Cardiff Business Club interviews Admiral The Right Honourable Lord WestDate Posted: 19 March 2018
At the recent Cardiff Business Club event sponsored by Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Associations for Wales, Admiral Lord West addressed a delegation of 190 business leaders from across the capital. The former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord West also served a head of Naval Intelligence and Chief of the Defence Intelligence as well as the UK’s first Minister for counter-terrorism and cyber security.
Before his address, Admiral Lord West took time out to be interviewed by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, in which he shared his thoughts on Trump, Brexit, diversity and leadership.
On Trump: “Trump is like a child – he has an immense ego. Therefore, you need to stroke his ego a little – it takes clever handling which is difficult.”
On Brexit: “I think that the Europeans have treated the UK so badly during the negotiations and I don’t want to be part of a gang that tries to break your legs if you try to leave it.”
On diversity in the armed forces: “The military has to represent the society it is defending – I don’t care what their ethnicity, gender or sexuality is, I simply want them to be part and feel part of the force which is one of the best in the world.”
PMC: Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
ALW: Admiral Lord West
PMC: In a recent interview, you said that the Trump-Putin relationship presents a “golden opportunity to reduce tension and enhance global security.”
ALW: The two figures are very alike in many ways. They are natural deal-makers and it seemed at the time [October] that they could cooperate to do something about nuclear warheads. If they could reinvigorate and re-start negotiations that would make the world a lot safer. But I am concerned. Both are doing things that worry me. A lot of what both Trump and Putin are doing isn’t particularly statesman-like and it looks, for the moment, that things are getting worse. That is very worrying.
PMC: Trump often backtracks on what he says, what impact does this have in terms geo-political relations?
ALW: I don’t think the media have quite worked out how to handle him, no-one is used to dealing with someone who lies then says he hasn’t lied, before changing what he has just said in the very same conversation until eventually putting out an altogether different statement in a Tweet. It is almost impossible to deal with this. The media may sometimes get things wrong, but it tries extremely hard to get to the truth.
PMC: Against this backdrop, how does the Prime Minister successfully manage the ‘special relationship between the UK and US?
ALW: It is extremely hard. You have to try and establish a relationship based on connecting on a personal level and hope that will come good. It is important to remember that Trump is like a child – he has an immense ego. Therefore, you need to stroke his ego a little – it takes clever handling which is difficult. But one must remember, he is the leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth and like it or not, this is what needs to be done. Critical to this relationship will be getting really good people around him.
PMC: There is already talk of a second term, how do you see Trump’s prospects?
ALW: It will depend in who the opposition puts forward as their candidate. If Hilary Clinton stands as the Democratic candidate, I believe that Trump will get a second term. She, nor the Democrats, realise how toxic she is. Had they come up with an alternative last time around, I’m quite sure they would have won. The Democrats need to ‘grow’ another candidate – one who can and will appeal to the electorate and not rely on one so disliked, whether rightly or wrongly.
PMC: The countdown to Brexit can now begin, with 12 months until the UK formally exits the EU. Why is there still a lack of certainty over its implications for business, for the economy?
ALW: I voted to remain for obvious economic reasons. What amazed me was the number of people outside of London who were overwhelmingly in favour of leaving – it was a realisation that we in the capital were in something of a bubble. We didn’t know or realise what the nation felt. However, I have since changed my mind. I think that the Europeans have treated the UK so badly during the negotiations and I don’t want to be part of a gang that tries to break your legs if you try to leave it. That’s what the EU is trying to do. The quicker we get out of the EU, the better it will be.
PMC: What impact do you think the UK’s exit will have on the rest of Europe – it’s future?
ALW: They are desperate to get as much out of the UK as they can because frankly the finances of the EU are in a mess. Germany will soon get fed up of playing the lead support role. I think Europe could eventually split up and fall apart, there are such weaknesses.
PMC: Diversity in the workplace is at the top of the boardroom agenda, and the armed forces is making strides to becoming a more inclusive employer, too. Is the message reaching the people it needs to?
ALW: We are one group of people who are very cohesive, but they can come from anywhere and we have to be mindful of the nature of the job we’re asking people to do. The military has to represent the society it is defending – I don’t care what their ethnicity, gender or sexuality is, I simply want them to be part and feel part of the force which is one of the best in the world. There is too much focus on quotas, you have to hire the right person for the job.
PMC: Of all the things you have done and learned during your career, what would you say is the key to what makes a good leader?
ALW: You have to be able to communicate and understand your people, to develop in them the sense that they will do anything rather than ever let you down. To do that, you have to have certain standards that you set for yourself because you never realise how much those who work for you really watch everything that you do. You have to behave in the way that you want them to behave and recognise that everyone is an individual with their own desires, hopes and aspirations. They all want to be part of something greater and bigger – get this right and they will stick with you.