demanded I check my facts. I didnât have to: I have a memory that goes back further than one month, and unlike them, I know what went on in their own backyard because, in 2003, I kept my eyes open.
I should point out that I am not summarizing all Brexiters as dimwitted Britons who wanted Johnny Foreigner to go home. I count among my closest friends someone who voted leave, and for very substantial, well thought-out reasons. He felt that the European Union had become an unwieldy bureaucracy which benefited Britain little, and while I felt the benefits outweighed the detriments, I respect his opinion and his vote. At least it was considered, and at least it wasnât one that was based on the ramblings and rants of Farage, Johnson, Gove et al.
Appealing to nationalism, as the likes of Farage did, is a cheap trick in politics: it stirs a wave of nostalgia, and people might love chanting at how great their nation is, but it doesnât address the core issues that put them into the poo to begin with. Of course the UK has a great deal to be proud of; but like many countries (including ours) the globalist technocratic agenda are what have made things untenable for a growing part of the population. Itâs why real wages havenât risen yet certain corporations profit aplenty; itâs why we work more hours today than we ever did, despite futurists of a generation ago predicting all this leisure time that we would all have thanks to automation.
But is retreat the right thing to do? The remain camp believes that it wasnât: to influence Europe you must be in Europe. It wasnât that long ago that not being in Europe was fatal to British exportsâthe failure of the British motor industry, for instance, was in part due to its late recognition that the UK needed to be part of the EEC or, at least, produce vehicles there. Globalizationâs positives should be the free movement of people and of capital; and economic union to permit that greater freedom seems a sensible thing to pursue, not to run away from. The trick is how to make this work for everyday people, the growing number who are impacted by globalist forces; once there were few, now few escape them. It is, then, the role of government to either protect those who are most vulnerable, to champion (either through private enterprise or on its own accord) real innovation and industry that can create jobs, and to cut through the BS where both public and private enterprise simply reinvent the wheel from time to time, putting lipstick on the bulldog.
I am ambivalent about it because Iâve seen our own governments, National and Labour, be particularly weak when it comes to dealing with globalization, succumbing to foreign takeovers and allowing the little guy to be run over. The deals havenât been good for New Zealand in many respects, a small country that believes in its place in the first world but which can be deluded about this very fact. Our economy just isnât that solid to take it on the chin. Look at our banks, mostly foreign-owned and more unreliable than ever: remember how 40 years ago cheques would take 24 hours to clear? Yet now our computerized systems take three to five working days? Insiders tell me this is the consequence of less reliable Australian systems being foisted upon us; so much so that we have a wire transfer that has been taking weeks, and no one knows where the money has gone. Just how do you misplace tens of thousands of dollars? Why do we assume Australian bankers are smart enough to answer? And those who question such agenda donât get much truck in a media landscape also dominated by foreigners: Iâm looking at one newspaper publishing group at the least. The ways of the big countries are not always the bestâyet somehow the powers-that-be in this country have been hoodwinked by this consistently since 1984. I can’t understand it, and my initial reaction when there is such a lack of logic is to follow the money.
Brexit has made me refine my thinking: I might not like a system where New Zealandâs the little player that doesnât benefit from a level playing field, but at the same time I believe we need to find ways to influence the globalist game for the better. We love looking at Scandinavian countries because of their comparable size. They may have higher taxes but at the same time they donât seem to balk at innovation for the greater good; they believe in the freedom of movement of capital and of people, and, despite their general humility, they actually arenât afraid of creating global companies that take on the rest of the world. Look at Vattenfall or Statoil. We might not like Statoil for what it wants to do to our own environment, but we do have to ask what our equivalent is. We lost our lead in hybrid cars, which we held for most of the 1980s, but itâs an example of what we can do when government and private enterprise cooperate on something that is future-oriented. Whatâs the next big thing? Is it renewable energy tech that we can export? There are companies here already doing frictionless exports, and more need to be encouraged. Government shouldnât try to create groups of them or force mergers upon them; that can be left to the market. But there needs to be a vision or a direction that we take to create a new brand for our country where people naturally think: innovation for the greater good = New Zealand. And, maybe, to go with that, a fairer version of globalization can emerge, certainly one that is not coloured by the next quarterly result demanded by Wall Street.
