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A Personal View

This is an odd post to write. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen business owners in the sights of educationalists, politicians attacking public sector staff and everyone attacking journalists. Today I even responded on a blog about the whole subject – time to put pen to paper.

We appear to be on the edge of insanity. I heard it said that “Statesmen think of the next generation. Politicians think of the next election”. I spent 5 years supplying local governments in the UK – I met plenty of politicians and statesmen – oddly the statesmen were the officers (the employees of the councils) and not the members.

Update – our beloved leader (we did all vote for him didn’t we?) was drooling yesterday – December 1st – about Starbucks opening a batch of drive through coffee outlets. So, the road warriors can now balance a different brand of coffee in one hand and their mobile in the other – whilst messing with their MP3 players on the outside lane of the M4. That announcement really is going to help our balance of payments. Why can’t I get excited? If you can handle the excitement the link is here

I’m probably a baby boomer (born in 1960), but just too late to get the best pensions. That’s what these strikes are about isn’t it? Or are the strikes really about one final chip, the last straw, the eleventh hour? Probably got a few metaphors wrong there, doubtless I’ll be corrected.

Apparently we live in a ‘consumer society’. Excuse me – but how does that work? Let’s consume, but not produce. Let’s worry when the spending on the high street goes down. After all, we do HAVE to buy our quota of imported goods don’t we? That’s why VAT reduction exercises are so dangerous and why the car scrappage scheme was an amazing act of financial mismanagement.

Remember St. Michael? The patron saint of shopping.

 

st michael clothing logo

It was the clothing brand of Marks and Spencer. In their store in Keighley they had a sign saying “93% of St Michael goods are made in the UK”. One day the sign went – so did the logo, so did the mills, so did the jobs, so did the exports and so did the tax revenue. But M&S profits probably went up, so that’s okay.

When the mills went, that wasn’t the end of the story – as this quick trip down the Worth Valley shows.

 

When I left school I worked in a company on the Worth Valley making pipe fittings, for WASK Engineering. They’ve gone.

WASK pipe fitting

The folks who worked there were fantastic but the frightening lack of investment had to be seen to be believed. But the bosses got new cars fairly regularly. I know because I’d filled them up 2 years previously. There was a very manual foundry, there were machines which had been donated by the good folks of Maine for our war effort (but I don’t know which war).

We were working in buildings with bricked up windows from the days of the ‘Windows Tax’.   We had some very risky and dubious practices, then I went to University and learnt about the “Health & Safety (At Work) Act”. Oops. Those 500 folks have lost their jobs, and they’re not buying scrap steel, limestone or coke anymore. Nor are they using the services of the local metallurgy labs. There goes another load of income tax and exports. And, boy, did they export.

I spent 7 years around British Leyland  initially working for a team who developed an analysis system to pinpoint troublesome machine tools. At Longbridge I saw first hand the way ‘wild cat’ strikes developed, and how the press gave a very odd sided story. I moved to Freight Rover and we made some huge strides with IT in  a few years. You can see how Freight Rover has developed here. (Not for the faint hearted).

So, our industries reduced our needs for imports, provided exports, offered career paths and fed enormous supply chains.

Again, a consumer society? How exactly does that work.