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What's wrong with Britain?

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Paul Mason | 08:51 UK time, Monday, 29 March 2010

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"All items of value have been removed," reads the sign on the boarded-up Flag and Whistle pub, the first thing you see when you leave Margate railway station.

For large parts of Britain the phrase sums up the state of things.

I have been on the road for the best part of two weeks trying to look beyond the financial crisis at the structural problems affecting the real economy - travelling from Margate in south-east England to St David's in west Wales - and back.

Along the way I have been asking people - what is wrong with Britain and how do we fix it?

Anti-migrant sentiment

When I first asked the question, on a wind-whipped Margate seafront, the answer was blunt: "Foreigners mate. Take our jobs, undercut our wages."

One person after another told the same story - they cannot get a job and believe migrant workers are undercutting their wages.

This may shock you, but it does not shock me - I have been hearing this message for two or three years now. It is the signature tune of the recession - and one politicians do not really want to hear.


But to me it is evidence of a deeper problem. Social mobility has declined, industry has shrunk from 20% of GDP to 13% under the present government.

Social historian Michael Collins, who has studied the working class diaspora of the South East, tells me that large sections of the population now reject the officially prescribed route upwards - education - in favour of a more tangible one: cash.

Low social mobility and this deep alienation of a section of unskilled manual workers has created a cultural divide in Britain that would have shocked Orwell and Disraeli, between an urban, metropolitan and multi-ethnic working culture in the cities and the one you find on Margate seafront.


It was all too obvious as I hit London that it is there that the power and wealth in society rests.

In central London - and central Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow to an extent - you have got a self-sufficient micro-economy whose badge of membership is the cappuccino and the laptop.

It has survived the recession well - the Starbucks barista buys their lunch in Subway, buys a cheap top in Zara, lives in the modern version of a rooming house, which is a £500k rented London terrace divided into only bedrooms.

The wages are never brilliant, and nobody plans to do this forever, but there is a supercool aspect to the lifestyle that is a world away from life in a small town.

"We've centralised the economy," conservative philosopher Philip Blond told me. "We've taken all the wealth, talent, capital and centralised it inside the M25. And the state underwrites the finance system - so it rewards speculation. Why would capital go anywhere else?"

The results are obvious once you get to a place like Stoke-on-Trent. Most of what Stoke was famous for had already gone by the time the financial crisis hit.

Viewed from the air the city is scarred with demolition sites of the great names of ceramics and steel. What is new are warehouses and cut-price stores - Aldi, B&Q, cheap sofa stores.

Stoke's workforce has fallen from 106,000 to 98,000 in the last three years and on no projection does it ever get back to 106,000.

On a projection that includes government spending cuts, the workforce does not stop shrinking until 2017.

Industrial collapse

The urban landscape of Hanley, a place to which I have returned throughout this recession, is a living demonstration of the failure of an economic model.

There are more than enough pawnbrokers and cheque cashing stores, some temp agencies, with very meagre offers in the window. And at night, silence - save for the trashy student bars where, say the posters, you can get "trollied" for 99p.


Something about the economic model we adopted over the last 20 years has just not worked.

Financial speculation has been rewarded, industry has declined, wages at the bottom end have not kept pace with growth and the basic test of an economy - does it make poor people richer - has been flunked.

What is the answer? For me, the urban landscape of Stoke contains a buried clue. Slicing through the five pottery towns are the canals, flanked by the picturesque ruins of the early kilns that made the names Wedgwood, Spode and Doulton famous.

In the 1770s canals were like the internet - a revolutionary new communications network that made new consumer products like a Staffordshire tea service possible for the masses.

Stoke exists because three or four entrepreneurs said: "A new age is coming, let's be part of it, in fact let's do it first."

Eco businesses

For 20 years we thought we were already in a new age - that it was the age of high finance and call centres. Then the banks collapsed.

In St David's, Britain's smallest city, one thing strikes you - there is no big business.

Once a backwater, Pembrokeshire is now home to a booming seasonal micro-economy of eco-tourism, alternative technology, crafts and organic farming.

It is a kind of middle class nirvana, kept out of the hands of the property wide-boys and lookalike retail chains by the fact that it is inside a National Park.

I went there because I had uncovered a network of local businesses operating in ways that might hold clues to Britain's future.


"We're one of the oldest industrial countries," adventure company boss and deep green business guru Andy Middleton told me, "but we could become the first successful post-industrial economy".

I sat round the table with Andy and his mates - the T-shirt boss, the tepee camp owner, the recycleable furniture designer whose company turns over £30m a year, and Andy himself whose adventure company morphed into a business consultancy.

"Nothing in nature maximises," Andy told me. "Trees don't ask 'how high can I grow?'"

"If you maximise profit" Chris, former MD of local sportswear group Howies, said, "you've no room for manouver. It's a recipe for boom and bust".

A changing world

It is clear to me there are two big things happening in the world:

A tech revolution that started with the internet, but has now spread to everything from materials science to medicine to robotics;

and a green revolution, that started with carbon reduction and is now changing the way people run businesses and live their lives.

This west Wales cluster of eco-business, who do not want to be part of the city-financed world, and want a bottom line that includes people and planet as well as profit, represent one way forward - but not without some bigger structural changes.

As I retrace my steps (the return journey is featured on Tuesday's Newsnight) I find the beginnings of a more sustainable kind of economy - at Emma Bridgewater's booming family-owned pottery in Stoke, at a London dotcom where they have invented an alternative to banking, and in Margate, with artist Tracey Emin, who believes the new art gallery soon to open there will transform the place.

And I meet the people trying to heal the fractiousness and mistrust of migrant workers through the ingenious means of getting them paid decent wages so the jobs and livelihoods of the existing workforce cannot be undercut.

"We're weaving the social fabric of this country," says the woman standing in the rain on London's Oxford Street, fighting to get cleaners paid above the minimum wage. The irony is not lost on me that she is Polish.

If we are going to be part of a third industrial revolution we are going to have to have a frank discussion about power.

All the power has been centred on finance and the financial model and, funnily enough, we have just hocked our entire economy to save that broken system.

From the coasteering teams in Wales to the boxing clubs of the potteries I sense a deep frustration with this absence of voice and power that traditional politics just does not capture.

But don't just take it from me - join me on Newsnight, Monday 29 March and Tuesday 30 March, to hear it from the brickies, bantamweights, emigrant plasterers, immigrant cleaners, seaweed enthusiasts, pottery painters, city refuseniks and Brit-art geniuses.

Hear their answer to "What's wrong with Britain and how do we fix it?" - and hit the comments button to give us yours.


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  • Comment number 1.

    If we're going to be part of a third industrial revolution we're going to have to have a frank discussion about power.

    Not wrong there. Oh... that power. As well.

    Carry on smoking.

  • Comment number 2.

    Michael Albert is someone who thinks about life after capitalism:

  • Comment number 3.


    We are the only species that ROUTINELY overrules natural imperatives.

    I have just heard that Radio 4 has an item (11.00 am)relating to the 5 year-old's incapacity (in terms of brain structuring?) when drafted into school.

    To quote HomSap, collectively: "I need a drink".

  • Comment number 4.


    The boarded up pub. It reminds me that we take our leisure through alcohol and (until recently) our decisions, through smoke (filled rooms).

    Surely this is a giant clue to the fact that we have not yet learned to cope with being human? All the madness of war and planetary destruction follows as night follows day.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you for this article. The gap you describe between the economy inside the M25 and that elsewhere is something that I have been pondering for some time. I do not have any particular answers to the question, "how do we fix Britain?" but something has clearly gone awry.

    For much of Britain the local economy is heavily dependent on Government spending to provide the "income". I heard a figure suggesting that for some regions over half the jobs are in Government services (local Government, health, education...) and its a good bet that much of the remainder are in services recirculating this government spending. Another significant contribution may come from retired pensioners in some areas; but idea that these areas can survive on earned income from tourism etc is highly questionable.

    How this came about is a moot point, but a key element is a lack of local investment, and of local capital to invest. Big money sees these regions as areas of consumption - not production - hence the only big investment is by retailers and the products on sale are made elsewhere (eg China! nb it would be interesting to compare the number and quality of the jobs exported to places like China with those taken up by immigrants).

    All that having been said, so long as the money was flowing it is probable that the material standard of living in the regions was higher than it used to be when people were employed in local industries: and so people accepted the change and dulled their ambitions watching television and going to the pub. If there are serious Government cuts in the pipeline then this equilibrium could be disturbed - and then we will see where the hostility to immigration and to "Europe" will take us.

    This will be a strange outcome, because people's hostility should be far more directed towards Westminster than Brussels. You only have to compare the way France and Germany have sustained their rural infrastructure and economies to see a "better way".

    On the continent local Government remains relatively powerful vis-a-vis Central Government and there are regional centres, with deep historical roots, which retain a degree of political and economic independence. I imagine that the equivalent of Stoke in France or Germany would, and could, do far more to retain their potteries - and they are probably still producing pots.

    Such centres in the UK were broken down when we reformed Local Government in the 1970s. Then, the County towns lost their historical identities and the big industrial centres such as Manchester and Birmingham were divorced from their rural hinterlands: both became dependencies of London and the tax revenues from the City.

    The tragedy of this is that the process may be irreversible. The Stoke potteries (for example) had a "first mover" advantage when they began; they became centres of excellence and expertise; and established powerful brands. They would now face mature markets; the expertise has been dissipated; and the brands have gone elsewhere - with, doubtless the approval of investors in the City.

  • Comment number 6.


    Looking forward to the piece tonight.

    I'm just tucking into Richard Heinberg's "The Party's over". No doubt Industrialism has been suffering from declining marginal productivity since the 1960s (look at Energy return rates of fossil fuels).

