Backing the underdog

Posted on 7 Apr 2010 by The Manufacturer

TM reader Nigel Johnson says we should all back the third contender in the two-horse election race...

I have been involved in manufacturing for the past thirty years – so you can work out my age group.
In that period we have seen Conservative and Labour governments come and go (pendulum swings left, then right, vice versa and so on!) but one thing for sure has happened and that is over the past three decades we have witnessed a gradual decline in overall manufacturing here in the UK to the point of decimation.

In the 1980’s we had a Tory government and witnessed interest rates rise, businesses fold and unemployment peak at record levels. One Tory cabinet Minister I recall said at the time it was a price worth paying; well it might be if you are not bearing the brunt of it all. In that very same period I lost a member of my family through suicide, my house and our family business – in that order! – and that’s the price we paid!

In the Thatcher era the vision was that we would become a nation of shop-keepers, importing cheap goods from afar and just marking them up to generate profit – how short-sighted that philosophy is. The government, whoever is in office, doesn’t care whether it’s made here or not – if it’s imported you pay duty on entry into the UK then of course that old chestnut, VAT is applicable. So win win for the government.

So the Labour party are seeking re-election – after some thirteen years they have become more “Conservative” than even the Conservative Party itself – relying upon banking and service sectors to drive our economy. The only reason that Labour can claim any degree of success in managing (if that’s the right word) the economy is that it was all driven and fuelled by debt – simply unsustainable and incredibly stupid. Short-term gain, long-term pain and that is exactly where we are today, on the very day the election is called; they are claiming that we are on the “road to recovery”. Well, manufacturing is still flat on its back with small pockets of optimism but little else.

As for our car industry, yes it is fair to say it indeed employs a considerable UK work-force but these are foreign owned companies so the profits end up in Asia or the Far East. But there is one fundamental question we should all be asking ourselves – if you need a replacement bulb for your car today it’s probably going to cost just £10; however, in whatever number of years time, when we no longer have capability because it is all imported from The Far East or wherever and you have to pay whatever they want to charge us, what exactly are you going to do – pay up like a mug or try to drive your car with candles!

So people, think very long and hard about the long-term strategy for the UK. If we continue to allow manufacturing to migrate to foreign parts there will inevitably come a time when we could be held to ransom. That day is dawning, make no mistake about it.

So back to the original question “Why vote Liberal Democrat?” Well, one thing is for sure and that is Vince Cable’s prediction about our economy was correct; he was the very person that warned of the impending crisis, but what did the two major parties do, just argue in the House of Commons. The best thing we can hope for at the announcement of the election is we have a coalition that is supported by the Liberal Democrats – that is the day we begin to restore a degree of common sense and cohesion to British culture. But even better would be a Liberal Democrat government – could they really do any worse with what we have seen over the decades?

Nigel Johnson

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