Yes, there is some national fervour involved here, too, but applied correctly, it wonât be false flag-waving thatâs dependent on the past. Iâm all for being proud of your country when the victories are real and measurableâlike on the sporting field. There itâs real, and itâs often about the next game or the next season: itâs future-oriented, too. With Brexit, I canât see the vision; and the most visible foreigner among this, the Turkish-American politician, Boris Johnson, hasnât communicated one that I can discern.
And maybe this confusion is the opportunity we need for New Zealand.
After the UK abandoned the Commonwealth markets in favour of one right next door, our country found new export markets, so much so that the UK accounts for 3 per cent today. Even in 1973, when it was 40 per cent, it had been falling consistently for half a decade, if I recall correctly, and the notion that Britain would reach back out toward the Empah for trade is fanciful at best.
Being someone who has enjoyed looking at world history play out through maps, ever since I discovered a book on the subject as a third former at Rongotai College, it hasnât escaped my thoughts that this is a further retreat for the UK in terms of its global influence.
So whoâs on the rise? It might be us. The centre of the global economy has been shifting eastward in recent times and weâre well placed to take advantage of it. Weâre part of the Anglosphere so we bridge the past, where it was the dominant global culture, with those trading partners who might be on the horizon. But it has to be real. Weâre nimble enough, and I canât see why weâve been so fascinated with apeing the US and the UK for so long. Once again we need to set our own direction: we have a culture thatâs ready for it with a greater sense of identity than weâve ever had. I just wonder if we have a government, local or national, courageous enough to embark on this.
Iâve just switched from Inside, the much vaunted news app from entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, to Wildcard as my principal news app on my phone. I never got to use Circa (which I understand Jason was also behind), which sounded excellent: by the time I downloaded it, they had given up.
But we all need news, and I donât like the idea of apps that are from a single media organization.
Inside seemed like a good idea, and I even got round to submitting news items myself. The idea is that the items there are curated by users, shared via the app. There was a bit of spam, but the legit stuff outnumbered it.
However, I canât understand the choices these days. A few items I put in from Radio New Zealand, Māori Television and The New Zealand Herald were fineâstories about the flag and the passing of Dr Ranginui Walker, for instanceâbut none of the ones about the passing of Martin Crowe, possibly of more international interest, remained.
There were other curious things: anything from Autocar is summarily rejected (they donât even appear) while I notice Jalopnik is fine. When it comes to cars, this is the only place where the publication with the longest history in the sector is outranked by a web-only start-up, whose pieces are enjoyable but not always accurate. The only car piece it accepted from me was about Tesla selling in Indiana, but Renault, Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin and other manufacturersâ news didnât make it. This I donât get. And I like to think I know a little bit about cars, in the week when Autocade hit 8,000,000 page views.
Now, if this is meant to be an international app, downloadable by everyone, then it should permit those of us in our own countries to have greater say in what is relevant to our compatriots.
Visit the New Zealand category, and you see a few items from yours truly, but then after that, they are few and far between: the Steven Joyce dildo incident, for example, and you donât have to scroll much to see the Otago car chase being stopped by sheep last January. A bit more has happened than these events, thank you. No wonder Americans think nothing happens here.
According to Inside, these news itemsâseparated only by one about Apple issuing a recall in our part of the worldâare far more important to users following the New Zealand category than Martin Crowe’s death.
The UK is only slightly better off, but not by much. I notice my submission about Facebook not getting away with avoiding taxes in the UK vanished overnight, too.
News of the royal baby in Sweden wasnât welcome just now. Nor was the news about the return of one of the Hong Kong booksellers, but news from Bloomberg of a luxury home on the Peak, which I submitted last month, was OK. Lulaâs questioning by police has also disappeared (admittedly my one was breaking news, and very short), though Inside does have a later one about his brief arrest.
