Published on Feb 24, 2010
The mothballing of the Corus steelworks is strangely symbolic of what we have lost as a country.
The decline of our ability to make things and our reliance on the flaky services sector positions our economy as no more than a house of cards built on sand (to mix a few metaphors).
Basically, we have squandered our industrial heritage and traded away our engineering skills with nothing to show for it, except some incredible museums, empty factories, derelict industrial estates and swathes of the country being blighted by ghastly levels of unemployment.
Long gone are the days when we had worthwhile role models like Isambard Kingdom Brunel – he was natural hero, someone who people aspired to be and admired for his many skills. Now the role model and aspirational icon is Simon Cowell!
The number of industries where we led the world in the race for growth is legion – shipbuilding, railways, chemical engineering, civil engineering, steelworking and so on, including the nuclear industry. And we no longer have any real kind of car industry. Now we are also-rans, with the imaginary belief that because of our industrial heritage we still count as players.
It is time we saluted the ‘industries’ (including agriculture and pharmaceuticals) that we still have left and take some positive measures to try and rebuild ourselves into a nation that can make things. This would include devising a better industrial policy than we have and showing more willingness to take on EU rules that seem to allow all other countries to support their own industries, but deny us the ability to help ours. Only then will we amount to more than the frothy top to a cold cup of coffee held in the hand of a seedy celebrity in a world where entertainment ephemera counts for more than engineering does.
Published on Feb 24, 2010 by Neil Thomas