    The energy shocks of the 1970s and Britain's manufacturing decline was the signalling of deep underlying problems. This was the turning point for the industrialised world and the missed opportunity of the age.

    Perhaps some understood the gravity of this, and rather than tackle our post-Industrial transition (the prospect of a Green revolution), instead foistered a poisonous culture of wealth extraction (a.k.a. high finance and Neoliberalism). There have been massive transfers of wealth, not just from ordinary people to the uber-wealthy, but also stealing from the future.

    Society as a whole has barely yet to recognise the symptoms, let alone the causes or even to discuss the cure. We are still peddled the myth of continuous growth!

    It might well get a lot worse, before it gets better.

  • Comment number 7.


    Indeed - but hostility towards the INSTITUTION not the inmates. WE PUT THEM THERE, and we steadfastly refuse to notice that they are consummate politicians but poor human beings, with even poorer management skills where 'Great Britain PLC' is concerned.

    Westminster has 'gone bad'. Unless we totally re-engineer its make-up and function ON A NEW SITE it will take us all down.

    At the election we have to SPOIL PARTY GAMES.

  • Comment number 8.

    Most people are not well off, you've been out and seen it for yourself, you went to Derby about a year ago and the job center there had plenty of jobs....but they were all paying about £7.00 per hour. I live in the South East and the job centers and employment agencies are full of the same jobs here as well. We are turning into a £7 to £10 per hour society living in a world where in order to live somewhere you need a £200,000 plus mortgage! In other words there is a complete disconnect between what politicians see as a functioning society and the reality for most people. Having a roof over your head, owning a car, going on holiday, having disposable income to spend or save, these were all things taken for granted by people on £15,000 per year only 10 years ago, even in the South East....For people today its like standing at the bottom of Mount Everest peering at the summit. The economy will not recover until a worker on that level of wage can have all those things again without crippling themselves with debt. The government should not be pumping billions into reinflating the housing bubble, without putting an equal amount of money into the modern equivalent of council housing, either that or allow house prices to find their own level by withdrawing taxpayer support from mortgage lending altogether.

  • Comment number 9.

    Juxtapose the FTSE 100 and UK SMEs.See the power favouring global listed businesses as against SMEs. Labour have tried to create a Government service-led retailing home economy and a favoured City of London which intermediates services and finance to the rest of the world, using mainly other people's money.

    We need to learn to re-create wealth and contentment, not borrow to attain it. We need to educate our young. We need to get away from the idea that Government owes us something ( cos we pay taxes), serves our every need and is to always be blamed when things go wrong. We need to stop playing world superpower and gain a modest outlook on our position in a world of change.

    All credit to the eco-businesses, adventure companies, artists, social enterpreneurs and commentators. Someone, somewhere is making and creating things better than we. We need to catch up quickly and forget the idea that the Government machine will fund a lifestyle and serve our domestic economy or create rules that spawn middle-men. We need to remove the arrogant attitude that the Indians and Chinese can make the widgets while we cleverly transform and add the value to what they do. We need to place value ( not resentment) on those who have the guts to create centres of 'doing', not 'talking'.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog Paul. I wish I could watch the programme, but iplayer doesn't work abroad - could you please surreptitiously get a friend to post it on youtube?

    For the years of the Blair boom, I always felt that there was something illusory and surreal about UK plc.

    Outside of the obvious affluence of the square mile led by financial 'sophistication', we've seen the economy of SBC - shops/bars/callcenters. Working in all three, I felt a sense of a kind of giant ponzi scheme brewing.

    The shop and call center workers frequented the bars in the evenings, while all propping up the market for city centre aspirational flats, firing speculation in a property market fanned by Kirstie Allsopp's TV vision of upward mobility. The same folk were then doing up their new flats with stuff from the shops - from B&Q to Bang and Olufsen.

    But what were they doing in the call centers? Mostly flogging cheap credit, whether in the form of mortgage loans or credit card loans. So people could buy? Well, more stuff from the shops, more drinks from the bars, and more property, along with a couple of trips a year 1000 miles south of Luton.

    Meanwhile all the actual stuff was increasingly being made in and around Guangdong Province.

    The thing I always found odd was how to equate the productivity of a call centre worker, of which I was one for a brief summer, and the stuff they could buy, from Zara tops to Sony Playstations, from £200,000 flats to summer holidays in Ibiza, as well as a gram of cocaine and 7 shots of vodka on a Friday night. It never seemed to add up.

    The Ponzi scheme is of course that when the lending was 'squeezed', the call centres shut by the profiteering financial service institutions, the mortgages made more difficult to acquire - the price of labour, the Pound and property fell - while that of the imported stuff went up. The affluent bubble turned out to be the fantasy island predicted by Larry Elliott and other prescient minds.

    While we purchased stuff from abroad, our imports, we only sold stuff to eachother - SBC. According to official figures the exception, our exports, were largely service-based (more ephemeral stuff!) - City of London services.

    So as I see it, the titanic is sinking, but not sunk, we're still in that brief lull when half the boat seems to be surviving - while the economic commentators tell us that the ship can be saved with a small amount of restructuring.

    I just don't buy it, I still see an illusion and in the longed-for return to SBC, I see the ship finally plunging into the depths.

  • Comment number 11.

    The foreigners are just a useful scapegoat for deeper ills.

    Well, at least someone has said what most of us have known for some time: the money has all gone to Big Government and Big Business both of whom are too stupid to realise that if they take all the money there is none for anyone else. All this does is ensure that they will eventually end up going the same way they have forced everyone else to go. This is an economic implosion and seen from this suburban SME in the South Midlands the banking crash was merely a symptom of an ongoing process.

    Our economic and social model is defective and needs to change. The problem is that too many like the prevailing arrangement of good money, not a lot of work with nice prospects and so don't want to embrace the necessary changes. Sadly, if there is no transition to a more sustainable model then a change will be forced upon us so that most places turn into depressing dumps.

    What needs to happen is that we learn to create our own value, reinvest that value and make more value: a bit like old Josiah Wedgwood did. As it stands at the moment the ordinary citizen is not allowed to do anything of the sort as the government and the banks need all the money. Is it any wonder that among the lower orders that cash is slowly becoming the king again?

  • Comment number 12.

    well at least Stoke isn't Detroit.... er yet.

  • Comment number 13.

    St. Davids in West Wales - will be interested to see the item from there.

    10 years ago the two-up, two-down terraces were virtually unsaleable going for sums of about 30 or 40 thousand and less. These days it is nigh on impossible to buy a house there if you are a local on local wages due to all those from the South East of England who have ramped up the prices to 250 thousand, 300 thousand, half a million and much more.

    In short, an enormous bubble that is close to bursting - and which has caused enormous local resentment.

    And now many of those houses are up for sale in what increasingly looks like a glut of second homes coming on the market from Swansea to St. Davids and all points inbetween of the Gower, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

    What I am trying to say is that if you talk to a local in St. Davids you get one story, if you talk to one of the second or third home owners who have ramped up property prices in the area you get an entirely different one. It is much the same with many of those who are lured to the countryside of West Wales from the noise and grime of London and who often set up SMEs in the area in an attempt to live the dream of living on small-holdings, chickens and goats in the garden and running a profitable countryside business.

    Come September West Wales basically shuts down and only begins to open up again around, well, now. Whilst some do make good livings down there often they do so because they service the holiday homes market and are entirely dependent upon 'a good Summer' for takings. In Winter there is basically nothing to do, the nights are long and dark and unemployment claims are aplenty.

    Add to that the many businesses who work the grants system, be it from the Assembly or Brussels, and who thrive for as long as the grants last, then shut down or go bust - same thing I suppose - only for the founders to reinvent themselves, to find another niche, to find another trend and another grant for another kind of business. That is, alas, now the Welsh way of things.

    Falling in love with the beauty of the place and dreams of running a holiday home business, or something to do with outdoor activities, or some kind of eco-friendly business, is common - some succeed, and I will be interested to see the ones featured in the programme and wish them well - but many more fail.

    I only hope that no bankers and City fat-boys watch your item tonight - they might think that there is more to West Wales than pricing the local population out of the housing market.

  • Comment number 14.


    A mantra for our times, nothing to add, well said and thanks.


    Your post was not bad either!!

    ''a self-sufficient micro-economy whose badge of membership is the cappuccino, the laptop and the tongue stud. ''

    I am looking forward to tonight.

    I am also looking forward to the mother of all hung parliaments and hopefully, following that a thorough re-examination of how we do things to follow that which would allow some of the people you have been talking to have a voice where it matters.

    I am going to vote lib dem this time, because if you are interested in policy and making a difference above an interest in 'power' you would join the lib dems. I suspect there are more genuine people within that party than you will find put together in the others who have been hijacked by the self interested and self absorbed 'lawyer political class'.

    If it really is 'time for a change' Mr Cameron maybe we should all really be voting Lib Dem?

    If there are any lim Dem party campaigners listening (I assume they cant afford Saatchi and Saatchi and probably would not anyway even if you could), feel free to use the above slogan on bill boards posted accross the land... I wont be asking for any cash for the idea either, the value is good enough for me.

  • Comment number 15.


    Touched on, over and over, but not FOCUSED on: the concepts of success and value.

    Win a war = success? Host the most seductive lottery = success? Alcohol more affordable than milk = good value? Westminster governance/management = good value?

    The current malaise, individual, family, social, national and global is down to the triumph of materialist, acquisitive, aggressive GROWTH culture. Yet out current Prime Minister is the HIGH PRIEST OF GROWTH.