Yet to locals, the rejected ones are important, more important than Gladys Knight singing to a cop or a knife on O. J. Simpsonâs estate (which have made it).
This is a very American app, and thatâs fine: itâs made by a US company, and Iâm willing to bet most of its users are American. However, the âallâ feed, in my view, should be global; those who want news tailored to them already have the choice of selecting their own topics. (Itâs the first thing the app gets you to do after signing in.) And if some fellow in New Zealand wants to submit, then he should have the same capacity as someone in the US. After all, there are more of them than there are of us, and I hardly think my contributions (which now keep vanishing!) will upset the status quo.
Or does it?
I mean, I have posted the odd thing from The Intercept about their countryâs elections.
Whatever the case, I think itâs very odd for an app in the second decade of the century to be so wedded to being geocentric. I can understand getting stuff weeded out for quality concernsâI admit Iâve posted the odd item that is an op-ed rather than hard newsâbut this obsession to be local, not global, reinforces some false and outdated stereotypes about the US.
Itâs like Facebook not knowing that time zones outside US Pacific Time exist and believing its 750 million (as it then was) users all lived there.
My advice to app developers is: if you donât intend your work to be global, then donât offer it to the global market. Donât let me find your app on a Chinese app centre. Say that itâs for your country only and let it be.
Or, at least be transparent about how your apps work, because I canât find anything from Inside about its curation processes other than the utopian, idealistic PR that says weâre all welcome, and we all have a chance to share. (We do. Just our articles donât stay on the feed for very long.)
Wildcard has an attractive user interface, and its mixture of news is more appealing, especially if you want more depth.
Admittedly, Iâve only been on Wildcard for less than a day but Iâve already found it more international in scope. It also has more interesting editorial items. It is still US-developedâeast coast this time, instead of west coastâbut it supplements its own news with whatâs in your Twitter feed. Itâs not as Twitter-heavy as Nuzzel, which I found too limited, but seems to give me a mixture of its own curation with those of my contacts. The user interface is nice, too.
Iâm not writing off Inside altogetherâif youâre after a US-based, US-centric news app, then itâs probably excellent, although I will leave that decision to its target market. I can hardly judge when dildos matter more to its users than the greatest cricket batsman in our country.
For me, Wildcard seems to be better balanced, it doesnât make promises about public curation that it canât keep, and Iâve already found myself spending far more time browsing its pieces than the relatively small amount that seem to remain on Inside. It is still a bit US-biased in these first 24 hours, probably because it hasnât taken that much from my Twitter contacts yet. There seems to be more news on it and Iâm getting a far better read, even of the US-relevant items. Iâm looking forward to using it more: it just seems that much more 21st-century.
In an age of social media, you would think it was the most stupid thing to try to shut down the biggest online community you have.
Ikea has done just that, on IP grounds, against Ikea Hackers, by getting their legal department to send Jules Yap, its founder, a cease-and-desist letter after her site had been going for eight years. In that time she had sent customers to Ikea, after they were inspired by the new ideas her community had on doing new things with Ikea furniture.
There are arguments that Ikea could have been liable for any injuries sustained from the “hacks”, but that’s daft. Are we really that litigious as a society, prepared to blame someone for something we ourselves freely chose to do? Ikea has instructions on how to build their furniture, and it’s your own choice if you are prepared to go against them.
And eight years is an awfully long time to bring a case against someone for trade mark usage, rendering this claim particularly weak.
There are other Ikea-hacking websites and Facebook pages as wellâso it’s even dumber that Ikea would go after one with such a huge community, a website that has an Alexa ranking currently in the 20,000s (in lay terms: it has a huge audience, potentially bigger than that of Ikea’s corporate site itself in Jules’s country, Malaysia). Jules says that she has to take down the ads as part of her settlement for being able to retain the siteâads that simply paid for her hosting, which she might not be able to afford to do any more. (Some fans have offered to host for free or provide new domain names.)
The Ikea Hackers logo doesn’t look remotely like the Ikea one, which would readily imply there was no endorsement by the Swedish company.
