Starmer is wandering the country, like a revivalist preacher, announcing a renaissance for manufacturing in our Hard Brexit age. If this reminds you of the Leave Campaign’s fine words on the benefits of Brexit for fishing and agriculture then you would be right.
Steel is to Lexit what fishing was to Brexit.
Fishing and agriculture are being shafted by Hard Brexit as is manufacturing.
It is, incidentally, a sign of the insanity of the times in which we live that whilst the UK has 1.298 million unfilled jobs, a record as of February 2022, and companies on survival watch, folk babble on about people and communities thriving.
And an ex SpAd and an ex journalist talk of creating good jobs (whatever they are) down your way.
How does Starmer square his new found enthusiasm for manufacturing with the hard, stone cold fact that Hard Brexit is bad for business?
Moreover, were Labour in Government to create one million net new jobs in manufacturing, an unlikely event in the context of Hard Brexit, the vast majority of jobs in the UK economy would still be in the service sector.
Team Starmer is obsessing about a policy that will create few extra employment opportunities for those of working age.
Starmer is a perfect example, Corbyn is another, of a certain type of left wing politician who believes management and business owners in the private sector lack agency, that low investment in land, labour, capital and enterprise are a direct result of Government policy and expenditure.
Noticeably absent from this analysis is any criticism of the quality of management in all three sectors of the UK economy. However, to suggest that involves one group within the officer class saying members of another group within the officer class are deficient in some way. And clearly, we must not have that.
Much ink is spilt and many a brow furrowed in deep thought on the likely causes of low productivity in the UK economy, rarely does anyone say it is down to management.
Governments are major players in shaping the economy, creating the best environments in which new businesses may be encouraged to start and existing companies to grow and thrive.
Hard Brexit or Lexit, if you prefer, is a(n unnecessarily) harsh environment in which to expect businesses to emerge, grow and prosper, except maybe for liquidators, receivers and security firms.
And how does Labour expect to level up anywhere in that environment?
Levelling up for now is really about trying to stand still as the economy contracts and Great Britain plc bleeds out into the Single Market, contracts, jobs, investment, business operations, businesses … because of Hard Brexit.
How will Starmer react when a manufacturing worker and shop steward who has lost her job to the Hard Brexit he has embraced, bursts through his cordon of minders and asks what Labour in Government would do for her future job prospects?
Mumble “Buy, make and sell more in Britain?” or pledge to “Make (Hard) Brexit Work”?
It is clearly not just the Tories who are now finding comfort in meaningless three word slogans and mindless mantras.
Sir Keir Starmer QC’s risible mantra of “Buy, Make and Sell More in Britain” translates in the real world of Hard Brexit, in which most of us live, into “Take in Your Neighbour’s Washing and Vice Versa”.
Unless Team Starmer no longer believe the British economy is steadily contracting, primarily because of Brexit, then they must surely know that as incomes fall, especially in real terms, folk have less disposable income after paying for the necessities of life to spend on luxuries whether they are produced at home or overseas or a combination of both.
Those hit particularly hard by rising inflation are people reliant on fixed incomes, like the State Pension, benefits and tax credits.
You would think that Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor and Starmer’s de facto deputy, once a professional economist would know that?
Having said that, if you bother to listen to Reeves you might be forgiven for thinking that she has not read anything on economics published after 1775, given her affection for mercantilism and autarky.
Autarky was very popular in theory with fascist and communist governments in the 1930s.
Very popular in theory, much less so in practice for rather obvious reasons.
I well remember a Tory MP on Radio Four, I think at the time of the Miners Strike in the 1980s, saying the pit closures had liberated folk to, as Gus Hedges would put it, push forward the parameters of their careers into new and fresh challenges in exciting fields outside of mining.
Of course, Starmer might suggest to our female former manufacturing worker that she set up her own business (maybe overseas?) to exploit the potential opportunities that might be created by Reeves bullying the public sector into trying to source more British goods and services.
Reeves was a populist thug when she was in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet, shadowing IDS. She had high hopes of outsanctioning IDS, but in the end, failed to lay a glove on arguably the worst Minister to have ever held the employment brief in Cabinet.
Of course, back then most of us were unaware of Thérèse Coffey.
Starmer does, by the way, understand what a good business brings to a town or family.
Although I imagine it must be a bit confusing for Starmer, going Oop North to the grim industrial wastelands and discovering all these manufacturing companies …
… and all these people working in them …
What happened in June 2016, at the end of January 2020, and at the end of December 2021, Sir Keir?
… and to learn these key manufacturing facts:
- Annual output £191 Billion
- UK is 9th in Manufacturing
- The industry provides 2.7 Million jobs
- Manufacturing in the driving seat when it comes to exports and R&D
- UK is the 10th largest exporter
- Industry wages 13% higher than rest of the economy.
The UK retained its position as the ninth leading manufacturer and tenth in terms of global exports with output totalling £191bn in 2019 – a growth of 7% over the last five years. The data also reveals that among the 2.7 million people employed by UK manufacturers, the average salary stands at £34,538 – 13% higher than the average UK salary.
The North West remains the single biggest region in terms of output, London and the South East combined are now significantly the largest, worth some £30.7bn. This is down to the heavy concentration of electronics – worth £4.7bn alone – in the South East which was already benefitting from the drive towards digital technologies and automation, a trend which the pandemic is likely to have accelerated.
The data, captured before the Coronavirus outbreak shows that goods exports (53%) outweighed that of services (47%) while the sector continues to punch above its weight contributing 66% of total UK spend on R&D and 16% of business investment.”
There does seem to be a serious disconnect between the Hard Brexit software running in Starmer’s brain and the reality facing people in work and in business.
Starmer seems rather lacking in empathy with folk whose livelihoods are made in the private sector (and the voluntary and community sector), but then so does Labour more generally.
Labour is mostly a party of middle class professionals, many of whom work or have worked in the public sector, some in that grey area composed of the SpAdocracy, think tanks and political consultancy.
I would observe that one senior ex Labour SpAd tried to persuade me that his filing his own tax returns gave him an insight into business.
He also Tweets another mantra of Starmer’s that Labour is now the party of business.