We need more Mr Nice Guys

by Jack Lesgrin

Despite the blandness of the term ‘nice’, the rehabilitation of nice human attributes, particularly among political leaders, is needed more than ever in a world in which those who are far from nice keep winning.

Dictionary definitions of “nice” behaviour that evoke kindness, generosity and graciousness sound wholly positive. Yet society has an awkward relationship with the concept. It is a required attribute in the caring and nurturing professions but often eschewed in the arenas of business, politics and sport, where aggression, competitiveness and ruthlessness are the watchwords. Bill Gates’s hugely impressive philanthropy indicates profound niceness, he himself admits that in his Microsoft days he had been “tough on people he worked with” and that some of this was “over the top”.

This ambivalence can be seen in the way the ‘nice guy’ motif features in popular culture: international drug dealer Howard Marks benefits from niceness chic in his 1990s autobiography ‘Mr Nice’; Alice Cooper rebels against niceness in his song ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’; sports coaches chant “nice guys finish last”; while Richard Dawkins added a new chapter entitled ‘Nice guys finish first’ to The Selfish Gene.

The challenges faced by our communities, at any scale, can be overcome most effectively by people who exhibit niceness. Cultures of kindness and collaboration are more likely to thrive. Leaders with compassion as their core value are inclined to address the great persisting injustices of our time, at national and international level.

Star Trek’s fictitious Jean-Luc Picard shows a leadership style that is valued as much for its kindness and empathy as its decisiveness and bravery. It is no accident that the rare glimpses of this utopian future on earth imply that global problems have been overcome by such leaders.

We are a long way from Star Trek’s 24th century and niceness is in retreat due to much more than the indifference expressed in J.S. Mill’s quote, “bad men need nothing more to accomplish their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”.

Niceness is foundering because its behavioural attributes are not sufficiently respected and promoted within society. Despite general entreaties of the law for compliance and truthfulness, there is no law about being nice. The best efforts of parents and teachers to inculcate niceness have not been ultimately successful and many people learn that it impairs their personal advancement.

Second, nice people frequently fail to win leadership roles and elections. They can lack muscularity in their moderation and ruthlessness in their reasonableness, succumbing to the very stereotype that conflates niceness with weakness.

Third, as with the post-war Bretton Woods system, too much has been taken for granted for too long. Collectively, we had assumed that basic moral standards of behaviour were hard-wired into our political systems. But the ‘good chap(ette)’ concept of governance relies on just that – good people adhering to unwritten, unenforceable rules. The populists are showing this to be woolly and wishful thinking.

When assessing what must be done, it should be remembered that the universe is not predisposed towards goodness and that all human progress is man-made and must be reinforced continually. All actions, especially those of political leaders, do not merely flow from the tip of a wave of a particular zeitgeist, they unleash their own waves, inspiring future action and normalising behaviour.

Therefore, to counter the populists, it must be demonstrated that kindness is the greatest strength of all, for it expresses a positivity that can only arise from strong foundations. It must be shown that compassion is courageous, for it takes guts to give preference to the interests of the vulnerable over the strong.

Conversely, political leaders with narcissistic, bullying and lying attributes are unlikely to prioritise the wellbeing of the community and fairness. We are consequently faced with an increasingly binary choice between leaders who bridge or deepen divisions; and who nurture the good angels on our shoulders or appeal to our worst instincts.

There are glimmers of hope. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has shown strong, bold leadership over COVID-19, while epitomising nice personal attributes. Yet the future isn’t as bright in many other parts of the world. The next and most important battle for niceness is in the US. Not for the first time, American voters hold in their hands the power to send a clear message about the medium-term future of humanity. They can choose either a leader whose personal attributes represent and inspire the greatest, most noble human virtues, or one who appeals to the most cynical, self-interested vices. The lights from the ‘city on the hill’ are dimming, and depending on the result, could be dimmed further or relit.

When nasty guys win and nice guys lose, a vicious downward spiral is unleashed: the flames of division within and between countries are stoked, standards of political decency are smashed, informal checks and balances are shown to be the emperor’s new clothes, rhetoric becomes harsher, distortions of the truth more brazen, and policy solutions ever more blunt.