Therefore, Ikea’s statement, on its Facebook, holds very little water.
Vi Ă€r glada fĂ¶r det engagemang som finns fĂ¶r IKEA och att det finns communities runt om i vĂ€rlden som Ă€lskar vĂ„ra produkter lika mycket som vi gĂ¶r.
Vi kĂ€nner ett stort ansvar mot vĂ„ra kunder och att de alltid kan lita pĂ„ IKEA. Det Ă€r viktigt fĂ¶r oss att vĂ€rna om hur IKEA namnet och varumĂ€rket anvĂ€nds fĂ¶r att kunna behĂ„lla trovĂ€rdigheten i varumĂ€rket. Vi vill inte skapa fĂ¶rvirring fĂ¶r vĂ„ra kunder om nĂ€r IKEA stĂ„r bakom och nĂ€r vi inte gĂ¶r det. NĂ€r andra fĂ¶retag anvĂ€nder IKEA namnet i kommersiellt syfte, skapar det fĂ¶rvirring och rĂ€ttigheter gĂ„r fĂ¶rlorade.
DĂ€rfĂ¶r har Inter IKEA Systems, som Ă€ger rĂ€ttigheterna till IKEA varumĂ€rket, kommit Ă¶verens med IKEA Hackers om att siten frĂ„n slutet av juni 2014 fortsĂ€tter som en fan-baserad blog utan kommersiella inslag.
Essentially, it uses the standard arguments of confusion, safeguarding its trade mark, andâthe Google translation followsââWhen other companies use the IKEA name for commercial purposes, it creates confusion and rights are lost.’
This can be fought, but Jules elected not to, and her lawyer advised against it. It’s a pity, because I don’t think she received the best advice.
On Ikea’s Swedish Facebook page, some are on the attack. I wrote:
I would hardly call her activity âcommercialâ in that the ads merely paid for her web hosting. I doubt very much Jules profited. But I will tell you who did: Ikea. She introduced customers to you.
While your actions are not unprecedented, it seems to fly in the face of how one builds the social aspects of a modern brand.
The negative PR you have received from this far outweighs the brand equity she had helped you build. It was a short-sighted decision on the part of your legal department and has sullied the Ikea brand in my mind.
In 2004, the last year that the INGKA Holding group filed accounts, the company reported profits of âŹ1.4 billion on sales of âŹ12.8 billion, a margin of nearly 11 percent. Because INGKA Holding is owned by the nonprofit INGKA Foundation, none of this profit is taxed. The foundation’s nonprofit status also means that the Kamprad family cannot reap these profits directly, but the Kamprads do collect a portion of IKEA sales profits through the franchising relationship between INGKA Holding and Inter IKEA Systems.
The tax haven secret trust the companies use is legal, says Ikea, which is why it pays 3Â·5 per cent tax. I have little doubt that the complex structure takes advantage of laws without breaking them, and Kamprad was famous for departing Sweden for Switzerland because of his home country’s high taxes. The cease-and-desist letter probably is legal, too. And they show you what mentality must exist within the organization: forget the Swedishness and the charitable aspects, it’s all about the euros.
I must have had a busy end of 2013, as I never posted my trade-mark summary of the year as viewed via my Tumblr. Here âtis, better late than never.
January 2013 Lucire has a facelift onlineâby December 2013, this “new look” would be history. Kylie Minogue is on the home page as the first story with the new look. Seems very retro now.
Cliff Curtis plays a non-Māori with a standard American accent in Missing. Maybe no one really knows about New Zealand in Hollywood, unless you are Jemaine, Bret, or a Hobbit.
Kim Dotcom launches Megabox but itâs still not fair or sustainable for content creators, says Russell Brown. You just don’t hear much about this these days.
Jaguar is happy that the Tata procedures’ manual is four sides of A4 instead of Ford’s three-inch thick one. Free from US bureaucracy, it now produces good cars. This might apply to other things concerning the US of A.
