Building a coalition for investment in manufacturing
Buried in the companies section of the Financial Times today (possibly because it contradicts the news story which I have already blogged about), is a report of an interview with the head of Corus UK, Kirby Adams. Although probably not the most popular manufacturing boss in Britain because of his decision to mothball steel plants on Teesside (see Community’s campaign pages), he indicates that there is all to play for in developing a progressive, interventionist consensus on manufacturing strategy, rather than maintain the generation-long assumption that the market knows best.
The Corus UK boss, who employs over 20,000 people, calls on the Government to spend more, rather than aggressively cut its spending as Tories and some in the Government want to do. His interest is clear – more spending on infrastructure projects (transport – road and rail, schools, hospitals etc) means more steel sales, and more business for Corus. But he’s right – we’re still paying for the lack of investment over the last generation of laissez-faire economic policies, and we won’t escape the recession and generate new jobs quickly without such investment.
Some employers won’t be convinced – they may still be wedded to the pre-new-Keynesian policies that got us into this mess in the first place, or they may put their own short-term interest (big bonuses for quick share price increases) ahead of the long-term interest of their companies. And there are faint-hearts in the Labour Government, too, who see early cuts in Government spending as the only way to restore the public finances to long-term health (rather than supporting tax rises for the wealthy, such as a Financial Transactions Tax, and efforts to stimulate growth and therefore increased tax revenues).
But if enough manufacturing employers can be persuaded to speak out against cutting back, and in favour of more investment, then there is the chance to build a consensus with those service sector employers who know their businesses depend on manufacturing, and with unions and progressive politicians.