‘I don’t remember calling Boris Johnson a lame prime minister’
But Mr. Buttress also faces a business challenge. Many businesses also face a pinch as supply chain pressures drive their own costs skyrocketing. How do you convince them to dip into their pockets to help?
“All companies should want to come to the party here, right? Because it’s not just a challenge for their customers. It’s a challenge for their employees, the people who work for them, who show up every day and deliver goods and services,” he explains.
“So I think it’s really important for business and private industry in the UK to see this as a national effort and to see it as an opportunity for them to be part of a program where we’re really helping their customers and their employees to mitigate the impact of this cost of living.”
He goes on to describe his early thoughts: “I see it in three big buckets in which we can answer it. First, I think of groceries and the cost of food. I think that’s an area I’m going to spend a lot of time on. I have actually already started in this area.
“I think the utility industry is another. We all know that the cost of utilities is rising globally, so this is an area I’ve had a few conversations about already.
“And the last is, of course, disposable income around leisure spending. So, what concrete measures can we put in place so that people continue to enjoy their summer and their holidays, but at the same time, we make their money work? »
The lenses are admirable – the details much less clear. Mr Buttress has only been in office for a few days and needs to turn general ambitions into tangible political victories.
The focus, he says, will be on what companies spend on corporate social responsibility — that all-caps catch-all term for a company’s attempt to give back.
How exactly are these funds spent? On what? And if the government acted as an intermediary at a time of immense financial pressure, could something more impactful emerge?
In one of Mr. Buttress’s three buckets – groceries – he’s already glimpsed a program he thinks could be scaled up.
He explains: “I was in a meeting the other day with, for example, the Coop. They do an amazing job in their stores helping poor families with food in the areas they operate and helping them during school holidays as part of an education program.
“So there are a lot of good things happening there. It’s a great program. If I can help them share that, share best practices with some of the other big grocers, and we’re stepping up that and we’re all supporting initiatives like that.
The referenced program appears to be part of the local Co-op Community Fund. He sees two pence in every pound spent by co-op members donated to the fund, in turn supporting dozens of worthwhile businesses in the area.
How the money is spent is decided locally, with some of the money apparently going to provide healthy and nutritious meals for children during school holidays – not covered by the government’s free school meals scheme.
More than 2,300 projects in schools have benefited from the campaign, according to a Co-op spokesperson, with funding of around £6.6million.
“That’s a small example,” Mr. Buttress said. “I think some of these things will be very quick to do.
“In my life, I’ve often found that processes take up the time you allocate to them. So let’s put pressure on ourselves to come in and deliver very quickly because it has to happen quickly.”
He admits it’s just the beginning, but adopts a go-get-em optimism as he urges business leaders to help.
“Listen, there are a lot of tactics behind this. There are a lot of details that are going to have to come to life underneath,” he says.
“I think the most important first step is to get everyone who matters in the room. Make sure we align them all with this national effort over the next six months, communicate this very clearly to their employees and customers , then make sure it comes alive in the areas where it matters most, in the communities that need it most.
“I think it will be a national program which I think will affect everyone. By doing this, we can have the greatest impact.”
Although he has made it clear that his political leanings have been left at the door, one last attempt is made to tease Mr. Buttress on some newsworthy ground.
The tax burden is soaring to its highest point in 70 years under Mr Johnson, despite the rhetoric of tax cuts. As a businessman, surely he would like to see lower taxes?
“I mean, I have no opinion on that,” he replies, spotting the trap. “It’s not my case here. I’m not a politician. I’m not going to get distracted into areas that, frankly, are certainly not my expertise or my mission.
At the end of the interview, however, there is one final political twist. Mr Buttress blurts out that one of his brothers is called Nye, named after the Labor political colossus Aneurin Bevan, credited with the creation of the NHS and a son of Wales.
This reflected his mother Jennifer’s policy. Nye, the older brother, became a respiratory consultant who led the Covid response at the University Hospital of Wales. The younger brother, Tom, is a teacher.
David’s business success was always met with a frowned response from his public service-minded mother, by all accounts.
“On the day of JustEat’s IPO, she actually asked me ‘what is an IPO,'” he jokes. ‘What does that actually mean? We do not care?’
But that is not the case for this new role which tries to help those suffering from financial difficulties – even if it is under the leadership of a “lame duck” Tory Prime Minister.
“My mum is super proud,” Mr. Buttress says, beaming from ear to ear. “It’s probably the thing my mom is most proud of, of all I’ve done.”