As yet another prime British business, the hi-tech company Autonomy, is bought by foreigners and the country is still digesting the failure of a massive contract for trains to go to the last British based train-maker Bombardier ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jul/05/viewpoint-manufacturing-job-bombardier-siemens), the vast majority of Britons cannot understand why those we elect to safeguard the interests of the country persistently fail to do so by preventing takeovers of important British based companies while other developed countries, supposedly operating under the same commercial and legal rules, routinely find a way to prevent their most prestigious and strategically important industries and companies from falling into foreign hands. The answer lies in the mindset of British mainstream politicians, especially those with power.
The Trade Secretary Vince Cable displayed this mentality graphically in an astonishing article for the Sunday Telegraph on 28 August 2011. In it he made clear that not only will there be no new law to prevent takeovers of British companies, but that the Government ‘s intention to positively encourage foreign companies, viz: “we welcome overseas companies who work to make British manufacturing great again” . He then produced this amazing passage: “Last, but not least, the new industrial Britain challenges our traditional ideas about patriotism. There are, of course, still great traditional British companies like Rolls-Royce. But most struggle to think of many more. And after British owners and managers ran the car industry into the ground, it was Japanese and American owner investment, management and technology which turned it around. Some of our most impressive industrial plants I have visited are Indian (Tata in steel and vehicles), German (Bentley, part of VW and BMW which make the Mini), French (co-owners of Airbus), Japanese (Toyota as well as Honda and Nissan) and Malaysian (Lotus). Hewlett-Packard has recently acquired Autonomy in Cambridge in order to bring their advanced software development into the UK.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/engineering/8727474/Vince-Cable-welcomes-overseas-firms-that-boost-UK-manufacturing.html).
The claim that “the new industrial Britain challenges our traditional ideas about patriotism” is pure Newspeak. To Orwell’s War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery and Knowledge is Ignorance we can now add Treason is Patriotism.
Pathetically, Cable concludes his article with “Global companies can spring nasty surprises like Pfizer in Sandwich. But Britain is proving that it is an attractive place in which to make things and we welcome overseas companies who work to make British manufacturing great again.” A classic piece of Lib Dem wishful thinking.
The Coalition’s industrial strategy can be seen in Government documents seen by the Telegraph which lay out a plan to attract 12 major foreign automotive component makers to Britain with major “bribes”, viz: “A briefing note drawn up by the Automotive Council (a Government creation) suggests “key objectives” for the motor show, the biggest in
Europe this year, should be to “follow up on the success of Paris Show” last year, to “re-engage with key decision makers and identify potential investment opportunities” and “seek commitments for UK investment” rather than encourage British companies (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/engineering/8729481/UK-foreign-manufacturing-hopes-at-Frankfurt-Motor-Show.html).
This mentality treats Britain as a country unable to provide for itself from its own resources and abilities and is indicative of the great contempt for their own country and people held by many of the British elite . How has state of mind developed amongst our politicians which goes against all the natural instincts of human beings , instincts which cry out for the protection of the interests of the tribe, clan or nation before all else? Simple. Between 1970 and 1995 our entire mainstream political class signed up to what is known as globalism and its supposedly unstoppable consequences.
Those on the mainstream Right embraced the ideology first because it had at its heart laissez faire economics and free trade (these are not the same thing for all free trade means is that countries can send their goods freely to other countries with the economic system in any participating country being anything Communism to the most rampant laissez faire). Free trade and laissez faire appealed to many modern conservatives who were in reality not conservatives, but born again neo-classical liberals. Globalism provided an alternative to the social democratic politics of the post-war era with its promise of rolling back the state and making the individual responsible for their own lives as far as possible. It also provided the means to crush the power of the unions . This was achieved through the deliberate and direct Government destruction of some state-run industries such as coal on the grounds that they were inefficient and the opening up of British markets to foreign manufacturers whose wage costs were so low that no developed country which did not protect its markets could possibly compete on price – there was no more sickening sight in post-war British politics than Thatcher publicly celebrating the destruction of our extractive and heavy industries.
Ostensibly the Thatcher anti-union legislation did have a profound effect on unions, because it made strikes without a ballot of all members and sympathetic strikes very expensive because the unions then became liable for damages and fines. Wildcat strikes also became a liability because it meant that the union had to officially repudiate them or risk them being treated as official strikes. But the anti-union laws would have had little effect by themselves had Britain continued with a large state component in the economy and the still large powers to control imports of goods and labour which existed in the early 1980s. But with Britain open to foreign trade and mass immigration from the EU, the unions were inevitably undermined. The privatisation of the utilities and public services also removed a great deal of union power by fragmenting control of the utilities and public services.
