Everywhere I go around the Country, each business I visit, large & small, the story is the same: the UK is doing rather well! I know it doesn’t fit the national psyche to give ourselves a little pat on the back (if we’re not moaning, we’re not happy!) & how on earth will the news bulletins be able to cope with having to give us good news, but last week’s economic figures weren’t some flash in the pan…..our Country is back. A sustainable, deep, far-reaching recovery, not built on house price inflation, has arrived.
Inflation lower than Japan, unemployment lower than America, growth higher than Germany (on Thursday it was even warmer in England than in Honolulu!).
– The most productive car plant in Europe is in the UK; Nissan’s factory in Sunderland.
– The JLR plant in Liverpool has moved onto 24/7 working to cope with demand for their Range Rover Evoque from China, let alone everywhere else & they’re even building a new engine plant in Wolverhampton
– More of an Airbus that’s put together in Toulouse is made in our Country than in France or Germany
– General Motors are actually closing a car plant in Bochum, Germany (the first one in that country since World War Two) with 4,000 job losses & expanding their plant at Ellesmere Port instead.
Construction, financial services, retail, manufacturing, creative industries, the services sector …… All going in the right direction; & that means more (& better) jobs, more consumer confidence, more profits & so more tax generated to help get that deficit down & pay for our schools & hospitals.
All this must really stick in the craw of Messrs Miliband & Balls; where are the flat-lining hand signals from the Shadow Chancellor at PMQ’s now? How do they sell on the doorstep an accusation of economic incompetence about this Government when they are faced with all this good news?
How do they deal with the criticism levelled at them that they didn’t condemn the recent strike by teachers over pension reform which left women & men in our manufacturing sector having to cope with their children not being at school that day when the teachers’ pay only comes from the tax generated by those men & women on the line who have sacrificed so much in pension & pay to help our economy get back on its feet?
How do they answer the charge that it has taken some four years of enormous effort, sacrifice & tolerance, by so many ordinary people to get their Country back to the position we were in before the roof fell in on their watch? For sure some of the problem arose in the Banking Crisis originating in the States; for certain, poor enforcement of ineffective regulation did nothing to help; also don’t forget we are all partly to blame since we all liked living high on the hog of borrowed money.
But until the two Ed’s say sorry for their part in the debacle (borrowing money you haven’t got & spending it on an unreformed, over-manned public sector is a recipe for the disaster that engulfed us all) & promise they have learned a lesson that will ensure they will never do it again, they have a big job to do to convince the public (& especially the business community) that they won’t harm what last week’s figures have evidenced: that the patient is out of intensive care, has left the recovery ward & is back running again.
I served as Minister of State for Trade in the last Labour Government, under Gordon Brown. I am proud I served my Country, I did the job for UK Business, fighting for those export orders & inward investment for UK plc that are vital for employment & tax-paying profits. I am the only Minister not to have joined the party of Government; I am, & always have been, non party political. I am today a non-aligned cross-bench Peer in the House of Lords; Business will work with the democratically elected Government of the day, of whichever colour. I don’t do party politics.
As I travelled around our global markets back then, banging the drum for the UK, I remember saying to them that all this can’t go on, that there would come a day of reckoning, that we were spending money we hadn’t got on things (such as unreformed public sector pension provision) we couldn’t afford. Nobody listened, “we’ve ended the cycle of boom & bust” really was a deeply-held belief. Whether it was believing consumers could pay in personal, increased energy bills for going green or whether it was believing spending more of our money would of its own improve public sector productivity, they certainly didn’t mend the roof while the sun was shining.
So as I go around our Country, talking with the businesswomen & businessmen that create the Nation’s wealth, & with those people of all ages, colours & creeds who work in those businesses & do so much to put the financial ball in the net, I sense a real anxiety that all the hard work will be wasted come next May. As John Cridland of the CBI said recently, please please please, whoever forms a Government after next year’s General Election, don’t throw it all away! Don’t revert to the bad old ways.
– Don’t run an energy pricing policy from the floor of the House of Commons
– Don’t remove from the market much-needed rented housing capacity by introducing sixties-style rent controls
– Don’t create a mood music that every big business is somehow “at it”, an evil to be railed against rather than a force for good to be partnered with
– Give us more & better skilled young people from an education system fit for purpose
– Give us an integrated transport system that gets our people to work & our goods to market
– Show that the fiscal penny has finally dropped that the higher the tax rate the less the cash you actually collect
Globalisation was made for our Country but it doesn’t take prisoners. We now have a globally competitive economy that is not only holding its own in the World but can really deliver.
Deliver on jobs.
Deliver on confidence.
Deliver a sustainable economic performance
Please ….. Politicians of all colours…… Leave your ideology at the door, show that you have learned the lessons of the past……….& build a skilled, competitive economy of which our grandchildren can be proud.