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What is being done to fix Britain?

Paul Mason | 12:02 UK time, Wednesday, 31 March 2010

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Here is the second film in which I travelled from the tip of Wales back to south east England to find out whether Britain is flourishing - or at least can flourish - in the new world economy.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I should declare an interest as a co-founder of zopa, but it is great finally to hear a challenge to the idea that merely fixing the plumbing of our financial system will get the water flowing again.

    The point you make about the need to de-centralize power is essential - although not in the form of new institutions who will merely replace one status quo with another in an Orwellian fashion.

    All that is needed is for individuals to regain the confidence in their own judgments and ideas rather than rely on some class of 'entrepreneurs' who will come along and save us. There is no reason why anyone cannot act in an entrepreneurial way with their money, energy and time - it just requires the confidence and collaborative support of others to take the risk.

    I have seen this effectiveness of this change of perspective amongst even the most institutionalised benefits recipients but we are still being held back by a system which refuses to trust the individual to make their own decisions and take some risk that they might succeed or they might fail.

  • Comment number 2.

    the reason why the uk is behind is because the govt have gone out of their way to block new technology that frees the people from monopolies but backs those that increase monopoly and thus taxes.

    along with a mad mindset of false beliefs that the market is best arranger of a nations affairs. the market delivers profit not social services. which is why the industrial revolution was about dark satanic mills, back to back slums and land enclosures and Dickens created a character called Scrooge.

  • Comment number 3.

    Fixing Britain has to start with the next election.

    All the creators of value in society seem to be achieving this despite the huge interference from big government and associated over-regulation not because of it. To fix the imbalance created by a nanny state socialist agenda funded by a services and finance base we need a re-ignition of manufacturing heritage coupled with a much smaller state.

    Pretty simple to say but a huge upheaval required in terms of peoples lives and livelihoods.


    No use putting our heads in the sand though (e.g.UNITE union)this has to be done or it will get much worse for everyone.


    The main parties just seem to be flapping around as usual fighting each other to latch onto whichever potential vote winning issue raises its head above the public perception parapet (its immigration today I think), riding it until it is exhausted then looking for the next vote winning issue to flog to death.

    That is not leadership.



  • Comment number 4.

    1. oikonomics 'All that is needed is for individuals to regain the confidence in their own judgments and ideas rather than rely on some class of 'entrepreneurs' who will come along and save us. There is no reason why anyone cannot act in an entrepreneurial way with their money, energy and time - it just requires the confidence and collaborative support of others to take the risk.'

    This is just another veiled argument for the economic anarchism which created this mess in the first place. Typical Trotskyite motivation management speak. Of course this goes down well in the big business culture, that's exactly what they thrive upon, contrary to naive people's beliefs. What they don't like is regulation. Statism. Statism has no time for such talk (see former USSR, PRC today, Iran etc).

  • Comment number 5.

    On the other hand the great bulk of the British economy is still and will continue to be in the hands of large conglomerating companies much owned and controlled abroad. John Lewis is more like to be the alternative way our industry is owned and run but even that model is not easily replicated from the existing industrial base. Radical industrial policies by government is a pre - requisite. It does not help to have a Labour Government worshipping the City and applauding the public sector when it outsources and offshores - but where is the alternative in the making?

  • Comment number 6.

    why is it that the so-called fring parties seem to talk more sense than the three main parties put together...on Iraq, Afghanistan, immigration, MPs expenses, pensioner poverty, etc., even the Lib Dems seem to be tainted by mixing with the 'big guys'

  • Comment number 7.

    How refreshing it was to see and hear people walking in the opposite direction of the crowd. A little bit of inspiration and creative thinking is what we need now rather than arguing over the past and trying to rejig old models that are now out of date. Some of this may not be practicable but it forces people to think in new ways and encourages them to aspire to something positive rather than playing to the lowest common denominator.

