So Elvis Costello laments in his 1982 song.
It wasn’t about Thatcher shutting down the shipyards in the North East.
It was about the Falklands, but it could have been. For those living in commercial based cities, it’s hard to relate to towns dependant on a specific industry.
The Industrial Wastelands
Middlesbrough is such a town. I lived there between 1989 and 1992. If you came from around there and you didn’t work for ICI or British Steel, chances are you didn’t work. Following the recent closures of the shipyards, British Steel Corporation was privatised in 1988.
The expectation was that this company, that employed 1,000s of local people, would also go. This doesn’t just effect those workers, but also companies supplying to British Steel and it’s workers. But it kept going…
Selling England by the Pound
After its merger in 1999 with a Dutch group (becoming Corus) in a competitive bidding war, it was taken over by the Indian company Tata, in 2007. This proved prophetic and within 3 years they had said ‘Ta-ta’ to its entire highly skilled UK workforce.
Then last week a Thai firm, SSI reopened the site, bringing employment back for many of the skilled ex-Corus employees.
A nation of Invisibles
Many British investors seem to be under the hypnotic Thatcherite doctrine that all heavy industry is bad. However, with global transport costs rising and Chinese wages increasing, perhaps we are finally seeing the revival of manufacturing in this country.
Potential for improved customer service by having manufacturing based in the same country is obvious. A company can react quicker to changes in demand. If there is an issue with a product, it can be investigated at source, that day if necessary.
Perhaps now Britain will support something more tangible and less risky than ‘invisibles’ industries.