Plant the Seeds and Watch British Industry Grow Strong

The Birmingham Post (England), June 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Plant the Seeds and Watch British Industry Grow Strong


Sir, - One can observe that on account of the low status given culturally and educationally to manufacture and engineering in this country, it is only in times of crisis that a debate even arises upon how our nation, a trading nation, earns the backbone of its wealth in a competitive world.

It is, thus, in this rather warped context, against a backcloth of trouble and anxiety, that the debate, especially in the area of industrial policy, only finds expression, keeping the debate (and it is here that the New Right seeks to hijack us further into apathy, hopelessness and fatalism) subject to the contours of crisis management.

It is also virtually meaningless to look overseas for industrial blueprints as the New Right also seeks to sway us, dressing up greed as 'intellectualism' as it always has since Friedman was a boy.

Every country is hugely different - legally, institutionally, culturally, historically and politically. Industrial policy may have been tried at times of political development or need, in any set of circumstances. To seek to draw meaningful insights or blueprints is, therefore, simply misleading - if not dishonest - dogmatically designed to free market preconceptions.

Britain has had much regional policy, mainly from Labour, but only ever one industrial policy: 'the plan for coal'.

Regional policy has invariably failed largely through its lack of industrial targeting with Britain savouring the professions and financial services.

The way it has worked is this: as old industries have died away with changing technology, Labour governments have heard and sometimes answered the cries of its heartland support in these industrial regions and have given financial aid.

This has served to prop up ailing areas but has been money wasted, because the industry itself is dying, the main criterion for sensible investments clearly being cautiously based, sectorially, around the future prospects of an industry, not upon geographical, regional needs.

Thus, in Britain, policy-makers have virtually no affinity whatsoever with the true nature of 'industrial policy'.

Because through our culture Britain has only ever perceived industrial success by the yardstick 'absence of crisis', the ideology is set here of mediocrity and watching for weeds instead of planting seeds.

We need to take off our self-imposed shackles and ideological blindfolds and look at the possible.

We need to dream awhile and let inspiration give light to imagination - to imagine what we could achieve with all factors working thriftily and wisely towards our common good, especially to embrace the new challenges of green manufacture and, yes, keep our museums celebrating our industrial revolution and our common heritage.

Once we seek the possible and cease clogging our minds of how to detract from 'the crisis' we are creating by our words and our ideas the substance of a national prosperity for our children's future.

Perhaps we can also usefully remember that naval experts opine that Dunkirk was impossible until after the flotilla had arrived safely home?

WILLIAM HAYMES

Coventry.

Take a lesson

from Gay Pride

Sir, - how incredible that The Birmingham Post should suggest Birmingham Gay Pride - attracting 55,000 visitors on Sunday - should move to make way for the Lord Mayor's Show attracting 5,000 (Post, May 29)!

Readers should note that Birmingham Gay Pride also gave considerable sums of money to local charities last year - pounds 10,000.

However, unlike the Lord Mayor's Show, it didn't cost the city council pounds 30,000 to stage.

Birmingham Gay Pride brought thousands of pounds into the city supporting local jobs and services. It is now the biggest event of its kind in the UK, something The Birmingham Post should be trumpeting.

As the Post notes, perhaps the Lord Mayor's Show organisers do have something to learn. …

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