Politics is “completely antithetical” to sound business, former City banker Adam Knight preparing to take on Tory chairman Greg Hands in his former safe Conservative Chelsea seat has warned.
Ex-Goldman Sachs trader Knight, 49, is the Liberal Democrat candidate in Chelsea and Fulham, where he will seek to put Conservative party chairman Greg Hands out of a job.
Speaking exclusively to CityA.M., Knight, a former MD and global head of metals, social finance investor, and entrepreneur, said his business experience would set him apart.
“I think I can make a difference,” the dad of four said. “The gap between what the UK could be achieving and what it is achieving has gotten wider and wider, over the past few years.
“If we look at everything we do in business, which is about long-term thinking, planning and investment, iterative progress, experimenting and testing – the scientific method really – applied to anything that’s incredibly effective and can deliver huge change over time.
“Politics is completely antithetical to that and doesn’t do that at all.”
‘Dynamic business community’
Productive investment, he says, is vital to transforming the UK’s economy – including to shore up resilience for future once-in-a-generation shocks.
He claims: “Conservatives tend to let business ‘do what it wants’ [which] enables shoddy businesses to survive.”
“Most businesses want to have a well-run, well-regulated market where the rules are clear, stable and enforced fairly, so the Conservative view doesn’t actually appeal.
“The Labour view, of the slightly heavier hand of government and a lot more tax, also doesn’t appeal.”
Asked if the UK’s relatively poor economic performance is down to multiple global factors, like Brexit, Covid-19, Ukraine and the inflation crisis, he is adamant: “I don’t think that’s right.
“Shocks happen, they’re always going to happen. They are predictable. But if you look at the UK, its performance relative to others, it’s really terrible. And it doesn’t need to be.
“We’ve actually got a really dynamic workforce, a really dynamic business and city community, we should be weathering these shocks better than almost anyone.”
Knight, who says he has given “between £50,000 to £100,000” to the Lib Dems over time, and is inspired by the party’s “values” and Ed Davey’s “fantastic” leadership, thinks the party has an “incredible opportunity” at the next general election, due January 2025 at the latest.
Multi-linguist Hands – he of the famous outsized ‘there’s no money left’ note, left by Labour – secured a majority of around 11,000 at the 2019 election.
But his seat, formed in 2010, was once the sixth-most strongly Tory-voting constituency in the UK – prompting questions as to whether the party still speaks the language of their base.
“The Tories since then have really moved a long way away from their voters,” Knight said.
“People feel really abandoned. The party has moved away from business, the City of London, the rules based order and being a responsible part of the international community.”
Chairman of BeZero Carbon and board member at Fleximise and Social and Sustainable Capital, which he founded, Knight says he wants to see Brits back on a path to prosperity.
‘Horrified by Liz Truss’
He reckons voters in the predominantly affluent central London area won’t be attracted by Labour as “the party of just instinctive tax rises” – making him the natural alternative.
“They want a party that represents where they are – pro-business, internationalist, pro-future and looking forwards,” he added, despite some warning him he is “kind of crazy” for running.
Coalition talk leaves him cold – “individual MPs can have a real impact” – and when it comes to electoral pacts, he insists: “I don’t think those conversations are ongoing.”
But ultimately his pitch is one of optimism, adding: “It doesn’t feel optimistic at the moment.”
He said: “I think it’s a real worry over economic mismanagement. People were horrified by what happened with Liz Truss. It’s that wanting to get back to sound management.”