    Most important as we move forward is to try and re-energise companies ... and by companies I mean groups of people that know and trust each other and can therefore work effectively together. A case in point.

    For the last 20 years I have been a member of South London Swimming Club whose claim to fame is swimming outdoors year round in the unheated Tooting Bec Lido. When I started there were about 80 club members, the pool was in disrepair and threatened with closure. Some 20 years later we have about 1,000 members, have hosted the World Winter Swimming Championships and the initiated the UK ones. Both have been covered extensively by print and broadcast media not just in the UK but also abroad.

    This has only been made possible by inspired people and communal effort towards a shared goal: the maintenance of the Lido (which we inherited from the unemployed of Wandsworth) and the promotion of outdoor swimming. The group of people who share this love of winter swimming come from all walks of life and this has meant that there is always a raffle organiser, lawyer, or plumber to lend advice and support to the Club.

    My last point, and I know I have gone on, is that counter-intuitive is good. Who would have thought that you could make cold water swimming popular. What we need going forward is a recognition that there is power in the community and that folk, for example at Corus, need support to create new livelihoods based on the enormous energy and potential that must exist within that community. And perhaps, finally, we should all take on board the concept of enough. We work far too hard and fast to maximise our returns when we should be working smarter and with a greater joy in the moment and our work, to get enough.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 8.

    What could we be good at in the global world? Your examples included : high value-end imagineers(?), farming,eco tourism,green tech, furniture, T-shirts,design,pottery,bio mimicry,marine biological adaptations,regeneration with art,new finance brokerages. I like the modesty stuff, the sustainability stuff and the blue-sky ideas and micro economies with access to localised capital. But, does this bridge us from a government-demand dependent indebted high welfare ageing- demographics economy to a global post-industrial ( whatever that means) player.Do/should we aspire to this to maintain our standard of living or throttle back to a West Wales idyll? Will others in the world be competing with their own ideas and idylls and throttling up.

    Not sure I saw an answer, but its great to draw on the positive vibes.Thanks.

  • Comment number 9.

    6. stevie 'why is it that the so-called fringe parties seem to talk more sense than the three main parties put together...on Iraq, Afghanistan, immigration, MPs expenses, pensioner poverty, etc., even the Lib Dems seem to be tainted by mixing with the 'big guys''

    Might it be something to do with populist Liberal-Democracy? The advisors (acting on behalf of the string-pullers) run FOCUS groups so have the puppets putting on a show to get votes from 'carefully targeted demographics' - that is, from largely stupid/emotional people these days.

    You could analyse what's going on correctly down to the molecular level and it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference unless it got them votes.

    That's populism - that's Liberal-Democracy (it should just be called 'consumerism').

    Do you want red, blue or yellow icing on your bun sir?

  • Comment number 10.

    The UK economy is so unbalanced now that major changes in taxation have to be brought in in order to re-balance it.

    The London-centric economy based around finance, public sector broadcasting and politicians, aided by some very lucrative paying posts in the public sector such as GPs, Surgeons, Council Chief Executives and Council Heads of Department, etc, has so unbalanced the economy in terms of housing and house prices that we have a two-tier economy in many parts of Britain.

    It is thus very hard for people in the regions to take risk when they realise that they are now priced out of houses and pensions, often unable to afford either, whilst working and shopping alongside those who salaries and bonuses have been so extreme in the past 10 years that they have, quite simply, driven up house prices beyond the reach of most on average wages.

    I know of numerous GPs and Surgeons who now have extensive property portfolios simply because they had plenty of money to spare as their salaries soared in the past decade - resulting in Doctors competing against each other to buy second, third and more homes or to get into BTL empire-building. Tiny run-down grotty 2-up 2-down terraces from Swansea to St. Davids which you could not give away 10 years ago now change hands for 200K, 300k and more.

    An estate agent recently told me of a 2-up 2-down terrace with no parking that was put on the market for 375K in West Wales which, when it last sold, went for 60K - the view was that there was "no shortage of bankers with millions from London just wishing to buy property".