    No amount of lever pulling, within the current paradigm, will get us anywhere but back to where we were. In the past, times like this would throw up a radical maverick, and revolution of thought (hopefully not translated into violence) would follow. ('God' grant it is not a new religion!) For some reason, modern mavericks have to be 'in by tea time'. MAVERICK ISN'T WORKING.

    I am doing my best in Newbury, but aside form standing for Parliament (gesture politics?) last time, I do not cast a long shadow. Where is the giant in this land who will lead us to storm Westminster and lay siege to Buckingham Palace? I would be there. We can't 'go on like this', but to hell with juvenile 'fairness' also. What we need is WISELY MANAGED UNFAIRNESS (as good as it gets) mediated by a sense of HONOUR AND INTEGRITY IN THE MANAGEMENT.

    That would be a success we could all value.

  • Comment number 16.


    If I stay 'within the lie' Jericoa, you post is uplifting. You say:

    "I suspect there are more genuine people within that party" (LibDem) and I am inclined to agree. But have we not both listened to Nick Clegg and even Vince Cable using 'Westminster Speak' to attract votes, avoid awkward realities, and gain power - at the price of integrity? And are not L/D MPs (like the rest) all prepared to sit in that iniquitous chamber, never raising a squeak on behalf of appalled constituents, who long for some denouncement of the banal proceedings? Further, are not the vast majority voted in as 'rosette stands' - a LibDem cipher, taking the whip and toeing the line?

    There is far more commonality of culture across the parties (the Westminster Ethos) than between them. POWER is the key. Parties crave power and leaders crave leadership of the party of power. They play power-games, protecting future votes, present headlines and even past disgraces before even approaching management of our miserable plight. Even then, we see the bizarre spectacle of 'The Reshuffle'! This is an overtly FEUDAL enactment by the all-powerful leader SIMPLY TO DISPENSE PATRONAGE and with no whiff of matching ability/experience (what a hollow laugh) to individuals.

    The LibDems are INSIDE the Westminster lie. In my view, Cleansing must come from OUTSIDE. Hanging is 'too good for them'.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Something about the economic model we adopted over the last 20 years has just not worked."

    The understatement of the year. Were we given a choice? We are talking a out of date 6th form view of economics combined with the Blair illusion that public services can be commercialised/Americanised and still deliver quality services. A Labour government that is more monetarist than Thatcher and is indifferent to the shocking decline of British Industry deserves to go. Post industrial capitalism - what on earth is that - sounds like a contradiction in terms.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    What's wrong with Britain? The same as what's wrong with the rest of the world. And what is the rest of the world doing about it?

  • Comment number 21.

    In the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, set a hundred years ago, Robert Tressell's character "Owen" showed how immigrants were not to blame for the perceived economic ills experienced then, as now. In the post war years, Britain encouraged immigration, in order to fill jobs the indigenous population were not willing to fill. Immigration contributed to Britain's economic growth, for which we should be grateful, and for which we are indebted.
    Meanwhile, our schools turn out youngsters ill equipped to do useful work, or hold a conversation on a serious subject.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hello Paul,

    I look forward to your report but the real issue that underpins all this is really population.

    As the brilliant stand-up comedian pointed out on a recent edition of Newswipe - when we talk about climate change, pollution, ever decreasing standards of living due to ever decreasing resources, immigration, etc - what we are really talking about is over population and the stark fact that there are simply saying that there are just too many human beings on the planet doing what human beings typically do:

    What politician, journalist or media commentator is going to talk about the perpetually growing elephant in the room?

  • Comment number 23.

    This is absolute nonsense. Why does the BBC insist on having outragously unqualified people writing reports about issues they don't understand? They wouldn't do this with theoretical physics, why do it with economics?
    I'm a professional economist with a PhD in the subject, ask my opinion on these things not this clown of a journalist whose only qualification appears to be a degree in music from Sheffield "university".
    What an absolute joke.

  • Comment number 24.

    Are you sure that you are using your stats wisely? How do you measure that fall in industry? By the numbers employed with it? If so, how do you account for the impact of outsourcing. Twenty years ago a company employed its owne cleaners, caterers and IT staff. Now as oftemn as not they are outsourced and in the process become classified as service rather than industrial jobs.

    I think that it is quite ironic that an argument for a bright new tomorrow is based upon a hankering for the economic structures of yesteryear and wonder what Adam Smith would have made of it.

  • Comment number 25.

    As with every other major problem the world sees itself in, it all boils down to poulation.
    Simply put, there are already far too many people on the planet by a couple of billion, consuming natural resources at a rate that is completely unsustainable.
    The only place that has ever addressed the issue is China, yet that country has been vilified for it ever since by everyone else, until every other country adopts similar rules we'll keep spiraling out of control until in the not to distant future, life will be as gloomy for the 8+billion inhabitants of earth as bad sci-fi has been showing us for decades.

  • Comment number 26.

    A thought-provoking piece with some clues on what ails us.
    The trouble with such analyses however is that they negate themselves by being shot through with doe-eyed, Trotskyist, all the babies out with all the bathwater, hippie, Levellers fantasies about a new hippie world arising from the ashes of the old. 'At last! Our time has come!' Well, roll another and go back to sleep. The capitalist ethic will survive as it is smarter, more vigilant and harder-working than the magic mushroom one.
    Instead we need to meld this useful analysis with a real world mentality if we are to truly move forward to better models.

  • Comment number 27.

    I will join you on Newsnight tonight and tomorrow, however I feel the malaise runs deeper within our society. I am at present trying to work out how 37 years after the death of Maria Colwell and 70 subsequent inquiries we still have no satisfactory protection for the most vulnerable in our state, though there may be a connection

  • Comment number 28.

    1) Get to grips with teenagers access to drink drugs and weapons. This needs to be done with their co-operation, engaging with them, teaching them to have a social conscience.
    2) Force people on the dole to contribute something to society for the money they are given. Two days a week employ them and engage them in Public Sector jobs.
    3) Subsidise Manufacturing rather than banks and severely restrict cheap labour immigrants and imports. Our economy exists on the shifting sands of other countries whose own economies bear no relation to ours.
    4) Control the import of cheap farming produce
    5) Force Politicians to run the economy as if it were a private sector enterprise with the same fiduciary duties imposed with suitable penalties for failures in that fiduciary duty.

  • Comment number 29.

    What's wrong with Britian, a long a complicated question with many layers and sub-texts possibily.

    IMO, the narrow gap between minimum wage and benefits are a core issue. Why is it often that the unemployed, would rather stay at home as opposed to earning a living. Either drive minimum wage upwards or freeze benefits, but we have to make people want to work. There should be a difference between benefits for someone who loses their job, as opposed to someone who has never worked. If I lose my job, pay me 90% of my basic salary for a maximun of six months and then nothing, this would ensure that people got back to work asap. It does not have to be an over complicated system, mind you in this country we take pride in confusing the hell out of things, just because we can.

  • Comment number 30.

    The 'how do we fix it' question is probably best answered by a 'how should we have fixed it' question that we did have the opportunity to answer about 10 years ago. We could have invested in some proper manufacturing. As pointed out by a previous contributor to this debate, the service led economy turned out to be self defeating, when in fact the best it could have acheived was a self fulfilling status perhaps, but it could never had really made wealth, it didn't make anything. Still, we've squandered the chance and most certainly squandered the cash propping up the very institutions that had allowed our only means of wealth creation via a non-manufacturing method to come to danger.

    We are now so dependent, the whole global economy, on this arrangement, manufacture in the cheap, non-union slave labour East, consume in the valium cloaked West, a lot of the profit stays in the West even though they have take no risk in the manufacture because the funds that own the companies that make the consumables are in the West. Unless this changes, the chain will not break, the house of cards will not tumble and the status quo will remain. How we choose in pockets of economy within the West to spread this wealth will always and only ever will be short term, boom and bust, call it what you will, but unless we create the wealth then we will always be at the mercy of the Tiger Economies or the US, if they are in danger of getting a cold, we get sneezed upon. Attractive, isn't it.

    Market and capatalist influences and forces have moulded and guided this world economy to the global, exploitative, de-regulated state that we find it in. We have all signed up for it, mostly, all of us have voted for governments that have championed these policies or at the very least, not sought to change them. This is our bed, we must lay in it. If your wish seriously is to change the want, you have to seriously want a change and the majority of the people are just the proper side of comfortable to ensure that the system stays exactly where it is. It is undoubtedly the right's biggest victory over the left, convincing enough people that they are well off and that to change would mean an end to comfort. When there is a threat, the instruments of capatalism, the press etc, blame foriegners and the industrial military complex goes off and has a war somewhere, to ensure that the ability to stay in the comfort zone remains.

  • Comment number 31.

    You are quite right in identifying these 'micro-economies' as pretty much all that's keeping the rest of the nation afloat - although Central London/Birmingham/Manchester/Edinburgh are a bit more than 'micro' - except in the sense that they exist in a 'bubble' in a fixed location.
    Another good example of micro-economies are university towns and cities where an albeit transient population creates high demands for certain products. And in cities like Plymouth have replaced the traditional income dependencies.
    The initial Industrial Revolution was a 'bubble' in Coalbrookdale and the Severn Gorge. The ceramics industry in North Staffodshire similarly. Shipbuilding 'bubbles' on the Clyde, Tyne, Wear and Mersey. Many economic bubbles connected only by carts, then canals then railways.
    It's like the fruit in a scone. It tastes good as a lump - but if all the fruit was just ground to dust and baked through the mix it becomes nothing.
    Politicians and it seems some economists are driven to 'homogenise' everything. To promise to give everybody the same - not in a socialist sense but in terms of opportunity. Too often opportunities they are neither able nor prepared to take up. They don't seem to recognise 'micro-economies' or how to encourage and sustain them (apart from the City of London!).
    Modern micro-economies like (for example) the NEC at Birmingham sustain large levels of employment and economic benefit in their area. What Government needs to do is to identify and play to local strengths, not just throw 'industrial/office parks' at everyone - or out-of-town retail parks which annihilate town centres.