This slippery slope, from the initial small victories of chancers and charlatans, to victorious populism and ultimately authoritarianism can only be stopped through ‘nice guys’ winning, bolstered by a general renaissance of nice behaviour among society. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Jack Lesgrin is a Labour party activist

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19 Responses to “We need more Mr Nice Guys”

  1. wg says:

    There are a crowd of people out on the streets of the UK and USA that dress in black, wear masks, and generally set about smashing up property and people. They also have a nice red, white, and black flag (remind you of anything?)

    They, of course, describe themselves as ‘anti-fascists’.

    The oft-described ‘Left’ of politics in the UK and USA have recently beatified a career criminal who died whilst being detained by the police.
    A man who had, with criminal associates, broken into the home of a pregnant woman – our beatified hero holding a gun to the womb that held the woman’s baby.

    So moved by our hero’s martyrdom, an organisation came to the forefront of this new social religion. BLM took to fighting injustice by burning, looting, assaulting, and murdering.

    The Labour Party, led by its leader and deputy leader, took to their knees in obeisance to this new death cult.

    The ‘nice’ Left of politics, despite their insistence of being down with their communities, did not notice that thousands of children had been exploited and abused by the people whose votes Labour now depended upon.

    Not one phone call from a distressed parent; not one flagging up from our oh-so caring teaching profession; not one social care professional noting, cataloguing, and reporting a pattern in this abhorrent behaviour.

    The ‘nice Labour Party covered it all up and a generation of children must now live with the scars.

    And then we get to ‘Progressive interventionism’ – the practice of bombing, maiming, and killing thousands of men, women, and children in another country to install our version of democracy.

    I don’t know about nice, but I do know about morality – and the Labour party now are completely devoid of a moral compass.

    I will add one more thing – that every time a Labour Party activist writes the word ‘populist’ a thousand Labour votes go down the drain.

    The sneering contempt that people like Jack Lesgrin have for Labour’s traditional vote will see Labour in opposition for years to come.

  2. Alf says:

    Most of the MPs in Labour’s Tory-lite faction ain’t nice. Corbyn’s big mistake was not kicking them all out.

  3. A.J. says:

    Bugger nice, we need effective. Has anyone seen the idiot we now have in charge of the police in Derbyshire? Hugely committed to ‘diversity’, endorsed by a failed Labour candidate handed a plum job, the chum of a disgraced former Labour MP who once had a rented space up Corbyn’s backside. Doubtless be plenty of plods on hand for the next Gay Pride march, but possibly not much in the way of manpower for catching that group of people I was brought up by my working class parents to regard as criminals. Thus the long march of the soft left through the institutions goes on and on. Back in the eighties the local Labour council was absolutely at odds with the police. Now they have one of their own running the show.

  4. Tafia says:

    I have read some drivel on this site – usually from the serial wrongster Atul, but this takes not only the biscuit but the cake, tin and entire cupboard.

    If this is how Labour Party activists think nowadays, then the Tories will be laughing all the way to a 100+ seat majority come 2024.

  5. John p Reid says:

    The thing with playing nice ,is Democrats play by the rules ,the trots don’t, setting up illegal, parties within parties to pass motions they then say is local Labour Party policy when it isn’t, to oust others Region ignored The bullying and posting online, policies they’ve decided their local party represents without asking the local party if it is voted it’s their own policy,and it’s twice as hard to beat them when they break the rules
    And the Middle class liberal arm chair warriors from their Cosy homes post stuff on social media holding the ao king class in contempt, in Dagenham some luvvie liberal friend of Margaret Hodge near by suggested renaming mungo park road, George Floyd road as Mungo park had slaves, ans the local labour activists some black ans young got such abuse from the older white people who aren’t racist it’s just they didn’t want their road name changed
    and it’s us who has to canvass in council estate deal with it yet the liberals don’t live with those people, yet they won’t listen when their snobbery means all the work we do fighting racism is out back, by these people who don’t get what we lost when fords of Dagenham neatly disappeared,

    Start Treks socialist utopia she there’s no money and no racism, neglected 2 things1 how did it happen, and 2 for this utopia there’s at least a dozen stories where there’s a mad admiral in charge of Th federation hell bent on starting a galactic war,and it’s normally Spock who stopped them,and his philosophy, live king and prosper,well that’s a capitalist philosophy on life

    , yet Dawkins in his book about people need to fit in with a religion to show they are in a comfort zone with a group, he was right about religion it’s a a faith tribe to live your life by to not care politically about changing the world,but when surrounded by like minded people ,one can pat oneself on the back, and say ones morality is better than the other tribe,as the other group, aren’t as woke so they don’t know know why they’re not as smart as champagne socialists who can say they have better morality,as the guardian agrees with them so they must be right.

