Rejecting ‘declinism’ in manufacturing
How could Britain do more of making things? Doesn’t globalisation mean an inevitable decline in manufacturing?
As G8 leaders call for growth we ought to think harder about where Britain is strong and where more jobs may come from in the future. In a Policy Network pamphlet published today I argue for a rejection of the ‘declinism’ which colours too much discussion of manufacturing.
We make less than we used to but we still make more than we think. The UK is strong in automotive, aerospace and pharmaceuticals. Just last week we had the news that there will be new investment at GM’s Ellesmere Port plant – the latest in a series of new investments in the UK car industry. We are also world leaders in music and creative industries or what Andy Heath of UK music calls the ‘weightless industries’. In the digital age, these should count as making things too.
The effect of more making things would not just be economic but also political and social. Globalisation has certainly presented Britain with big opportunities but they have been unevenly distributed. In some parts of the country the loss of manufacturing did not result in its replacement with anything which gave the same sense of purpose.
Political disaffection is related to economic disaffection, to the sense some people have of not having a part in our national story.
Making things should have an important part to play in a future where every part of the country feels a sense of belonging. Of course services will still provide the lion’s share of employment. Britain is excellent at retail, law, education and even after its battering, banking and financial services. But that doesn’t mean the declinism about making things is right.
And while we have strengths in making things, doing more of it won’t happen on its own. It will take national resolve, belief and government will. For my five points on what we might do, see the full pamphlet at http://www.policy-network.net/publications/4183/Making-Things
Pat McFadden is MP for Wolverhampton South-East and former shadow secretary of state for business.
growth, industrial policy, jobs, manufacturing, Policy Network