  • Comment number 32.

    so this is BBC journalsim at its unbiased best-get real when the election is over and you get what you hope for Cameeron in, you will change the title saying what is good with Britain. There is not a lot wrong apart from sucess and our inability to cope with it. We have a stable economy which is still recovering, we don't live in shanty towns, we have utilities a health service and an education service second to none and all you can do is put everything down.
    The Lib Dems have moved away from their roots more so than any other party, they denounce Christianity to be trendy with everyone else-there base used to be on those principles but Cleggy has changed all that. Cable is now being held as the the answer to all our prayers-I wouldn't let him near my piggy bank.
    The power base now lies with the media who spout the sort of rubbish now being held in this blog as 'reality'

  • Comment number 33.

    The way to fix britain is to start at the beginning? children we have to control children from a early age and make their parents responsible for them.We need draconian measures to bring britain back from the brink,we need the death penalty back along with the birch for low level crime and corporal punishment to control the schoolchildren who attack teachers.I know what most of you whinging looney lefties will scream (That my views are outdated and no good in a modern world)well we wont have much left of this so called modern world if its left up to you PC/whinging looney lefties.Weve tried it your way for the last forty years,(and ive got news for you all)ITS NOT WORKING.

  • Comment number 34.

    I am an immigrant from New Zealand, living in the UK for 5 years now on an ancestry visa. I have private health insurance, was educated at home in New Zealand and will spead the periods of my life (old age and youth) when I use the healthcare system most back in New Zealand.
    I am a lawyer earning over 80k per annum, paying almost half of that in tax.
    When I was made redundant, I spent 14 months searching for work, and was not eligable for a jobseekers allowance, or the support provided to jobseekers through the jobcentre, despite the hig level of tax I had already paid in the previous financial year. No complaints there, after all....I'm not British, I could always go home.
    My government would complain that I am giving the best, most productive years of my life to another country, and I have to say that they have a good argument.
    I am not quite sure where the people in the video's resentment comes from, but suspect that it is closeted racism? Do they really resent white middle class migrants?
    I'm not quite sure how someone could argue that I do anything other than contribute to the UK economy

  • Comment number 35.

    What is needed is a new outlook, and a new way to share the wealth thats fair and just? not have only a few rich people 5% with 95% of all the money !!! But this will never happen, because mega rich people are selfish and greedy The very rich are the worst, and pay the smallest amount of tax.The U.K. will be lost by its own greed in a few years no money for any social program, and no heatlh care, no pension for the old ? this country will desend into civil war, or a police state. There is no hope this will happen.

  • Comment number 36.

    23. At 3:25pm on 29 Mar 2010, Brains_not_Bozo wrote:
    This is absolute nonsense. Why does the BBC insist on having outragously unqualified people writing reports about issues they don't understand? They wouldn't do this with theoretical physics, why do it with economics?
    I'm a professional economist with a PhD in the subject, ask my opinion on these things not this clown of a journalist whose only qualification appears to be a degree in music from Sheffield "university".
    What an absolute joke.


    So what's your opinion?

  • Comment number 37.

    Very interesting.

    Read this article then read the one (on this website) about french education, and students studying the wrong subjects, entitled
    "French students shy of real world".

    Like the French we need people learning to do real jobs. Plumbers can earn a fortune if they like the work... why would you want to work in Starbucks if you could learn a trade like that?

  • Comment number 38.

    Britain has unfortunately been chronically mismanaged over the past 60 years by successive generations of self-serving politicians who are not capable of taking the big decisions. Instead of rebuilding and modernising the economy and national infrastructure in the post-war years like Germany, politicians chose the easy solution by dismantling and selling off the industrial base and then bribing the electorate with low taxes. Unrestrained big business now rules the roost whilst Britain goes on rudderless without any strategic direction, and towns like Margate and Stoke are forgotten about. It's not surprising that those not benefiting from this system are disaffected and turning to nationalism.

  • Comment number 39.

    The problem is two-fold and in my view is glaringly obvious! Firstly, the population has grown too big for this country to support, secondly the public spending in this country is in a dangerously ridiculous state!

    The first point isn't about migrant workers, it is about the unemployed having children that they cannot afford to support. The state takes money from the employed in the form of numerous taxes and a portion of this goes directly to the unemployed by way of benefits. Indirectly the unemployed benefit from healthcare, education, pensions etc; they put very little back into the system at a local level. As the proportion of unemployed grows of course it is inevitable that the system falls apart; there is limited money to go around and none of it actually stays in the poorer areas!

    The second point would be a very besic requirement of any business these days; we have to justify the value in every pound that we spend, ensuring that we get 'best value for money'. I wonder when the government last did a full in-depth review of it's expenditure? I can imagine that if we were to compare the efficiency of government spend to that of a business there would be an embarrassing gap (probably why it has never been done)! If the money is better managed then there would be more for expenditure on local infrastruture (putting and keeping money in the poorer areas).

    Both these issues are driven by a common problem in this country and around the world; driven by the voting system, we continue to paper over the cracks rather than address the root cause of the issues.

  • Comment number 40.

    What do they mean "Foreigners mate??!! Do they mean people who come in our country to work and are highly qualified and (have MBA/Degree/Skills) to do the job we don’t want to do or have no education/qualification to do? We might progress, if we stop spending most of our precious time collecting cheques from agency and down the pub.

    Stop complaining and go get education and skills then you might be able to get nice little job in IT, Banking… be someone! We live in world where we have to constantly improve our selves from competition. Get the point?

    Also BBC should STOP writing articles to create public (racial) hatred!

  • Comment number 41.

    In post war Europe Switzerland and Luxembourg have earned a national living from their banking sectors and it may be feasible in a global economy for a country the size of the UK to earn a national income that way. However, as we have moved in that direction, successive governments since 1979 have encouraged a United States type competitive social economy - hoping that some wealth would trickle down from the rich to the poor and "encourage the others" to work harder. The wealth of Switzerland and Luxembourg has been managed by strong government and resticted immigration so as to benefit their citizens and to subsidise their farming and general industry. Now that would be a better model for a UK where global finance is the dominant export earner.

  • Comment number 42.

    The only way forward is with social partnership, the 70's tried to do it but Thatcher stopped it and then set about laying the foundations of destruction of, the very system she worshipped, capitalism.
    We need to understand that without a reasonable wage people can't spend or save and the whole system collapses.
    We live in a country which publishes a minimum weekly requirement for a minimum standard of living and then sets the minimum wage at less than this, this is not social partnership.
    Ensuring that nobody starves and everyone has access to the means of self improvement is a start but we have a long way to go fighting Thatcher's money grabbers to spread their cash about.

  • Comment number 43.

    #34 @aero167

    I think there will not be too much resentment towards you as you are:
    a) (I assume??) white
    b) Fluent English speaker from a very Anglophile culture
    c) Not directly competing with the working class people who have lost out under successive governments since the 70s. We can't afford to pay factory worker wages in the UK, but can generally squeeze another lawyer or two in.

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    The problem this country has is greed. Years ago the working classes took thier holidays in places like Margate in the summer after the season finished the hotels shut down for the winter ,Then some bright spark realised he could fill his hotel with unemployed and the state would pick up the bill the area goes down people stop going there. The working classes were conned by the promise house ownership , I remember a Arguement I had with a work colleage in the early eighties when he came out with the statement that his house had increased in value over six months ,I told him that type of thinking would cost his children the chance to own their own house, he disagreed Now we have people trying to buy £250,000 house both working on levels of pay that hasnt increased for twenty years.The high streets are full of Estate Agents and Banks because working people want to shop in Hypa markets that have the power to force farmers to except whatever pittace they are given . Now the so called Goverment tells people we are living too long costing too much and we need to inport thousand of poorly paid Migrants too do the dirty jobs we refuse to do and whenever some fat member of parliment comes on our screen to announce their spending millions on NHS state of the art tech or bringing in ID cards that nobody wants or decides to start a war with some oil rich state that will bankrupt us for decades our so called Free Media roll over and want their Tummys tickled then running off to pick up and argue about some pop star ,or some other rubbish that diverts attention away from the question , My fear is that when this other crowd of crazed running dogs get the taste of power the first target will be the BBC who i totally surport and STATE NOW when you are bought up by that madman MURDOCH my televison will go to the Recycling centre and wont be replaced

  • Comment number 46.

    In the 19th Century, up to 75% of the working population actually produced something - food, clothes, furniture, coal, railways, housing, magnificent town halls etc., etc. But now, 75% of the working population produce nothing - they are mainly concerned with moving money, or things, from one person or institution to another, or managing, taxing or overseeing that process.

    To those who think that only qualified economists are entitled to have a view on our current predicament, remember this - an economist is someone who can tell you exactly what is going to happen and then, when it doesn't happen, can tell you exactly why it didn't. In other words - impressively useless.

  • Comment number 47.

    Partnership is the key to success

  • Comment number 48.

    The problem with the UK is the lack of total agreement that we have to operate a capitalist system in a world economic market place. There is no other peaceful solution currently known to man.
    Economic teaching at all schools at all levels is needed.
    Population control must be taught with more effort.
    So called affordable homes are not the answer, they halt mobility of labour & give people a false sense of security.
    Essential jobs, nursing etc should be at a sensible salary level not dependent upon subsidised housing.

  • Comment number 49.

    The problem is why work for a living to keep a roof over your head when you can get it all and more paid for by state, its about time the wheels fell off this crazy wagon we call the uk. It simply cant carry on, its not viable, end off.