Dick Prosser doesn’t get stood down by New Zealand First after racist comments, and Shearer and Key are OK with that, too. Prosser’s relieved he doesn’t work for TVNZ.
On Instagram, the OHMS hashtag reveals very little that is On Her Majesty’s Service.
Google claims that it cannot crawl for a file that never existedâthe first of some serious bugs from the search engine giant.
One reviewer equates Bruce Willis’s John McClane in the new Die Hard movie with Mr Magoo: ‘Remember those old Mister Magoo cartoons where the doddery old bald guy would blunder around various locations, leaving chaos in his wake while constantly insisting “Iâm on vacation”?’
Margaret Thatcher’s funeral was foretold in The Final Cut in the early 1990s. I watched it then. The remake was totally different. For a start, a lot of Thatcher Cabinet politicians now look like their Spitting Image caricatures.
Googlebot keeps making false accusations about malware, as I document Google’s latest folly. Why do people depend on this website? And, more to the point, isn’t libel covered by US law?
Adam Rayner and Eliza Dushku try to reboot The Saint in a remake, with Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy in cameos. The series is yet to be picked up.
The Royal Wedding of HRH Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill. It becomes one of Lucireâs most-read articles in June.
Edward Snowden becomes the whistleblower of the year. Later, when I am stuck at the Russian Embassy behind its gates in Wellington, I note that I was ‘snowed in’. Snowden has inspired new language.
Dzohokhar Tsarnaev gets on the cover of Rolling Stone. People complain that Rolling Stone glamorized him without reading the story which doesn’t glamorize him. Some media cover this without mentioning this point.
PM John Key dismisses GCSB protesters as misinformed or politically aligned.
The death of Mel Smith. Will Matt Lucas still dress up as Andy Pipkin?
Facebook and Instagram stop people from saying thank-you, either failing such comments or calling them abusive.
Stuart Munro writes, at the al-Jazeera English website: ‘The major driver of the GCSB bill has been the improper use of the agency by John Key. This bill was thrown together on the ïŹy to cover the PMâs embarrassment arising from his misuse of GCSB resources to spy on Kim Dotcom. With an honest PM, the legislation might not be problematicâbut Key makes personal and intemperate use of the GCSB. He is therefore incapable of providing impartial oversight to the GCSB, and that leaves this bill fatally ïŹawed. It will have to be scrapped, and the current GCSB will have to be disestablished in favour of a more scrupulous organisation.’
October 2013 Doctor Whoâs 50th anniversary special is coming. I eventually watch it on Iplayer after testing it out watching Strictly. This reminds me of how much Britain has changed in the last 30 years. Today, Bruce Forsyth is on BBC1 on a Saturday night, Terry Wogan is on the radio, and Tories are in Number 10. Nothing like it was before.
Google breaks another promise. In 2005, it stated, ‘There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, ïŹashy, graphical doodads ïŹying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.’
The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, which must also mean the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.
The origins of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air are revealed in this fictional entry by yours truly: ‘To entertain the populace during the Troubles, The Fresh Prince of Bel Fast was a Northern Irish sitcom about a young Catholic man from Derry who is forced to live with a Protestant family to the east of Belfast. It later spawned an American remake starring Will Smith. It was known for its theme, which concluded, “I looked at my kingdom, I was there at last / To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Fast.”‘
Pinterest puts spammers into your feed. The Hobbit cartoon in the 1970s was a much quicker way to get Tolkien’s novel dramatized: in and out in 90 minutes.
There ain’t nothing like a Dame: Penelope Keith gets a DBEâand I mark this with a Morecambe & Wise clip. Seems appropriate.
Monica Z, the bio-pic about the late Swedish jazz singer starring Edda Magnason, is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, as of earlier this week.
I learned about the movie not through my Swedish contactsâthey were messaging me only when the film was in the cinemasâbut when Edda appeared at AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen in 2013 singing ‘GrĂ¶na smĂ„ Ă€pplen’ with a Monica Zetterlund hairstyle and 1960s dress. It didn’t take long to do a bit of surfing after discovering this:
Purists (like me) will say she’s not quite as good as Monica but of the covers, this is still really good. I listened to the soundtrack ad nauseam on Myspace (really) but if I return to Scandinavia in 2014, I might pick up the DVD in person.
