This is our truth, tell us yours
What’s odd about the debate about the north south divide is not the vehemence with which those in the north argue against the loss of industry in the 80s and 90s, but the way in which the debate never encompasses the loss of industry from the south in the 50s and 60s.
We have stopped being a nation of people who make things, and become a nation of people who sell things, mainly to each other. Ed Miliband has asked Labour supporters to make suggestions for future Labour policy. The reindustrialization of Britain would be a good start.
The loss of industry from the south of Britain was an insidious process, triggered in part by the collapse of the arms industry in the UK, in part by the trend to larger and larger plants on single sites as manufacturers pursued economies of scale. There were other trends too; the merger of rail companies into British Rail with its uniform classes of rolling stock wiped out the locomotive works of towns like Swindon and Eastleigh.
First to go was London’s industry; West Ham United are called the Irons by their fans not in some self mocking reference to homophobic rhyming slang, but because of the ironworks where the side was founded. Industrial London is barely visible now, and no-one expects it to be any different.
A programme of re-industrialization would be both ideological and practical, changing the way we see our future as well as the way we try to stimulate our economy.
How would it be funded?
Take a look, Ed, at the £375billion that was found to help rescue the banks. That money was used to buy government bonds. Those bonds could be used to provide a capital base for the regional banks Ed Miliband has proposed, and which could provide a local banking base for regional investment.
The tragedy of course is that our political system militates against any espousal of radical policy, unless that radical policy is the dismantling of the welfare state in the name of efficiency.