|Survival of British Industry?||John Tyndall wonders whether this Government gives a damn|
In our coverage of the month's news on the preceding pages we have drawn attention to closures and layoffs in Britain's ailing steel industry.
We have said that a new policy is needed based on nationalism and protection, insulating British industry against imports, many of them at subsidised cut-price rates which render the competition unfair. But this is not put forward as a cure-all, only as something to provide a national framework within which other policies can succeed. Manufacturing industry in this country is going down the tubes. Much of the causes lie in inadequate production rates, lack of quality control, antiquated business practices, and the plain and simple fact that these days Britain just is not producing enough people with the technical and management skills needed to enable us to be a world leader in manufacturing.
These shortcomings must be remedied and urgently. But the first essential is that we do not let the industries in question die. They need to be preserved before they can be overhauled. Hence our call for protection.
The currently received wisdom is that greater efficiency will only come from the cold blast of international competition, the global free market. The weaker companies - if necessary, whole industries - should be allowed to go to the wall so that the stronger ones can thrive and grow. In that way will come the spur to greater quality, effort and competitiveness. This was the Thatcher doctrine, and it has been continued with scarcely any change by New Labour.
Free market hasn't worked
The trouble is that it hasn't worked. Free-market principles and practices have failed to provide the elixir for the regeneration of industrial Britain. On the contrary they are rapidly killing it off.
Economic nationalism must replace internationalism. Self-sufficiency in manufacturing must be the keyword. The home market must be the basis for our trade, with exports the icing on the cake. Britain should not import what she can produce herself.
But this should be only the start. From that point on there must be a massive effort on the part of government to remedy our industrial ills, so that we buy British products not only because they are British but because they are the best!
And when that happens, needless to say, our exports will revive too.
But from neither this government nor the last one do we see the slightest sign of any such initiatives.
Reading the daily news of events on the political scene, we could be forgiven for thinking that Tony Blair's Government has not the slightest interest in the survival of British industry!
Just how much parliamentary time is given to discussing the depressing succession of industrial closures and layoffs? How many speeches do Blair and his Ministers deliver on the subject? What real concern do they show for whether we have any industry or not?
Obsessed with foreign issues
Tony himself is obsessed with foreign affairs, jetting about the world trying to solve every other nation's problems, attending conferences, taking photo calls, pontificating on what should be done with Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Bongoland, Poopooland and all the rest.
The space in our newspapers, the time on TV and radio discussion programmes, the whole national debate, all seem focused on other matters than the collapse of industry in Britain.
The whole current national political culture is ill-adapted even to the saving of industry, let alone to industrial resurgence.
But in fact Britain's whole prosperity and strength have been based on manufacturing. It was the reason why we grew from offshore island to world power. It was essential in winning our wars. It was vital in providing our people with work.
But of this politicians seem not to know nor care. They are allowing a mighty heritage to rot. There is only one word for their neglect. It is criminal !