  • Comment number 50.

    Maybe it is just me ... but in this ... 'we want change' ... arena we call England ... Are most of those who follow the rhetoric of the new shiny conservatives missing what has brought us to this mess in the first place? ... Is no one going to say it? ... I seem to recall as a child growing up in a depressed Coventry in the 70's and 80's (but thankfully within a reasonably affluent family) that Margaret Thatcher was not just stealing the Milk!

    I saw from the comfort of my moms shopping trolley other families begging for food for the miners ... Miners whose efforts helped to power this once great nation were being thrown aside in the interests of investing in fuel from foreign shores ... These men of the dark made it possible for those great industries to power up their furnaces ... Their hands removed the coal from hundreds of feet below the surface of this once busy land to heat the living rooms and cook the food on the stove ... But there they were ... reduced to begging outside of Tesco's ... I remember my mom buying tins of food just so we could place it in the 'miners' trolley as we left to our comfortable home ... As the saying should always ring ... there but for the grace of God go I ...

    The Conservatives would probably like you to think that this is about immigrant labor ... They would probably want you to think that the Financial crisis was brought on by Gordon Brown ... because as long as you are thinking this you are forgetting the sickness that Britain caught in those Thatcher years ... Her attitude to the striking miners and all those that went out on strike under the previous Labour government was to kill them not cure them! ... The problem in Britain at that time was ineffectual leadership ... It seemed that what Politicians believed was important was to reverse everything the previous government had done ... The hapless voter always thinks that salvation lay in voting out the old and bringing in the new ... We will never get out of the mess Britain is in until we understand that it is not the colour of the party that needs to change but the attitudes of their thinking.

    What Britain needed back then was not to kill the unions and thus remove the voice of the working mass ... It was to instead listen to the voices to find out where the problems lay ... The major growth industry in the UK has been that of not trusting ... we ALL do it ... government and population alike ... You see it in the conversations in the last remaining pubs when asked about MPs ... and you see it in the cameras that follow our every move ... If you do not trust those on the ground how on earth can you generate ideas which will lead us to a better place?

    The Conservatives promise smaller government hoping this will be the magnet they need to more seats like it is some sort of benefit to us all ... The truth is ... it is a very easy way to explain why they will be cutting all the council worker jobs if they get into power ... But the truth is ... and this was highlighted previously by tFoth ... the cycle of 'wealth' comes from this sector ... well that and Supermarket staff ... So if we are to reduce big government is the result not then just going to be less money coming into the economy and more going out?

    The workers in the factories of old should of been listened to more not less ... the sweeper on the shop floor will always have more idea about the failings of a company than even top brass management ... let alone government and isolated whitehall civil servants! ... I remember a saying from those old days that as a boy you would here the big men declare ... 'You have to work your way up from the bottom lad' ... you do not hear that so much any more ... but this sentence goes a long way to explaining how a country becomes great and can become great again ... By starting at the bottom you do not just get to see how everything works but you also get to know that there IS such a thing as society ... that the people in the factories are not a bunch of nameless hole punchers who turn up at 8 and go home at 5 everyday ... they are our future ... They are our families ... the fathers and mothers to tomorrows doctors and teachers THEY are our future!

    What Thatcher and the New Conservatives want you to believe is that the future is singular ... that it is all about you and hang everybody else ... There is this idea that we can ALL be rich that it is all about the money ... Well i can tell you that for millions of people it is all about the family and with family you grow communities ... The real change needed is some appreciation by the haves to the have nots ... People need to draw themselves closer together not withdraw themselves away for the community ... A divided Community brings on suspicion and fear ... fueling it self until there is no society left and people live in the flickering light of their television sets ... numbed and hopeless ...

    Who did benefit by the Conservatives out sourcing our manufacturing base to places like China? ... Was it the worker from the closed Factory? Was it the children working their way through school and their future? Or was it the Haves ... the very same Conservatives that brought this new way of thinking to our door in the stocks and share culture? ... How does one benefit from such a change? Well if you are the big Brass you cannot lose ... you get a much reduced work force and one which under a Communist regime will likely not go on strike ... A win win situation ... add to this that then you can keep the punters back home happy with lower prices and hey presto you have a winning combination ... But what is the cost? ... Well now we can say what WAS the cost ... We should all know the answer to that one ... it was a break down of society as a whole ... The cost was in our sense of community ... it was in our sense of pride ... it was was in our sense of belonging ... it was in our sense of home!

    The strength of a nation is not built on the back of money ... it is built on all those things we have lost since allowing Thatcher and the conservative spirit to devour our very belief of belonging ... Of belonging to something greater than ourselves ... of being part of a family we called Great Britain ... do you remember it ... that old slogan ... 'PROUD TO BE BRITISH' ... that was not born out of a sense of racism toward immigrants ... that was not about hating the rest of the world ... it was about ones pride in being a part of something ... Being British meant something ... like being a supporter of a football team fighting its way to the top ... game after game winning all the trophies ... We were world leaders in industry ... innovators of a new world ... and everybody had a worth ... they were all a part of this big throbbing machine ... It was Made In Britain!

    So where from here? Coventry seems an obvious starting point ... Not just because i grew up there but more that it was the industrial centre of the Car industry ... and now ... though i have not been back in many years ... seemed to give birth to many many supermarkets on the once industrial landscape ... It seems that the modern day Phoenix is in the shape of a supermarket! ... A person might ask what is wrong with that? ... So the industry is now a bargain bin isle ... so what? ... Well if this is the giddy heights todays youth have to aspire to then can we blame them for hanging around local shops in large demoralised numbers? ... Take away the dream and all you are left with is the nightmare!

    Young people have nothing to be proud about outside of their favorite football team ... but with many of those teams now suffering under increasing massive debts will it be so surprising when the violence returns to the stands ... Boredom and a sense of not belonging promotes the very anti-behaviourial attitudes that disconnected people like David Cameron suggest hugging a hoodie will heal! ... As with all the countries problems ... more 'jaw jaw jaw and less war war war' is what is in need! Our infighting MUST STOP if we are ever to see the Greatness return to this nation ... There has to be a future in place that young people can aspire into and then maybe the olds of this country can see that the young DO have wonderful things to offer the British family ...

    The Britian we can be proud of is one that went into wars in defense of those peoples living around the world under oppression or threat ... We stood up together for the freedom of those that were over powered ... How sad it is that talk is being made against the immigrant or the worker asking to be heard ... The only way we can rebuild a greater better Britain ... the only way we can get Britain working again is to work together and to appreciate each other and each others capabilities ... Industry does need to be green and we should take this opportunity to plant the seeds in the future markets ... Gordon Brown has implemented many good social initiatives to help build a better sense of community since the rot was set in in those Conservative years ... But it is his campaign to get high speed internet through out the UK which is a step in the right direction to our new and improved future ... He has guided us through this Financial crisis ... A crisis which was created by global problems NOT Gordon Brown problems ... Gordon Brown led the world out of that nightmare and as a result we did not suffer the way we did under the last recession with the Conservatives ... NEVER forget those 15% interest rates and all the job losses!

    I would like to add that I am NOT a Labour supporter ... i have NEVER voted for Labour and i do not think any party has all the right answers ... But I believe in voting for the BEST person for the job that is available at the time! ... This time around ... despite the media nonsense and all the photoshop imagery of Old Etonian school boys ... Gordon Brown IS the man i TRUST and the man who is most skilled for the jobs at hand ... My family was made bankrupt in this recession ... I lost a friend in the london tube bombings and i have friends who are now long term unemployed ... But despite this ... despite how media likes to stir things up to sell its news ... it still falls to us ... the people ... to vote wisely for the best person available to lead us ALL young and old ... poor as well as rich to a Greater Better Britain!

  • Comment number 51.

    #16 Barrie

    Thanks for the feedback as ever, as an engineer by trade and being forever the pragmatist to try to solve real problems I simply see it as being the most realistic way to achieve the same things you want. The 'best of a bad lot' type approach.

    Most people who join the lib dems never imagine they will actually get into parliament (surely?)so they are probably less career driven power junkies in their ranks?

    Certainly the candidates I have seen appear to be well..almost like normal people!!!! it begs the question when you read their resume 'what are they doing trying to get into politics'' !!

    That is probably the best qualification to get into politics..

    I was a bit disapointed nobody has taken me up on my free suggested poster campaign for the Lib Dems.

    ''If it really is ''Time For a Change'' Mr Cameron maybe we should all really be voting Lib Dem?''

    I thought it was quite a clever way to use the energy of the Tory Saatchi run campaign against itself for a few quid and a wing and a prayer. They probably paid millions for that phrase.

    The Tories have already sprayed up all their cars to say ' Its time for a change''. To pull the rug out from under that one dimentional emotional rather than policy led campaign in the manner suggested appeals to my sense of humour.

    Come on someone take it up, make a dour Yorkshireman's day.

    At this point I should declare my vested interest I have £10 bet on a hung paliament at odds of 6/4.

  • Comment number 52.

    Ive said this for years, you cannot have 70 million people on a small island it doesnt work.
    All three major parties play to young couples, pensioners, but what about the single, 30 year old born here. For 10 years i defended Britain, worked for the NHS and was tossed aside, nobody tried to give guidance or put me in training schemes.In work i was always told i was bad at this, bad at that, i thought that was life.
    Then i went to Canada, oh the difference, positive aspects instead of negatives, people smiling in the street, politness instead of arrogance and rudeness, open space, not over crowded towns, no youths with knifes. I loved it, i came back to do university, but theres no way i will ever work full time or live here after i finish. There are no opportunities for me and my face doesnt fit this places picture.
    Yesterday i arrived from Iceland, i hadnt seen rudeness in a week. After i left heathrow airport, i had encountered rudeness 8 times in 10 minutes. Enjoy your country, i am heading for that airport

  • Comment number 53.

    apparently migrants have sent £31.5 billion home in the last 10 years. which is £31 billion less that is multiplying through the economy. how many jobs would that support? how many more migrants do we need above the number of uk unemployed [or hidden in other govt stats]? for a govt to neglect the domestic workforce and to have built a strategy upon migrants is going to lead to one thing. easy wins for BNP.

