Britain’s to blame for the collapse of its industry

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 6 July 2011 in Diary
British jobs for British workers is a popular phrase come election time but why is it that as the going gets tough, we look abroad? Francesca Preece argues why we are at fault for the demise of British industry.

Hands up if you’ve bought something made in China recently. No doubt for most, their shopping basket is heaving with goods shipped from the east. While we load up on imported goods, our trade lies in tatters. British brands are disappearing from view, from our high streets and from our conscience.

And what about the impact that foreign goods have on our economy?

Yesterday train-manufacturer Bombardier announced it would be cutting 1,400 skilled jobs in Derby after the government handed over the contract for the Thameslink project to German company Siemens. The contract would have seen 1,200 carriages built in the city for the Bedford to Brighton line.

The weakness of the pound should be benefitting manufacturing, so why are they still missing out on contracts? Would the French allow this to happen or would they provide enough incentives to support their own workforce? If the government is serious about repositioning the UK economy to higher manufacturing then surely they should protect skilled jobs.

Isn’t it funny that the Conservatives, like their Labour counterparts, get lost in translation when it comes to acting out their slogan "British Jobs For British People"? Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has refused to budge off his policy track, insisting the company was planning 1,200 cuts with or without the lucrative contract. Whether or not that is true, if a secretary of state can’t find it in themselves to buy British, who will?

This is more than just money or the saving of it. This is people’s livelihoods and British pride at stake. We stand on the verge of losing our skills base as the next generation work away from the factories, while we import from around the world. Why, like the adage, would we go out and have burgers when we can have steak at home?

In the one and only time I’ll agree with Bob Crow, why are we asking another country to build our carriages for us when we have a rich history of train manufacturing? As Bob says we are ‘the nation that gave the railways to the world’, so why are we so determined to wipe this from our history books?

Aside from the sorry business of trains, what do we still make in Britain? HP sauce is no longer made on our shores, British institution Cadburys was snapped up by American company Kraft who promptly closed our factories, and our preference for BMWs and Mercedes cost us Rover and Jaguar. Shipbuilding is only kept alive by the drip, drip of MoD work.

While not strictly a Conservative point of view, an element of protectionism is vital for our survival. At a time when there is record level of unemployment, it is shameful that this government, like the one before, is adding to British unemployment. Gordon Brown was adamant about ‘British jobs for British people’, but couldn’t keep to his promise back in 2009 after he failed to stop French oil firm Total from employing an all Italian/Portuguese workforce.

This may be a private matter but the point is that our government should have our British interests at heart. Are our hands tied by European competition laws? If so we should incentivise so that British industries can keep employing British workers.

By losing contracts and jobs we risk losing the capability to do this work in future as skills are lost/not replenished.

While it is wrong to marginalise and isolate jobs solely for those with a British passport, the government and the public, yes you, should have a greater focus on supporting British trade. We were once the proud factory of the world. We may have handed over that title many centuries ago but there is no stopping a shift back to secondary industries.

Saving British manufacturing is not only the responsibility of the government but also the public. People should be encouraged to buy British. If we don’t support our own industries we can hardly complain when they wither and die. But the government must do more to give our manufacturers a leg-up by incentivising. The Thameslink contract must be kept in this country, otherwise we will stand on the platform and wave goodbye to another great British industry.

Tags: British job creation, British Jobs, Economic downturn, Foreign workers, Manufacturing UK, Manufacturing unemployment, Phillip Hammond jobs

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