Martin and I met at the Spectator offices and had a good poke round the lovely (damp) garden before we admitted defeat and took our places around one of the large tables in one of the meeting rooms. He is a welcoming and kind man who looks a bit like Albert Finney (although he cannot see the resemblance).
For Martin, virtue is wrapped up in the idea of self restraint and unselfish behaviour. Self restraint is important because, as an ex-banker and now a journalist, he understand there is a lot of scope and opportunity for unrestrained behaviour. He models behaviour along a spectrum from virtuous to neutral to mischievous attention seeking to downright vicious and says of himself that he does not really have it in him to be vicious (something that has caused minor conflicts during his career). Martin seeks to behave with restraint: to have at least a neutral, if not a virtuous impact on others in his day to day life and in his career. He is clearly also an unselfish man in many ways, playing an active role in his local community and taking unpaid positions on various committees and boards. He believes that the highest degree of personal behaviour involves acts of public good that neither seek, nor receive recognition.
There is no shame, he maintains, in keeping virtuous behaviour close to home to benefit yourself as well as the other people who live in your community. Indeed, one of the great pleasures he enjoys as a result of his work in the community is a pleasant community in which to live. him, the emotional benefits of virtuous behaviour include a sense of achievement, of having done his duty, and the result as he walks down the streets of his town and greets the many people he knows includes feelings of warmth and happiness. The rational benefit of being active in the voluntary world is the network he has built up over the years which has definitely helped his career.
Martin thinks about virtue actively. As a journalist, he must consider the impact of his copy and does not want it to have a vicious impact – to that end, he is making choices all the time about the content and tone of what he writes. He believes he learned to consider virtue through his university studies (he read PPE) and also throughout his career where he learned from both positive and negative role models. To that end, he believes senior executives have a critical role to play in embedding virtue in our society because they can create the conditions that make it possible for all employees to engage in virtuous activities outside of the company – either in their local communities or further afield as they choose.
When people ask Martin about they key to a fulfilled life he replies immediately that getting involved is the key: become a trustee, contribute to the local community, donate money, do more for strangers…there is an endless list of what we can do to be more virtuous and the benefits to others and to ourselves, as we have seen above, are manifold.