Although Thatcher almost certainly did not realise it, the single European Act, the 1980s privatisations and the emasculation of the unions were pre-requisites for creating the present situation in which it is not the British interest which comes first but that of the globalist project. Had there been no European Act Britain would have retained much greater control over who could work in Britain and been able to prevent foreign takeovers from within the EU. If the privatisations of public utilities and industries such as coal not been virtually destroyed there would have been no opportunity for such vital enterprises such as water, gas and electricity to fall into foreign hands nor a need for Britain to place themselves increasingly in the hands of foreigners for the production of essentials of life such as energy.
Without such privatisations the unions would not have been wiped of the face of the political map and consequently would have been able to continue their traditional role of opposing mass immigration on the grounds that it was cheap labour and making the removal of protectionist barriers difficult because of the political potency of the claim that it was “selling British jobs”.
A Britain with no single European Act, no 1980s privatisations and a less complete emasculation of the unions would have been very different . There would have been a more national sentiment generally and politicians would have had to respond to it. More of British industry would have been truly British so that off-shoring would have been less palatable to those in control of British jobs.
The presence of large sections of the economy in state control would in itself have made politicians much less willing to sell out British interests because they would have had a direct interest in and responsibility for vital industries.
Those on the mainstream Left became thorough-going globalists not out of conviction but from desperation. T The Labour Party’s four successive general election defeats led to 18 years out of office (1979-1997). After the second defeat in 1983 they began to challenge the hard left in the Party by expelling Militant Tendency and ended the Party’s opposition to the what is now the EU. The third defeat in 1987 began their shift away from supporting the unions uncritically. The last defeat in 1992 caused the first stirrings of the idea that they had to embrace free market economics and rid themselves of the blatantly socialist parts of their agenda. The untimely death of John Smith and the election of Tony Blair completed the process and thirteen years of NuLabour in power removed any meaningful difference in overt economic policy between the Tory and Labour Parties.
But along the way to their conversion to globalism in general and laissez faire in particular, the Labour Party (and to a large extent the British Left as a whole) came to realise that embracing the ideology was more than a tool to return Labour to power. They recognised belatedly that free trade internationally and a laissez faire approach in the domestic market is the most powerful dissolver of the nation state there is. This led them to embrace laissez faire ever more enthusiastically and as British manufacturing capacity steadily declined and what was left was voraciously devoured by foreign buyers, the Blair Government wholeheartedly got behind the line that it did not matter if Britain did not make anything or even produce its own food, because the future lay in Britain exporting services.
This line became the mantra of the mainstream left – a classic example of the mentality is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jul/05/viewpoint-manufacturing-job-bombardier-siemens). The Bombardier case has an acidic ironic side, because it is a Canadian-owned company and it demonstrates to what desperate straits Britain is reduced, that the country which invented the railways is reduced to complaining about a foreign-owned company not being favoured over another foreign company.
Is there anything we can do to change matters as they now stand? Precious little lawfully while we are part of the EU and signed up to trade treaties such as those of the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) . However, lawfully in the international sphere is rather different from lawfully in Britain. Other nations both within and without the EU do ignore laws which apply to trade and competition with impunity. The USA regularly imposes tariffs without suffering sanctions from the WTO (those imposed on steel imports to the USA several years ago are a good example) and the likes of France and Germany regularly defend their great national companies with abandon and shamelessly provide state aid in a manner illegal under EU competition law without being brought to book (the EU imposes fines but France and Germany merrily refuse to pay them). The better, honest way out of such legal obligations is of course for Britain to leave the EU.
Is there any prospect of things changing? The Coalition is most unlikely to voluntarily do anything. As Vince Cable showed in the quote above, the Government’s mindset is at best defeatist taking the line “Britain cannot compete” and at worst treasonous. It is true that British politicians may throw their hands up in horror or drop their shoulders in defeat when something like the takeover of Cadbury occurs or a massive contract goes to a company which will do most the manufacturing abroad as happened with Bombardier and Siemens, but experience shows that these are crocodile tears because nothing ever happens to change matters.
We did not have to embrace globalism. It was a conscious act of political will. Another such act would remove us from its embrace. By that I do not mean an autarkic self-sufficiency behind massive protectionist walls with a state industrial component as large as it was by 1980, but rather a judicious protectionism to protect our self-sufficiency as far as possible in food and energy; the creation of strategic reserves of necessary minerals; the placing of utilities such as water, electricity, gas and the railways back into public hands and a general emphasis on the need for Britain to have the capacity to produce at least some of our requirements for all important manufactured products. In addition, we need to recover sovereignty over our borders and affairs. To do that will require our departure from the EU and the repudiation of any other treaty which prevents Parliament from deciding what will happen within our own land.