Just to make this post more complete, and for all lovers of Swedish jazz, here’s my favourite Monica number, as performed by Edda. I had only seen this on the full AllsĂ„ng telecast prior. (You need to have a break in the midst of a political campaign.)
I missed Julian Assange’s statement on the day (catching up on work after being out) but who would have thought we would see a situation where Ecuador would be seen to be upholding a foreign national’s press freedoms (never mind what it does at home) and the Vienna Convention, while Britain would be making diplomatic threats?
I realize the UK has sent Ecuador a letter citing its own law, giving it authority to ‘take action’ against the embassy. Here is some of that letter:
As we have previously set out, we must meet our legal obligations under the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision and the Extradition Act 2003, to arrest Mr Assange and extradite him to Sweden. We remain committed to working with you amicably to resolve this matter. But we must be absolutely clear this means that should we receive a request for safe passage for Mr Assange, after granting asylum, this would be refused, in line with our legal obligations âŠ We have to reiterate that we consider continued use of diplomatic premises in this way, to be incompatible with the VCDR (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) and not sustainable, and that we have already made clear to you the serious implications for our diplomatic relations. You should be aware that there is a legal basis in the UKâthe Diplomatic and Consular Premises Actâwhich would allow us to take action to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy. We very much hope not to get this point, but if you cannot resolve the issue of Mr Assange’s presence on your premises, this route is open to us.
My memory of the conventions, which the UK has ratified, is that the embassy remains foreign soil. There are provisions under various criminal acts which allow prosecution of diplomatic and consular staff. The Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 could see the embassy’s consular status revoked, something which the letter hints at.
This is where the UK has to think twice. If the UK is willing to do revoke the status of the mission, then its desire to be seen as a sovereign nation that respects public international law will be damaged. The DCPA was created for very different purposes: it was developed in the wake of the murder of a police officer, Yvonne Fletcher, during the Libyan Embassy siege, on April 17, 1984, and the attempted abduction of Umaru Dikko on July 5, 1984. The Act was subject to huge scrunity, but it was developed to give the UK the right to go in to the Embassy in extraordinary circumstances, such as the pursuit of suspected murderers if the Fletcher situation recurred, or, as Baroness Young told the House of Lords in 1987, in cases of terrorism.
This time, the UK wishes to invoke the Act over the breaching of bail conditionsâa very different matter altogether.
In the world of diplomacy, usually veiled with political-speak and niceties, such strongly worded correspondence is rightly construed as a threat, never mind what William Hague says in denying that the letter hints at the UK storming the mission. It also gives the state greater powers in determining how to remove inviolability before it takes action against the premisesâbut it could also be quickly challenged by Ecuador and it would be up to the courts to decide.
Where things get muddied is that Assange is an Australian, and he doesn’t fear prosecution from his own countryâusually the way through which someone claims asylum. He fears it from another country altogether, and most likely argues that his own country has failed to protect him. Assange has good grounds to believe that, since it has come from the Prime Minister herself:
It’s within living memory for a lot of people how the international community frowned on Iran during the 1979 revolution and the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran. While one could argue there was no host nation at that pointâthe Shah had left town, so to speakâit sealed in many people’s memories just how sacrosanct diplomatic missions’ soil is. In Britain, Fletcher’s murder in 1984 again pointed to the inviolability of foreign missions’ soilâand just how extraordinary the circumstances have to be for DCPA provisions over revocation to come into force.
It’s not hard to see whyâif you look at my Facebook feedâthe UK is getting criticized on its handling of the affair. It appears to be doing others’ bidding, using an extraordinary piece of legislation to pursue someone who had breached the bail conditions of another European country. It’s not the first time one law has been bent to suit unrelated purposes, and it won’t be the lastâbut in this case, a lot more people are watching the UK’s conduct.