    And then you have the BTL types from London who have bought up properties near Universities in Wales, some of whom would not look out of place in a Dickensian novel, who pay no Council Tax on a single student BTL property and who, as absentee landlords, seemingly care little or nothing for the suburbs and lives of the local people whose lives are blighted by their homes becoming part of student ghettoes.

    The last thing that this country needs now is more Londoners, be they bankers or meeja types or green eco-trendies, telling the rest of us how to live our lives and/or what is needed to sort out the country. Until this imbalance in house prices, and who can afford and who can't afford houses in the regions, then we will continue to have an increasingly polarised Society - a Society that more and more no longer feel a part of.

    So, we to move away from an economy based on house prices - second, third and more homes needs to be punitively taxed in terms of Council taxes and sales tax. If you have a second or third home somewhere in the UK then you need not just to pay the same Council Tax as the locals - they currently pay a fraction of the Council Tax that local residents pay if they pay anything at all - but the second and third home owners needs to pay 2 or 3 times the local Council Tax.

    BTL landlords must be forced to pay Council Tax on each of their properties whether they have students in them or not and a limit put on the number of BTL properties in any suburb. Likewise, there needs to a punitive tax on the sale of any BTL property.

    MPs, for so long milking the housing bubble and their mortgages paid by us on their second homes, have obviously been oblivious to the real pain felt across the UK by the housing bubble and the rise of the second home owner from London and the BTL empire builders. There is real anger in the regions about this and, just as importantly, the UK needs to move away from the economics of an economy seemingly governed by estate agents and go back to generating real wealth!

    (Of course, the BBC does not report such things as the BBC appears to be now a major player in 'property porn' TV and the ramping of house prices and urging us all on to make our fortunes from buy-to-let empires.)

  • Comment number 11.

    The harnessing of embedded employee knowledge will deliver value, if the architecture of centralised capital hoarding is released at a localised level.

    It's a roadmap to enterprise, and self sufficiency, in a globalised world.

    Probably.

  • Comment number 12.

    TO FIX A COMMUNITY

    You need a total acceptance of personal sacrifice, in the interest of the common good. That requires a high level of maturity. Individual maturity is declining - it is at its least apparent in Westminster.

    Perhaps we need an INDEPENDENT PANEL for CULTURAL COMPETENCE (IPCC) made up of 2500 mature individuals. But then the gag about trying to find a virgin for a sacrifice comes to mind.

  • Comment number 13.

    10 tawse57 'I know of numerous GPs and Surgeons who now have extensive property portfolios simply because they had plenty of money to spare as their salaries soared in the past decade'

    Bought off in my view, as New Labour's backers subtly butchered the Public Sector by stealth, making money in the process via the very behaviour you described. Most professional people think they're very clever, but the reality is that their abilities tend to be context specific. Look to the former USSR and China and the earnings of their professionals... Why was that so?

  • Comment number 14.

    It never ceases to amaze me how workers always manage to support the capitalists. After centuries of failed economics and financial meltdowns, and massive profits gained by the owning class, workers still allow themselves to be wage slaves. You mentioned in your report a different approach is needed, like it was the biggest threat ever, when in fact all you were saying was more of the same under a new banner, reformism!
    Now, a different approach would be to abolish the wage system, sack the capitalists and leap into the future, or would that be too much responsibility to take on for your average Joe. After being shackled to a pay packet and asked to put a cross in a box every four or five years then yes, a democratic revolution seems impossible. Even when they join the dole queues, lose their houses and die on battlefields far away they still prefer oppression to liberation. Maybe its a genetic failure, are the fittest surviving really the capitalist minority? As for having a dialogue about alternatives to capitalism even that's a big fat pay-cheque in the post NO!

  • Comment number 15.

    tawse57 wrote:
    The UK economy is so unbalanced now that major changes in taxation have to be brought in in order to re-balance it.


