Opinion: Good governance relies on disagreeing well

My cousin Chris and I have farmed together for 25 years, and in all that time, we have never argued once.

I had always believed there was an unspoken law that family members who work together should continually fall out, but we have flouted this convention.

We are mostly symbiotic, and our different personality types allow us to navigate differences of opinion without passive aggression or the building-up of resentment.

In our business, there are so many daily decisions that we tend not to worry who decides on small matters or minor mishaps and, generally, we agree on the big things. But not always.

See also: Opinion – bring on the ugly Discovery 5

About the author

Matthew Naylor
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Matt Naylor is managing director of Naylor Flowers, growing 300ha of cut flowers in Lincolnshire for supermarkets. He is a director of Concordia, a charity that operates the Seasonal Worker Scheme, and was one of the founders of Agrespect, an initiative to drive equality, diversity and inclusion in agriculture.
Read more articles by Matthew Naylor

One of our unspoken techniques is to casually deploy the phrase: “Yeah, maybe” when we disagree with a suggestion which the other has made.

This clearly signals that all further discussion on the subject should cease until we have both thought carefully about our position.

Ordinarily, what happens is we sleep on it and come back having changed sides on the matter and the whole process begins over again.

Differences of opinion are usually where the magic lies. Generally speaking, when Chris and I take a different view on something, the matter is a complex one.

If we are talking about, for example, increases in our staff pay rates, altering the spacing on a crop or next year’s pricing, it can be really useful to consider the impacts from as many different directions as possible.

Maybe we can conclude that conflict is a necessary part of progress. If we fail to explore our options and evaluate different outcomes, how do we know that we are taking the right path?

Consensus is a vital part of making that progress sustainable, making sure everyone is bought into the process.


This is analogous with the forthcoming general election. You would be bold to place a large bet on any outcome other than a large Labour majority, and I’m not nervous about the prospect.

I’ve traded successfully under a Labour government before, and the last one was socially just.

We got a new school and a new hospital in our local town, and few would now argue that the minimum wage has been a bad thing. 

After the erratic policymaking of the last few years, I am looking forward to some clarity around which I can make plans.

I’m of the opinion that the Conservative party needs to clear off and sort out its differences before it’s allowed within a million miles of the levers of power. 

I’m not a natural Labour voter though, and I do not feel there is a political party for me.

Each party, even extreme ones like Reform and the Green Party, has something to say which is fundamentally truthful.

The country is creaking under pressure on public services and we are damaging the environment terribly. We are short of money and we are failing to invest in the future.

Politics is a boxing ring where punches are thrown and someone ends up flat on the canvas. But few people gain from political fights.

It is good governance we gain from – where differences are discussed civilly, where policy takes account of any objections made against it and where the outcomes benefit everyone in society.

Let’s hope this time, the election moves us closer to that and not further away.

See more