I have a confession to make, despite being from the same class background as Sir Keir Starmer QC and having subbed a fair few chaps to toolmaker jobs back in the day, I had to look up toolmaking as an occupation.
I was pleasantly surprised back in 2008 to learn that the United Kingdom was a big exporter of precision machine tools to Germany.
And, despite a fall off in trade for a while, has remained so until recently.
Hard Brexit, however, has made it hard for German companies to source machine tools from the UK and they are now looking elsewhere within the Single Market for manufacturers and suppliers.
Labour’s swivel eyed response to this state of affairs is the mantra of “Buy, Make and Sell More in Britain (to boost British exports)” which is about as credible as Goodness Gracious Me’s Aubergine Woman saying she may make it at home for free with a small aubergine.
Labour’s economic policy, its panacea, for now, is a curious cocktail of mercantilism mixed with autarky and a subjective analysis of the economy in 2022. It is almost as though Rachel Reeves has not read an economic text written after 1775.
And as for John Redwood …
Then, again …
Jobs good, jobs in manufacturing better (unless you are from a middle class background) on Planet Reeves, Nandy and Starmer.
If mekkin’ things is all it is cracked up to be by the likes of Boris Johnson, Starmer and Rachel Reeves, how come they went into journalism, the law and the Government Economic Service, respectively, on graduation from that well known Further Education College, Oxford University?
Buy, make and sell more in Britain amounts to no more than Rachel Reeves bullying the public sector into trying to source more British goods and services, however defined.
The public sector is, of course, a well known purchaser of capital goods and semi-manufactured items.
Precision machine tools are, by and large, high value items that are not produced in high volumes. Companies need to be able to sell them easily into large markets to make a good return on their investment and, well, to just stay in business.
The idea that firms producing high value items for selling into the Single Market may refocus their efforts on selling ever more into the home market to make up for lost export sales revenue is nonsensical. It also seems to imply they do not sell as much into their home market as they might.
It is almost as though Team Starmer believes businesses have been hypnotised by EU membership into not profit maximising. That they have foregone easy profits at home for a lesser return abroad.
If British companies permanently locked out of the Single Market and Customs Union are seeing lower export sales then they have less need of goods and services produced by other businesses wherever they are geographically located.
Buy, make and sell more in Britain is predicated on the idea that greater home production of goods and services for the public sector, I stress the public sector only, will somehow be a more than adequate replacement for lost overseas trade.
What businesses losing sales revenue, directly and indirectly, due to harder export conditions, our non EU trade is also suffering alongside EU trade, would do whilst they await the economic miracle of Labour’s Four Year Public Sector Procurement Plan is a question seeking an answer.
Maybe Labour would subsidise British companies to stay afloat in the meantime?
For the uninitiated, BMSMB is the Preston Model writ large.
I half expect the SNP to unveil before the next Westminster General Election, Buy, Make and Sell More in Scotland. Only for Labour to try to claim that the policy will not work at the level of a nation, but would UK wide and is at the level of a city in Lancashire.
I suspect Rachel Reeves believes greater production of, for example, precision machine tools might make them cheaper and more competitive on the world market.
However, there is no guarantee that cutting the cost of manufacturing a high value, low volume product will significantly increase the demand for it.
The same argument applies to the impact of the fall in the value of the pound.
Just because something is marginally cheaper in price, it does not automatically follow that will result in increased sales.
By how much would a machine tool have to fall in price for a manufacturing firm wanting one for an existing production line to then buy two and set up a new production line in which to use the second machine?
A fall in the value of the pound pushes up the cost of the goods and services we import to help produce goods and services for visible and invisible export.
Some Lexit and Brexit supporters thought the pound weakening (in their language) against other countries would be a Brexit benefit.
Just one more thing they got wrong.
When he was Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, presumably on the advice of one of his teenage scribblers, did once say to a group of business people that the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar and the euro was an unalloyed Brexit bonus, good for exporters.
So much for Labour under Starmer moving on from Corbyn’s relationship with and understanding of business.
Sir Keir Starmer QC whilst pledging a revival in British manufacturing, it is not actually the basket case he and his advisers seem to believe it to be, remains adamant the Labour Party will never contemplate seeking to join the Single Market and Customs Union whilst Rachel Reeves is, sorry, Lisa Nandy is, sorry, whilst he is Labour leader.
So much for caring about British toolmakers in work, today, in 2022, and business more widely.
Reeves rightly observes here …
… that there are growing labour and skills shortage across the UK economy and in all of its three sectors. 1.318 million unfilled vacancies in March 2022, a new monthly record.
February 2022 was a new monthly record.
Notwithstanding that, Reeves, like Priti Patel, has set her face against any replication of the conditions of Freedom of Movement for inward (im)migrant labour.
Skills and labour must, too, be made at home.
Incidentally, Sir Keir Starmer QC, still a practising barrister, by the way, has pledged a Labour Government he leads to seek to negotiate mutual recognition of qualifications with the EU.
In other words, Sir Keir Starmer QC wants to negotiate an improvement in the terms of trade for his middle class dominated profession, a return to the Single Market for their labour, whilst insisting he will not do the same for men and women at work and in business and in his father’s manufacturing trade about which he reminisces so fondly to the pleasure of his adoring middle class followers.
My lord, I pray in aid this as further evidence of the accused’s confusion about trade, commerce and industry.
I also offer it up as further evidence of a suggested lack of emotional intelligence.