    This indeed is the issue, but one cannot rebalance something that left these shores a long time ago. Manufacturing was destroyed either via competition or because of politics. For order to come out of chaos one has to regulate what one wants from society. In other words what percentage of the economy to be given over to food production, to manufacturing to finance. There is no central plan as in its place is anarchy. Left on their own devices individuals will try to take over all else. Individual greed leading to monopolies becomes the norm. Tescos wants to dominate the supermarket sector and has done so far, no one stopped it. Sky tv dominates the media no one stopped that. In every sector 4-5 companies dominate. Until their power is broken the nation state stands no chance. The current Tory agenda is the break up of the nation state, ie finishing off what was started by Labour...

  • Comment number 16.

    Or for a more balanced view:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/22/manufacturing_figures/

    Plus - Manufacturing rise highest in 15 years:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8598689.stm

  • Comment number 17.

    16. Andyet 'Or for a more balanced view'

    Misleading nonsense. Manufacturing makes up a very small part of the economy, well under 20%. As Paul's programme pointed out, the cottage pottery industry was an exception, had any venture capitalists been involved they would have moved much of it offshore to reduce overheads and labour costs.

    Our skills base is in decline. See PISA results. This is down to changing demographics like those in the USA. Same driver. Programming I remind you is a mechanical process. It does not require human intelligence. That is why anything programmable sooner or later finds its way into a ASIC or robot.

  • Comment number 18.

    Statist

    I personally regard simply describing others' views as nonsense reveals a poor disposition to consider the facts.

    Relocation offshore of lower value production or services is nothing new. The UK and the US have led the way in exporting lower skill - and more environmentally destructive - processes to emerging economies. And yet energy consumption continues to grow, despite greater efficiencies as do other inputs. The issue is whether it is being replaced by higher value product, which is the case, both in manufacturing and through growth in other sectors, such as creative industries which have substantially outperformed both in GDP and export value terms.

    How otherwise do you explain the 2m+ more people employed currently compared to 1997? - and yes I know that around 300,000 are accounted for by the public sector but that still leaves around 1.8m more employed in the private sector.

    As the article points out, a higher reliance on manufacturing actually exacerbates the effect of a world economic downturn, while a more balanced economy stabilises it.

  • Comment number 19.

    18. Andyet 'I personally regard simply describing others' views as nonsense reveals a poor disposition to consider the facts.'

    Not when there is wealth of evidence (and policy) behind it! It was designed to shock you out of saying silly things!

    'Relocation offshore of lower value production or services is nothing new.'

    It's been going on for decades. Look up 'The Mayfair Set' on Youtube.

    'The UK and the US have led the way in exporting lower skill - and more environmentally destructive - processes to emerging economies.'

    No Hayek and others led the way in anarchism. You just don't get it. This was an attack on statism by free-market anarchism (aka libertarianism). people do not matter. Nations do not matter. Profit matters.

    'And yet energy consumption continues to grow, despite greater efficiencies as do other inputs.'

    Energy consumption grows because populations grow.

    'The issue is whether it is being replaced by higher value product, which is the case, both in manufacturing and through growth in other sectors, such as creative industries which have substantially outperformed both in GDP and export value terms.'

    What are you talking about? Most IT is outsourced to where it is cheapest.

    'How otherwise do you explain the 2m+ more people employed currently compared to 1997?'

    Immigration and high immigrant birth rate. Cheap labour.

    '- and yes I know that around 300,000 are accounted for by the public sector but that still leaves around 1.8m more employed in the private sector.'

    You have a lot to learn. This country is in serious trouble. It doesn't produce much if anything. The brains and cheap labour is in China now. Mean IQ=105, population 1.1 billion. Do the stats.

    'As the article points out, a higher reliance on manufacturing actually exacerbates the effect of a world economic downturn, while a more balanced economy stabilises it.'