  • Comment number 54.

    Paul...have you ever read Das Kapital? So much despair in your piece, one day not in our lifetimes we may try a socialist alternative when this discredited capitalist system has eaten itself to oblivion and we still may have people who put a person before a buck...we may just escape, but not for along, long time

  • Comment number 55.

    The Country has forgotten the old Yorkshire saying " You can't eat a £5 note.

  • Comment number 56.

    It means that money in itself is not a product of any real worth. ie our dependence on the finance industry is really rather stupid.

  • Comment number 57.

    I look on the interviewees at Margate in absolute pity. Immigration is not the cause of their problems. They (the interviewees) are the source of their own problems. But also their solution.

    I blame the 'get rich/ famous quick' mentality.

    People are bombarded with images of wealth, fame and opulence from the Premier League to the Lottery to the X Factor. It looks easy, but it ain't. The fact is that most people who are successful work hard and smartly to get where they are. However this ethic is not appreciated in our society.

    Many people expect a good life to be owed them. It is not

    My message to those in Margate?

    Get Educated
    Work hard
    Be of use to society

    And above all .....


  • Comment number 58.

    Hopefully when the pound is worth 10 rupees or 1 Renminbi...or less we can start getting our workforce to grow all our own food, collecting rubbish to recycle, start small industries in the jobless villages around the country and then open some call centers, staffed by those who can to afford to travel.

    Just thinking ahead..

  • Comment number 59.

    What's wrong with Britain?

    When considering this question I believe we should remember that nothing is new. Since Britain has existed, surely it has had things wrong with it. The clever bit would be not to repeat those wrongs. For example, this is not the first recession and will not be the last - but I realise a social historian will be able to illustrate these changes better than I can.

  • Comment number 60.

    What is wrong with Britain?

    It is a national identity crisis.

    and a message to those in margate.

    Your leaders have failed you.

    Get interested in replacing those leaders

    Expect no easy solutions

    Remember your ancestors to gain perspective

    Last night from a shell hole I saw your sky,
    I figured right then they had told me a lie,
    Had I taken the time to see things you made,
    I’d have known they weren’t calling a spade a spade,

    I wonder, God, if you’d shake my hand,
    Somehow I feel that you’d understand.
    Funny I had to come to this hellish place,
    Before I had time to see your face.
    Well, I guess there isn’t much more to say,

    But I am sure, God, I met you today.
    I guess the zero hour will soon be here.
    The signal! Well, God, I have to go,
    I like you lots, this I want you to know.

    Look now, this will be a horrible fight,
    Who knows, I may come to your house tonight.

    Look, I’m crying! Me. Shedding tears!
    I wish I had known you these many years.
    Well! I have to go now, God, goodbye.
    Since I met you, I’m not afraid to die

  • Comment number 61.

    I've seen a lot of anger about migrants that are blamed for everything, but really is getting rid of migrants the solution?
    There were some tests made by BBC. Out of 4 English people who have been offered a job to sort potatoes in a factory only 1 took the jobs, the rest didn't even bother showing up. Another test in a restaurant, out of 3 people only 1 showed up while the rest decided to go off-sick.
    Next, let's look at how huge companies move their production lines to China, India, we all know companies like IBM, HP, Nokia, the list can go on. This has been going on for ages now and no one has done anything about it, certainly not this government. Yet this government claims to have the cure for the economy.
    Just recently - add Africa where children are used to collect crops for producing 60% of the chocolate we eat.
    Yet we love to buy china from China? Or drink cocoa? Or mobile phones from China, because they are cheap, don't we? Or we buy cheap textiles at Primark produced with the aid of child labour. Are we ourselves not to blame?
    I just stopped buying products at ASDA when I learned many of their products are the result of child labour.
    Now I can understand we buy things cheap because we don't have enough money to buy proper goods, like English china.
    But aren't many of us not to blame because of the exploitation of resources and labour in the third world, as we call it? Now those people are being hired by HP or IBM because labour is cheap. Are we not to blame? Or is it the governments of the G8 to blame to force those companies to go to China, India? Somebody has created the mess.
    I just recently watched a program where IBM was mentioned, during the II WW they delivered a computer-like system to tackle German Nazi's problem of organizing the mass murder of millions of people all over Europe.

    On another subject - many of us benefited from the global world and found places to do business in other countries and carry on living. So if you want to get rid of migrants, maybe some of the British people who went to work abroad should come back to England, because they are taking other peoples jobs in other countries? Has anybody thought of that?

    In the end I believe a new way of living must be invented by the British, just as they started the technological revolution during the steam era. Some say China is waiting for us to help them with financial services they don't have. We may no longer be producing the finest (and most expensive) china in the world, but I believe a new era will come and invention will take pace, because countries like China and India are merely copycats of the western world.

    It's sad though to think that I can hardly buy any good china or other products "make in England" where quality was the first thing you would think of when buying anything. We ourselves have raised many youngsters who mostly cherish fancy stuff bought for the lowest price and all they can think of now is show off among friends.

  • Comment number 62.

    Isn't the basic problem that Britain has been suffering from Dutch disease

    and City's success has killed of manufacturing, and made life harder outside London. Also, when the best and brightest study to become financial engineers instead of mechanical engineers industry suffers some more.

    Here's an quick and easy way to fix the economy: print some money, and give it to the CONSUMERS to spend. 100% bulletproof!

  • Comment number 63.

    When is the item going to come on - at the moment 3 very dull men in grey suits are boring the Newsnight audience to death?

    Well, OK, some journalists and politicians might be getting off on it but, boy, what a boring bunch of people on mainstream TV. Look, even their hair is grey!

  • Comment number 64.

    The economy is broken, society is broken, politics is broken...
    We can't have a revolution that throws away the old, and brings in a completly new system, because revolutions, though well intentioned, always throw up the wrong leaders. Pure socialism destroys creativity, and pure capitalism has got us to where we are now...
    What we need are leaders with vision - ok we are in a pickle now, but where do we want to be in 10 or 20 or 50 years...
    And an end to governance by tabloid headline.
    Power and money needs to be localised, not just to regions or counties, but back to town halls. The residents know what is needed for their communities, and how best to encourage small businesses to start or develop - they are the key to success. Technology, environment, good public transport and locally produced goods, jobs and services.
    For those that complain that immigrants take all the jobs - yes, they have, because the jobs were there to be taken... This government has only looked at a global picture where "UK plc" must compete with China - which meant a cheap highly productive workforce, and it doesn't matter how cheap or who the workers actually were. The people of Britain deserved better, but we are where we are now, and it does mean that those that are complaining need to be prepared to work harder and longer, if not for themselves but for their children, to get this country back to where it should be.

  • Comment number 65.

    Mass immigration and the effects on labour has been an issue for the labour movement for going on two centuries.

    The First International was created to stop mass immigration into Britain in the 1860's. Marx has a famous passage from that era

    A warning

    Written: by Marx on March 15, 1865;
    First published: in Der Bote vom Niederrhein, No. 57, May 13, 1866 Oberrheinischer Courier, No. 113, May 15, 1866, Mitteldeutsche Volks-Zeitung, No. 184, August 10, 1866.

    Some time ago the London journeymen tailors formed a general association 120 to uphold their demands against the London master tailors, who are mostly big capitalists. It was a question not only of bringing wages into line with the increased prices of means of subsistence, but also of putting an end to the exceedingly harsh treatment of the workers in this branch of industry. The masters sought to frustrate this plan by recruiting journeymen tailors, chiefly in Belgium, France and Switzerland. Thereupon the secretaries of the Central Council of the International Working Men's Association published in Belgian, French and Swiss newspapers a warning which was a complete success. The London masters' maneuver was foiled; they had to surrender and meet their workers' just demands.

    Defeated in England, the masters are now trying to take counter-measures, starting in Scotland. The fact is that, as a result of the London events, they had to agree, initially, to a 15 per cent. wage rise in Edinburgh as well. But secretly they sent agents to Germany to recruit journeymen tailors, particularly in the Hanover and Mecklenburg areas, for importation to Edinburgh. The first group has already been shipped off. The purpose of this importation is the same as that of the importation of Indian COOLlES to Jamaica, namely, perpetuation of slavery. If the Edinburgh masters succeeded, through the import of German labour, in nullifying the concessions they had already made, it would inevitably lead to repercussions in England. No one would suffer more than the German workers themselves, who constitute in Great Britain a larger number than the workers of all the other Continental nations. And the newly-imported workers, being completely helpless in a strange land, would soon sink to the level of pariahs.

    Furthermore, it is a point of honour with the German workers to prove to other countries that they, like their brothers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, know how to defend the common interests of their class and will not become obedient mercenaries of capital in its struggle against labour.

    On behalf of the Central Council
    of the International Working Men's Association,
    Karl Marx
    London, May 4, 1866

    German journeymen tailors who wish to know more about conditions in Britain are requested to address their letters to the German branch committee of the London Tailors' Association, c/o Albert F. Haufe, Crown Public House, Hedden Court, Regent Street, London.

  • Comment number 66.