    Tafia, you’re right my view is labour will lose its 4 Councillors in ashfield Kent,all whom know the liberal London parties snobbery is driving votes away, we won’t win back, the stoke on Trent MPs seats and ditto parts of Essex, maybe then it’ll shock the party into having a year zero moment, saying the party needs tories votes not ex libdem ones

  6. A.J. says:

    Do you think Alf is having a laugh?

  7. A.J. says:

    Tafia, when I was a youthful Labour activist in Neil Kinnock’s day, a very lovely chap who briefly became an MP told us just three things: Don’t argue with anyone or try converting them on the doorstep; make sure you close the gate; don’t go when ‘Coronation Street’ is on.
    Once, though, when a Tory builder invited me in out of the rain for a whisky in his kitchen I was told – by a female who would now be described as ‘woke’ – that he was simply ‘trying to waste your time’.
    Then I encountered not just stupidity but plain snobbery: the middle class socialist looking down their noses at the working class activist.

    Not nice. Not nice at all.

  8. A.J. says:

    We were watching something with Alan Bennett last night. He’s ‘nice’, isn’t he? Or is he actually a silly, naive, puffed-up little twit of a professional northerner who lives in Primrose Hill or thereabouts? Is Stephen Fry ‘nice’, too? Emma Thompson? I just bet they imagine they are rather than arrogant, self-entitled and rammed full with hypocrisy.
    Bennett endorsed Corbyn. I hope he feels a touch ashamed now – or didn’t Jonathan Miller count because he wasn’t a Jew, just Jew-ish?

  9. Dave Roberts says:

    I totally agree with Tafia. Labour is now seen as the voice of BLM, the eco fascist lobby, trans rights but not the working class. In fact we seem to embarrass this lot. New Labour wasn’t keen but the current crop of revolutionaries don’t even acknowledge our existence.

  10. Vern says:

    on the subject of “nice” the Labour party do not hold the monopoly on being nice – its a preposterous myth that needs dispelling. The party that tried “kinder and fairer” brand of politics that spawned the Momentum movement and its thuggery, cancel culture, empty chairing, de-selection and calling for people to be sacked. They see the hate spilling out of Abbot, Phillips, McDonell, Rayner, Burgon and Ashworth etc.
    The electorate have wised up – the party needs a drastic overhaul and soon. The Conservatives are more reserved, more professional and more tolerant – this is what we expect from leadership.
    The prize for being the nasty party, if there ever was one is well and truly owned by Labour currently.

  11. John P Reid says:

    In 2015 I met Naushabah Khan who’d stood in Rochester & Strood the previous by election ,a Ashfield councillor
    It was about the time of the leadership election one candidate
    Yvette Cooper,
    Gordon browns preferred candidate with the British jobs for British workers and we were aware the referendum was coming up and I was still a remainer at the time
    And I felt we had to address in council estates the real concern about immigration without preaching and listening without patronising

    – [ ] And without going into dog whistle political views to convince them that we knew there’d need to be changed but the changes could still happen while in the EU if Cameron got a decent deal
    Of the preferred views to leave the EU, by those in council estates they es Ted a control on immigration and the other wings of the party weren’t listening and without preaching too the guardian reading blairite/ Corbynites we had to br clear to our members they needed to listen before it was too late
    And she liked my statement/ question
    I’ve spoke to Vince Mabel several times and Brendan Chilton ,I
    Like Ruth smeeth who I admire, I think they’ll do lose their council seats/ not win them back in general elections