When I attended Sir Paul Callaghan’s talk at the Wellington Town Hall last September, I felt vindicated. Here was a man who was much better qualiﬁed than me to talk about economic development, effectively endorsing the policies I ran on in 2010. But not being political, he was a great deal more persuasive. Since then, I’ve noticed more New Zealanders become convinced by Sir Paul’s passionâand wake us up to the potential that we have in this nation.
This great communicator, this wonderful patriot, this sharpest of minds, passed away today after a battle with colon cancer.
I wrote on Facebook when I heard the news that the best thing we can do to honour Sir Paul was to carry on his legacy, and to carry out the dream he had for making New Zealand a better, more innovative nation.
Sir Paul wasn’t afraid of tall poppies. He knew Kiwis punched above their weight, and wanted to see more of that happen.
All those tributes today saying his passing is a great loss to the nation are so very accurateâand I hope we’ll continue to see his dream realized.
A Reuter story today talks about Sweden’s growing inequality in the last 15 yearsâsomething I’ve certainly noticed ﬁrst-hand in the eight-year period between 2002 and 2010.
We often aspire to be like Sweden, but much of that aspiration was based on a nation image of equality and social stability. Certainly since the mid-2000s, that hasn’t been true, as Sweden embarked on reforms that we had done in the 1980s, with selling state assets and cutting taxes.
Inequality, according to the think-tank quoted in the article, has risen at a rate four times greater than that of the US.
The other sobering statistic that came out earlier this year was that Sweden has the worst-performing economy in Scandinavia.
None of this is particularly aspirational any more, and perhaps it brings me back to the opening of this blog entry: Sir Paul Callaghan.
Given that we had the 1980s’ economic reforms, but we have scarcely seen the level playing-ﬁeld promised us by the Labour government of that era, our best hope is to innovate in order to create high-value jobs. On that Sir Paul and I were in accord. Let’s play in those niches and beat the establishment with smart, clever New Zealand-owned businessesâand steadily achieve that that level playing ﬁeld that we’re meant to have.
It’s about cities creating environments that foster innovation and understand the climate needed for it to grow, which includes formally recognizing clusters, identifying and funding them, and having mechanisms that can ensure ideas don’t get lost beyond a mere discussion stageâincluding incubator and educational programmes. The best ideas need to be grown and taken to a global level.
Ah, I hear, many of these agencies already existâand that’s great. Now for the next step.
It’s also about cities not letting politics get in their way and understanding that the growth of a region is healthyâwhich means cooperation between civic leaders and an ability to move rapidly, seizing innovation opportunities. It means a reduction in bureaucracy and the realization that much of the technology exists so that time spent on admin can be kept to a minimum (and plenty of case studies exist in states more advanced than us). Right-brained people thrive when they create, not when they are ﬁlling in forms. The streamlining of the Igovt websites by the New Zealand Government is move in the right direction.
We know what has to be doneâespecially given how far down we are based on the following graph from the New Zealand Institute:
As the Institute points out, many of the right moves are being made, and have been made, at the national level. But it is also aware that an internationalization strategy is part of the mixâthe very sort of policy I have lived by in my own businesses. And this begs the question of why there have not been policies that help those who desire to go global and commercialize their ideas at a greater level. That’s the one area where we need to champion those Kiwis who have made itâMassey’s Hall of Fame dinners over the last two years celebrate such New Zealanders in a small wayâand to let those who are at school now know that, when they get into the workforce, that it’s OK to think globally.
If we’re wondering where the gap is, especially in a nation of very clever thinkers, it’s right there: we need to create a means for the best to go global, and make use of our million-strong diaspora, in very high positions, that Sir Paul pointed out in his address. Engagement with those who have made it, and having internationalization experts in our agencies who can call on their own entrepreneurial experiences, would be a perfect start.
When I talked about Nicholas Ind’s book, Meaning at Work, a few weeks ago, I said there were two titles that I wanted to mention.
The second is by my friend Stefan Engeseth, who has followed up some very innovative titlesâDetective Marketing, One and The Fall of PR and the Rise of Advertisingâwith Sharkonomics.