    Can I just flag up that whenever TV reports on subjectmatter like this, you always take your Vox-pops from manual workers. I'm sorry to discriminate, but manual work - work just on the basis of being an available pair of hands - is gone - in volume at least - for good. The world has moved on, and if you want to explore where Britain's next manufacturing businesses will come from, it's no good hoping we will be "metal bashing" anything in future. All that is far more cheaply done - and therefore will be done - in the far east where manual labour is so cheap (through the availability of a billion pairs of hands).

    Why not instead go and talk to the electronics industry ? the network-appliance industry ? the video games industry ? the data communications industry ? we are leaders in all these areas and this is where the UK's new small businesses are being built (with bug*ger all help from the banks, of course). Those companies don't want labourers : they want C++ programmers, electronic hardware designers, system-on-chip embedded system designers. How about some Newsnight reports on these sorts of industry ?

  • Comment number 67.

    Ruddy excellent item Paul - well done.

    A lot more questions need to be asked though - the hows and whys certain industries were targeted, outsourced and moved over-seas during the Labour years. In the 1990s we had a World-leading IT workforce in demand the World over and bringing in hard currency to the Exchequer.

    Then we got Gordon Brown's seemingly vindictive IR35 and what seemed over-eagerness on behalf of some Ministers to outsource UK IT work to India and/or to India firms and then, when that was not enough, to bring India IT workers to work in the UK at a fraction of UK salaries.

    My point being, that we could do with that highly skilled, high earning and well-respected workforce right now. No wonder so many UK IT workers have emigrated to the US, to Oz, to mainland Europe in the past 10 years!

    All we have been left with are the economic and social 'cancers' of the City, of Law and of Politics! The UK has to be more than the City State of London - if not, time to go and make a life and a home elsewhere!

  • Comment number 68.

    Paul's piece earlier today was pretty bleak, but unfortunately very real. The most pertinent question he asked is to have a sustainable economy going forward what are we going to make, what are people going to do.

    I have heard George Osbourne saying he is going to help get the British economy out of recession by creating stable industries and export led growth, great stuff George I agree, next part HOW...!?!?

    I really can't see what we can produce or do what the rest of the world is not already doing better or cheaper, and the few service industries that we built our last "Boom" on can be replicated elsewhere and the competition is heating up.

  • Comment number 69.

    The discussion of Gurka entitlement seems to be ignoring the impact on small-town England. It's not just former soldiers that are coming to our green and pleasant land but also their spouses, children and grandchildren. Where is the discussion of the impact that all those children are having on our schools and on long-established small town culture.

    Where I live in Farnborough, many of our schools have a huge influx of Nepalese children. I can personally testify to the impact of these well-behaved, hard-working and polite children on my daughter's school. Behavior has improved, truancy is down, classrooms are calmer and it seems inevitable that school standards will be higher. The school has even introduced extra curricular dance lessons in Nepalese dancing alongside "native" street dancing.

    Of course the Gurkas don't live everywhere, just in a few pockets are gaining from this influx. This is, in effect, another "postcode lottery" where only a few schools can take advantage. Why is nobody addressing this issue.

  • Comment number 70.

    ITFCUnited is quite right. It is sad, the "we ain't got nuffink" brigade moaning about not having jobs. Their only answer seems to be "..get rid of all the foreigners, mate..." yet it doesn't occur to them that they don't have a saleable skill.

    And yes that Evan Davies program a few weeks back (with the potato sorters) was a revelation.

  • Comment number 71.

    The corporations took over, went offshore and stopped paying taxes. The nation states can no longer maintain the people in the standards they became accustomed to so they maxed out debt. Then we had the crash. Debt induced growth favoured the few over the many and unemployment was masked by a plethora of subsidies, from tax credits, to housing benefit, to maximum 16hours part time without losing ones benefits. This enabled the retail chains to get away with paying the minimum wage. The only growth was in housing and the 40 or so related industries linked to it. But having allowed an endless production of money in the form of buy to let loans the banks created hyper-inflation in the housing market and the ratio of average wages to owning a property ended up in some places as high as requiring a multiple of x15 in wages. Hence self-ceritification became the norm for mortgages. Enron style accounting went local, the bubble economy based on high property prices in the end would price people out of property leading to 3 million requiring social housing. After it imploded all the old issues are coming to the fore- deindustrialisation, a minimum wage economy and mass spending cuts. Whoever wins the next election, with the type of measures required they will require a coalition government to pull this off. Expecting people in the UK to live a western lifestyle on egyptian wages will be one of the marvels that modern economics will be unable to resolve.

  • Comment number 72.

    when a nation sells its soul to the highest bidder,what do we as a nation expect.we have never as a nation bought our own products?WE SOLD OFF OUR CROWN JEWELS to outside investors.we buy foreign goods daily and use costing as an excuse forgetting the consequences which is upon us all now.please remember an old saying reap what you sew comes to mind.are we PATRIOTIC are we LOYAL?sadly NO(apart from war issues).the writing was on the wall since the days of THATCHER,love her or hate her.instead of building on our infrastructure we sold them off,housing,banking the list goes on and on.was it too late to reverse things when blair gained power?your answer is as good as mine.GREED as got the better of us all.listening to people blaming foreigners is a racist cop we not remember the days of AULF WEIDERSEIN PET?what goes round comes round to to listen to uneducated people blaming immigration for their misguideness is a farce.even if we stopped immigration we would still be in our position.FACT.we are now entering an era of rich against poor not black against white.wake up britain.we are in a NEW WORLD ORDER SCENARIO(illuminati)

  • Comment number 73.

    I know Margate well and like all areas there is chronic deprivation alongside considerable wealth...why is this?...State policy!

    For a long time London councils have taken advantage of the cheaper property prices to buy up large houses ( often in lovely residential areas ) and then shipped their problem children and families there ....thus lowering property prices...thus making it even more attractive for those landlords in the 'social housing' industry. With the problem tenants comes the benefits culture writ large...and all that involves.

    Why have I mentioned's just one example of how a local community has been devastated by actions taken by some form of government..either local or national.

    Nothing will change in this country until politicians of all persuasions have one main serve the community...rather than themselves!But more than that...we need those same people to be the most creative thinkers in the country...which probably automatically excludes most career politicians!

  • Comment number 74.

    I can offer a small piece of the jigsaw as to why we are living in a broken case: single mum, on benefits, need to earn at least £18,000 per year to come off benefits otherwise I would be worse off. So far can't find any jobs offering more than between 12,000 and 15,000 per year.

    I know people will be fuming but its the reality...

  • Comment number 75.

    labour have done a good job with surestart centres, and 12 and a half hours a week free childcare for over 3's (if that was Labour?), I think they should give free childcare for 3-6pm so single mums can get full time jobs if they want, that would reduce the cost of childcare allowing me to take a lower paid job.

  • Comment number 76.

    At last we see a newsnight programme which begins to see not the immediate threat from the banks, immigration or the absolute rubbish of party politics. Stupid idiotic politicians fighting over the bones of a country sinking under a sea of debt.

    Finally a realisation that actually the UK doesn't make anything.

    What IS the UK good at ? Closing down UK industry, selling UK industry off, allowing anyone into the UK regardless of their criminal past, creating a huge red tape burden to weigh down our industry, then importing the same products from abroad with no red tape, dividing social groups and selling useless products at vastly inflated prices to their own - and I include eductation within that sphere. Not only that we are very good at shooting ourselves in the foot, 1st in line to advocate taxes and limits on climate change - yet climate change doesn't exist and not only that CANNOT exist because nature ALWAYS seeks a balance.

    We see a group of chancellors and wannabe chancellors lined up blaming each other for past mistakes and potential mistakes on taxes and spending. Yet ALL of them were in power as the banks gave 800 BILLION in FORIEGN DEBT to fuel house prices. None of them were up in arms as debt rocketed and Labour invested money in public services which do nothing other than lose money.

    To make money you have to invest in industries which MAKE money, even if those products do nothing than stem imports then it IS worhtwhile.

    No one is taking the responcibility for the past.

    No one has the vision for the future.

    Even "Brown Out's" Green policy is a joke because we don't even make the machines which would forefill such a policy.

    The first step along a path for renewal would be the acceptance that the UK comes 1st, not Scotland, not Wales, not Northern Island or some backwater in some foreign land. That means that ALL industries should be favoured no matter who owns them, what party political traditionally was associated with that industry is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT or how it is going to affect some obscure poor souls in some backwater ditch hole of a country - give them as much consideration as they have given us - which is none what-so-ever.

    The UK comes 1st, 2nd, 3rd and last. That means we go out and buy UK produce 1st.

    If we don't make we start up schemes to make the products, learn and copy existing products.

    Then we make them better and sell their own products back to them.

    If products are coming in from abroad we do everything legally possible to inhibit them, tax them, fine them, stick them full of red tape, slur them in the media and in politics. Even put the yobs of today to good use and get the importing ships fire bombed,, I don't care the UK comes 1st.

    We NEVER, EVER sell what we have because once the market niche is established it takes GENERATIONS to get it back, NEVER SELL.

    The game has gone on for too long and there is only one way out,, we the UK come 1st.

  • Comment number 77.

    61. Peter Frampton

    "England, because they are taking other peoples jobs in other countries? Has anybody thought of that?"

    I used to work abroad, in fact I worked in about 20+ different countries.

    The difference between the UK and ALL countries I can think of is two fold:
    1) I cannot think of ANY other country which is so racist against it's own native population.
    2) I cannot think of ANY other country which is so liberal with it's health and social support system.

    In Europe I couldn't even use a library unless I had lived and worked there for 5 years and applied for nationality - AND THIS IS CONSDIERED NORMAL. An ambulance costs £150.00, I know I fell off my motorbike and broke my leg.