    See above. 1.1 billion. A regulated economy, mean IQ=105, SD=15. Do the maths. Did you watch the ETS video? Did you understand it? We have ruined our education system too.

  • Comment number 20.

    19. 'Silly' now, eh? Most sophisticated.


    Education
    http://www.prospectsnet.com/cms/ShowPage/Home_page/Main_Menu___News_and_information/Graduate_Market_Trends_2008/International_comparisons_in_higher_education___Education_at_a_Glance_2008__Autumn_08_/p%21eXbbbpc

    Creative industries
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    How does immigration create employment?

    Clearly you are one of those who only researches data that support your preconceptions.

  • Comment number 21.

    20. Andyet 'Silly' now, eh? Most sophisticated.'

    Yes, you are silly, and young? And unsophisticated. You write as if rhetoric matters. It doesn't, it's just the art/language of persuasion, not science. It is one of the sad things which has happened to modern feminized education.

    Did you study the ETS report, the Leitch Review, the OECD PISA data? No you didn't. Do you know what ETS is? PISA? Do you know why the UK was excluded from the detailed PISA breakdowns in 2000 and 2003? What was going on in the KS3 SATs here at the time?

    'Clearly you are one of those who only researches data that support your preconceptions.'

    But what if my preconceptions were created by data to start with? What if they have yet to be refuted by the data, because trends that I have been pointing out for some time in this blog are long term ones which can't be significantly affected by minor short term fiddling with figures? Look at the budget deficit. Look at the levels of borrowing. Look at the crime rate. Then look at your alleged (percentage) manufacturing increase and ask yourself what's bright about this country's future.

    You need to listen to people who can teach you a thing or two and know when to stop 'arguing' (it is just oppositional defiance in your case). High unskilled immigration and liberal 'values' are killing the birth rate here just where its needed to produce skilled people for the economy and essential services. It's a long term process. We can't import these people either, as they're short elsewhere too in the Liberal-Democracies for the same reason. That is, modern anarchistic, narcissistic Liberal-Democracy is self-destructive. It is doing the same job that neutron weapons would have done, albeit more slowly. Instead of arrogantly raging, perhaps you should try to work out what that means practically, and why I've said it, looking to the evidence which I have pointed you towards (which so far you have just ignored). Here's another. Do you understand how this relates to the ETS report and work published in 1994?

  • Comment number 22.

    A look at the UK's balance of payments current account for 2009, published by the Office for National Statistics, reveals:

    Deficit on trade of goods = £20.4bn per quarter
    The UK imports more goods than it exports

    Deficit on transfers = £3.5bn per quarter
    Payments by the UK government to the EU and foreign aid

    Surplus on trade of services = £12.3bn per quarter
    We are a net exporter of services

    Surplus on investment income = £7.2bn per quarter
    Mainly profits earned by UK companies on their subsidiaries and investments abroad

    Overall this is a net deficit of £4.6bn per quarter.

    The deficit in goods will tend to reduce UK employment, and the surplus in services will provide UK employment. The investment income surplus is more likely to provide employment outside the UK, as it relates to the UK's profits from foreign business operations.

    It is worth noting that the UK's export of IT and financial services has fallen, but was offset by a decline in foreign services imported.

  • Comment number 23.

    22. MrTweedy Coupled with the changing demographics in comparison to say, the PRC, it doesn't look good does it? I appreciate why there are pressures to paint a positive picture, but can you find any evidence to justify that? With what's clearly a growing deficit, what will happen to our credit ratings? As I see it, it isn't a hung Parliament which is the problem, it's the absence of credible future governance by any of the big three Liberal-Demcoratic (essentially anarchistic) parties, and even lower credibility of sink parties like the BNP, which just serve as distractions from what might otherwise be viable. Instead of talking to Hu about Iran, perhaps Brown and Obama should be asking him for advice on how to govern their own countries, which is what all this really comes down to, I suggest.

 

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