The premise is simple: how have sharks survived millions of years, and can we learn any lessons from them for business?
I’ve been involved with Sharkonomics since Stefan pitched the idea, and I’ve had word of him heading down to South Africa to dive with the beasts.
I’ve dived with them, too, many years ago, except mine weren’t as treacherous as the ones he confronted.
A few of us, in endorsing his book, couldn’t help but use a bunch of shark puns. Don’t let them put you off.
He wants to get further word out and the ﬁrst 100 people to do so will get the book for free (details here). You can read a brief summary about it here. It’s published by Marshall Cavendish, the people who published One. Also head to Sharkonomicsâ Facebook pageâthere’ll be more information on the upcoming launches and some of the great ideas Stefan has planned for them.
If you’re a car nut, then you won’t be mourning, too much, the passing of former Czech president Vaclev HĂĄvel. Or, for that matter, Kim Jong Il. It’s Saab that has ﬁnally died as it ﬁles for bankruptcy after GM, which still licenses key technologies to the Swedish ﬁrm, vetoed its sale to Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.
GM has a JV with SAIC, the Shanghai automaker, and believes that if those technologies were to ﬁnd their way into the hands of a small upstart Chinese rival, it wouldn’t be to its advantage. Saab, which had been teetering on collapse since March, when it ﬁrst stopped production, decided to call in the receivers today.
GM had issued a statement at the weekend, saying, ‘Saabâs various new alternative proposals are not meaningfully different from what was originally proposed to General Motors and rejected âŠ Each proposal results either directly or indirectly in the transfer of control and/or ownership of the company in a manner that would be detrimental to GM and it shareholders. As such, GM cannot support any of these proposed alternatives.’
Swedish Automobile, the parent company of Saab, responded, ‘After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded.
âThe Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that ﬁling bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors.’
GM, in the two decades in which it owned Saab, failed to turn a proﬁt with the brand. However, its parting gift, the new 9-5 saloon, was heralded by some fans as a return to form for the company. Hopes were high for it, and the 9-4X crossover, helping Saab back into a position of strength.
It’s easy to do a post mortem now, but the failure could be levelled at GM’s misunderstanding of the Saab brand. It may have been sensible to shift Saab models on to Opel platforms for economies of scale, but, in doing so, the cars lost some of their character. The lowest point was when GM created a rebodied Subaru Impreza and called it the Saab 9-2X, which fooled few buyersâone has to remember that Saab buyers tended to be well educated. Saab never ﬁtted well in a business which targeted the mainstream: its own cars were always bought by people who enjoyed their quirkiness and the fact they did not follow convention.
GM only understood this when it was far too late, as the last two models demonstrated.
When GM itself had to ﬁle for bankruptcy protection in the US in the late 2000s, Saab, Pontiac, and Saturn were the victims.
When Saab was sold to Spyker, its boss Victor Muller invested heavily into the business to try to turn it aroundâbut he, and other investors, would have lost tremendously today. Saab fans will likely remember Muller favourablyâafter all, he put his own money into the business and shared his supporters’ passionâbut in a world where break-even points are at hundreds of thousands of units, Saab’s 30,000 in 2010 were never going to be enough. MG Rover Ltd. collapsed with 2004 sales of 115,000 in 2005.
As hindsight is 20-20, Saab and Youngman might be accused of wishful thinking, believing it to be unencumbered by GM’s IP rights. However, the American business held the right of revocation over key licences that make up Saab’s 9-3, 9-4X and 9-5 models.
It’s not the ﬁrst time intellectual property has got in the way of car businesses. One of the most famous examples was BMW arranging with Rolls-Royce trade mark owner Vickers plc to license the brand for motor cars, as Volkswagen negotiated to buy the Rolls-Royce Motors business. And all Volkswagen really had to do to ﬁnd this out was visit the Rolls-Royce website home page at the time: right at the bottom, stated clearly, was the message that the Rolls-Royce brand was licensed from Vickers plc.