  12. John P Reid says:

    David miliband
    didn’t understand How unpopular we were not only over Iraq, Andy B and Ed did in 2010
    It’s no coincidence how many people who voted for David miliband then back Corbyn and then backed Starmer
    Starmer doesn’t get how unpopular labour are now
    starmer was the one who knew when he persuaded the party against Mcdonnell saying have a 2nd referendum for remain on the ballot paper 2 years ago would mean he would end up be leader after labour would lose the next election, but his actions would lose labour the election
    What Starmer didn’t get would be it was this action that would lose him the 2024 election It’ll take labour to lose the next election . and that then maybe then it’ll shock the party of needs to change and that’ll be the year zero moment to win the
    Election after next

  13. John P Reid says:

    Labours view
    We can’t accept capitalism but can’t change it so we settle for taxing it, if which means rights based state control is the only way we can feel we’re progressive to get charities to find ways of saying we can help people live their lives
    We then became unable to offer a constructive and fair alternative and we don’t like the fact the non voters or the election to rate aren’t backing us

    The private sector then moved to the Tories ( yes private sector did like labour even 10 years ago) the public sector now have moved toward Libdems

    We need to Build a bridge between greenpeace the FBU and the Catholic Church If we want voted and we won’t win off , The SNP and we sre agreed the union is over , so sad

    What the party didnt get with brexit was to quote bob Dylan when we were warned we’d be worse off under brexit
    “If you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing to lose”

  14. Anne says:

    Actually, I tend to agree with much that is written in this article. On the whole I tend to feel that manners, politeness and nice have definitely been on the decline. Is this the effect that those we look up to in society, such as our leader are devoid of niceness- then an atmosphere of not nice or nasty is created. That it becomes acceptable to rubbish and to be offensive to those we disagree with – when does this become acceptable behaviour – when does this behaviour then escalate into further not nice or even violence. We see this behaviour in everyday life – sadly. We see in on the internet with Trolls/scammers- they hind behind false names and think it is acceptable to use offensive language and rudeness. Would we really say, for example, “what a nice guy Trump is” What standards, or examples are we using to measure such niceness? Can we look at our current leaders and say ‘what nice guys/gals these are?” They set such an example of niceness. Really? Is it ‘nice’ to lie or deceive- do these qualities constitute niceness? Not in my book it doesn’t.

  15. John P Reid says:

    Statism- is building societies as a product
    The state is caught as a subordinate as a partner of the unions with state provision, with the defeat of Blairite and the bank crash questioning capitalism ,we’ve come to the end of new labour, and now have A hands off view, with the market to work hand in hand with the state to build up co-operatives and to reconsider with division the north south divide and the inevitable break up of the United kingdom, to turn 0ff Cut the travesties is local to deal with defeat
    as the refreshed party goes on , it must realise it can’t not only have to just have not it’s not got all parts of the union, to worry about now
    to get power but see it as potential of winning back England and Wales
    if the working of a work force post covid means more state paid jobs ,then suppose the people who will seek those new jobs need to be educated ,to re build and welcome skilled migrants with the receptions of its important for them to participate to have homes and the public to see that we need them to be welcome for their skills they give to work.

    And yes the blue collar working .class factory worker up north is as a valued employee who’s contribution should be reflected as there’s
    No responsibility without power, be if the Muslim security guards, the cleaners and cooks the followers the living wage, Better leaders black church what is ability to act to seize yours moment to revel in glory of it all ,Schools that learn as civil society as institutions church what we do to teach and build institutions ability to build to resist the to act,
    There’s a case and a feeling that the
    Churches and a bank manager have A oversight which would if it had helped to have the likes of school governors and in relation have workers with them in the churches
    Establish regional banks association part of this new arrangement

  16. Tafia says:

    “In March 2020, BritainThinks ran a citizens’ jury for the thinktank Labour Together, an organisation seeking to unite the warring Labour party factions … Asked to create the ‘ideal’ political party, a team drawn from Red Wall constituencies brainstormed with enthusiasm. They summed up their thinking with the slogan ‘Let’s Make Britain Great Again’. The knowing nod to Trump led to a spontaneous chant of ‘Let’s build a wall,’ which everyone joined with joking and laughing. ‘Where would the wall be?’ I asked, wondering if they were referring to the Red Wall, but I was quickly corrected. ‘No! We’ll build a wall around London!’ shouted one and everyone cheered. They could not have been clearer: keeping Londoners in their place would be a very desirable outcome indeed.”

    Extract from ‘Beyond the Red Wall’ by Deborah Mattinson – A former pollster to Gordon Brown, Mattinson is one of Britain’s leading focus group/public opinion experts and this book is her attempt to explain why Red Wall voters abandoned Labour in 2019. It’s clear and compelling. Every Labour MP should have to read a copy, because there is no route back to power without addressing the issues she illuminates.


  17. John P Reid says:

    Tafia, Bit late in The day
    Just noticed this is in at 4pm Monday 21st
    Deborah mattison / Caroline Flint / David goodhart
    Sure the lives stream was recorded if missed

  18. A.J. says:

    Anne is doubtless sincere; who would doubt it?

    We must agree to disagree on occasion. When I was a youthful Labourite I would often go and have a lengthy discussion with a Thatcherite who became quite a powerful lawyer in New York. We disagreed but never argued.

  19. JPR says:

    Religion is A age old way of not teaching new wisdom or Capitalism, If a comparative co operation is needed for competition comparable to a paradox, has a manic tendency disrupt as thatcherism found out, but at the same time it could come in and create so much new false wealth people were happy as they’d never had it so good to complain that at the back of their minds their may not be a better tomorrow, yet now the tories are happy with the culture war as when the anarchy of black lives matters disrupts the mainstream A crisis becomes not only a way the tories can deflect information from the Mainstream- the exploitation isn’t so different form whats gone on with the culture war that happened over Brexit it’s versatile but then the post Referendum culture was really over them denying that The EU is Hayekian, And the paradox of so called social commodity would then have them ,not aware of the un certainty of all of them over the next days of the EU as A capitalist commodity so we could see the condiments of capitalist Institutions ,

    the changes in the economy there big winner on struggle with low aged enough hours to advance move forwards towards work but working hours in the U.K. beg to to spend the money extinction as clear cut as once was,

    Never understand the status yet we feel we understand working class communities, full of the way they think and theres a chance of winning their votes,
    Lots of labour people thought they couldn’t canvass in seats where the tories had majorities that had voted leave as we didn’t have the deliverers, had they not sat around discussing the revolution Peter Hitchens refers to the real thinkers todays tory party as Euro Communists- Michael Gove, Dom Cummings and James cleverly
    You don’t get any prizes for coming second, It’s no good backing the loser and saying I’ve got the telephone number of the runner up,
    Yet these middle class liberals wind up the working class who have a right to be offended and defend their reputations by saying that they’re fed up being called racists and use swear words to defend themselves ,which can be unpleasant, yet We have to live with those people who following them hearing middle class snobs sneer at them retaliate with attitude ,
    And A ethnic minority can act was racism to get away with criminality when accused of wrong doing there for me have a privilege ,
    we’ve got our own terms but not struggling to be in work career leave they could be a wotking class person the emerging social care others class , And he’s What it has to be with diverse workingclass Like ethnic minorities.

    we’ve got our own terms but not struggling to be in work career lesve they could be a working class person the emerging social care others class.
    And then What it has to be with diverse working class Is like its in the ethnic head.

    Frankly they don’t identify as being labour anymore than now many more of them identify as being tories then the working class .

    people don’t identify as working class more than they identify as being British A class survey found recently.

    Frankly they don’t mixed to if, for them to do So ,Then they have many more ,obstacles in life than the working class.

    Cllr Sadarauh Kahn list seat spoke at Fabians about Yvette Coopers leadership bid and her old boss Gordon browns dog Whistle British jobs for British workers, yet one way to actually win is Local devolution network main executive.
    The JosephRowntree compiled reports for Both Parties in 2015, with Claire Ainsley and Matt Goodwin.
    1 party read it 1 didn’t And one got more votes of the working class
    Yet the arty said haven’t got a problem with WC votes as Corbynistas found they could get new middle class voters blair never dreamt of.as Cornbynites ran cliques at local level, But the way he said it was like he was saying we haven’t the resources,

    I almost thought the tory town revolutionaries were pro Hilary deplorables, look at the old SWP types who’d joined the party they were local labour member despite being right bigots

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