    In any other country ? forget it, you'd probably get attacked by the natives for even trying to use their services - even if you paid. And even if you got treated expect to get racism or nationalism because we are from the UK. Surprise, surprise the UK is considered violent and extremely destructive in a lot of countries.

    Immigration is a tax on jobs and services - ultimately it decreases wages as more people chase fewer and fewer jobs. Not only that, those immigrants coming into the work place will have most likely spent their most productive years in a foreign country building wealth for that nation - never mind the currency that leaves our borders back "home".

    I was shocked and sickened when I came back to the UK, moral values and standards are very low. I can only link this to the lowest common denominator being those wishing to foster low standards being "allowed" to (religous and ethnicity being an excuse), some of those are no doubt UK born but some are foreign.

  • Comment number 78.

    Many centuries from now we will probably all be one race due to gradual intermixing. If there is an "problem" today, then it is as a result of a high rate of immigration.
    We should not ignore peoples worries regarding jobs, housing and resources, which could one day even include self-sustainability of food production.
    Human beings will always exhibit territorial behaviour or, if you like: simply "looking after your own patch", something that international socialists choose to ignore.
    I believe this has, crucially, resulted in an additional loss, that of morale, due perhaps to a loss of identity.
    If in doubt, ask any military commander how important morale is in peacetime or in battle.
    At our peril, we should not overlook the fact that morale will be one of the keys to Britain's recovery.

  • Comment number 79.

    Congratulations Paul,

    I don't think I've seen a BBC blog give rise to so much good sense and food for thought!

    While I agree with a lot of what has been said so far I believe what is wrong with Britain is mainly that we listened to and believed the comment "there is no such thing as society". By and large we have become preoccupied with self. I am not advocating a return to feudalism, but at least back then people knew they fitted into a scheme of things - work on the land and get the protection of the land-owner, become a craftsman and live in a town with local law officers etc.

    When I was growing up in the mid 20th century there was still that sense of community identity. The local beat bobby was a truly respected authority figure, not an isolated or aloof 'professional' law enforcer; neighbourhood shopkeepers did what they could to make sure no one starved on their 'patch' - even sacrificing short-term profit for long-term faithful custom; employers, on the whole, looked after their workers (I remember when you could have a career for life!). It wasn't perfect, but to my mind it was better than what we have now.

    Perhaps nothing is ideal, but there was a sort of interlocking of individuals into a functional whole then that no longer happens; the 21st century Briton competes rather than co-operates.

    In conclusion I like to think there are signs to encourage optimism. They may not have attracted such huge audiences but we have recently had TV reality shows based on building choirs and, concluding last week, a brass band... better those models of community involvement and at least a promise of cohesion than the X-Factor/Big Brother/Pop Idol emphasis on individuals. Perhaps we should have Sue Perkins or Gareth Malone for PM!

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    Britain has become a low wage economy. #66, MikeHSurrey, it's not just manual labourers that are being priced out of the market by overseas companies and foreigners, nearly all of whom are legitimately here, being prepared to work for the minimum wage - or less if they can get away with it. So are skilled workers being priced out of the market. If you're an accountant or a lwayer, then you may be able to rely on needing local knowledge to keep your salary propped up. But "C++ programmers, electronic hardware designers, system-on-chip embedded system designers"? All of these people can be bought overseas much cheaper than they can be sourced in the UK.They don't even need to be here to do the work.

    The minimum wage in Britain is a joke. If you have children, then a minimum wage job will qualify you for housing benefit, council tax benefit, not to mention working tax credit. What kind of a system is it when the minimum wage is set so low it qualifies you for benefits? Surely the whole point of working - at any job - is to be able to earn enough to not qualify for benefits?

    There are EU workers up here, working on Scottish building sites, for the minimum wage. Qualified people, like chippies, bricklayers etc. And the contractors are hiring them. They know the system, claiming all the benefits they are entitled to and quite a few of them have social housing. To my mind the bosses who hire them are traitors to their own. But as one said to me recently - "it's not just about the money, though that's a big part of it. They have a different (better) attitude to the locals" Sure they do - they've just got a 100% pay rise from what they would have got in Europe, plus benefits to boot, while the locals who used to be on £15 to £20 an hour are now expected to work for £5+ an hour, and on some sites they don't even get a look in.

    We met a girl the other day, waitressing, from somewhere in Eastern Europe.. In a coffee shop. She showed us the £3 another table had just tipped her. She said in her country she didn't even get that much for one day, a ten hour shift. Here she gets it in one tip. Says it all really, doesn't it. To her, she's working for a small fortune. For us, with private rents to pay because we can't get on the social hoising list, a waitress job would barely pay our rent, let alone the rest of our expenses.

  • Comment number 82.

    OK, we provide financial services and some people earn a living from it.

    Is being dependent upon one industry going to provide long term prosperity?

    How do we get decision makers to think long-term?

    Investing in technical training, arts and crafts, engineering and science at all levels of the workforce and economy will take years to yield results.

    I wish I had the answers.

    Some I've read of:

    - elections every 10 years
    - government decision makers (currently called politicians) receive a specific salary and standard of living. There are NO other material benefits during time in office AND after time in office. If you really want to serve your country then you can and will, while not being able to serve yourself. Maybe take this further and specify that you have to forfeit all material goods to serve your country in a position of power and responsibility, in return the state pays for you and yours to live in a reasonable level of comfort
    - proportional representation to, possibly, give a more balanced distribution of power between the parties that represent what people want

  • Comment number 83.

    I have just emergrated to Munich Germany after being born, raised and working within the M25 for 25 years.

    When people ask me about why I moved to the continent I like most londoners compain about taxes, buses, trains, access to fresh produce and general costs of living and then I often like to talk about the boiling water and the frog experiement:

    "If you put a frog in cold water and bring it quickly to a boil, it jumps out.

    If you put a frog in cold water and exsasperatingly slowly bring it to a boild, it dies. It doesnt even notice the deadly tempreture change."

    Then I finish by saying "why haven't you jumped out yet?"

    This depiction has been cristal clear throughout my childhood and I think ingrained in the upbringing of most londoners, as to survive life within the M25 is to embrase competition. So much so that for most people where I come from in North london its quite the norm to think of working for a company and owning a second. If anything to add finacial agility and stability.

    After setuping my own business I exstrapolated the pot becoming too hot for me and I decided to jump out.

  • Comment number 84.

    I've viewed Britain's problem more as one embedded in our cultural outlook. It's almost as if we expect money to grow on trees, and are completely ignorant of how to create wealth.

    The most poisonous endemic mindset is our current absurd imbalance between Rights and Duties.

    A right is a privilege accorded to those who respect the counter-balancing duties required by them. For instance:

    I was always led to believe that shareholders have a "right" to earn profits, but a "duty" of governance / supervision of the firm and towards society. Any dereliction of duty should result in the forfeit of rights.

    Currently they proclaim it is their "duty" to earn profits, and their "right" to do this must be protected! Rather than encouraging genuine wealth supporting duties on its citizens the state is merely an instrument for further enforcing debt repayment (i.e. wealth transfers from the poor to the rich). It's a take-take-take society, just some (shrewd) people have turned it into a highly lucrative industry!

    There is no social contract here. Just a recipe for utter disaster.

  • Comment number 85.

    You admire some aspects of the first industrial revolution Paul. One key element of that was a level of personal and company taxation far lower than today. Another was a smaller public sector. As long as one half of the population is paying the bills of the other half, we will find it hard to recreate the dynamism of earlier periods.

  • Comment number 86.

    22. Chaos Magick '..what we are really talking about is over population and the stark fact that there are simply saying that there are just too many human beings on the planet doing what human beings typically do:
    What politician, journalist or media commentator is going to talk about the perpetually growing elephant in the room?'

    Here's the thing - across Europe the major problem is underpopulation.

    The European populations are in negative growth (not obvious because of the boomers and ageing population). Look at Russia and work Westwards. It is worse in the East of Europe. Look at a TFR of 1.1-1.3 and find out its impact on population size in one or two generations (30-60 years). Italy, Spain etc are not much better. The UK is slightly better at 1.8, but that's largely a consequence of S. Asian immigration pushing the rate up a bit.

    This and differential fertility as a function of cognitive ability is the disaster. The economics follows, especially given the PRC's eugenetic population management and high mean IQ relative to our daygenic policies of 'education, education, education' etc.

    People here don't think much anymore. :-(

    Is Pakl Mason researching/writing a book? ;-)

  • Comment number 87.

    I saw your short film on Newsnight monday evening Paul. I thought the film did a brilliant job of summing up the issues facing Britain.

    In particular I agree with you that the success or otherwise of an economy has to take account of how much the local people benefit from a given set of activities.

    In terms of what the next phase of industrialism might be??? That is a question that many of us with GREEN leanings have been grappling with for the last 30 odd years....

    I would like to say that after 30 years of thinking about it the answer is still not clear....but there are some philosophical forks in the road that I have journeyed up and found to be complete dead-ends. The dead-ends as I see them are;
    1. Paying millions of people (including retirees) to stay at home being inactive...this is a public health issue of momentous proportions
    2. Sub-contracting absolutely everything. It is not a foregone conclusion that British workers cannot make clothes or computers or cameras or shoes or production machinery
    3. Pretending that hydrocarbon fuels are not a pre-requisite for a good life. They will remain absolutely essential to us for the rest of this century. The big question is whether to use them sparingly or not?
    4. Assuming that British coal has had its day. Our coal is good quality fuel that can be burned cleanly and which does not need to be imported across potentially insecure sea lanes
    5. Ignoring the fact that the only effective diplomacy on the international stage is gunboat diplomacy. If Britain continues to run down its military strength it will lose out in the fight for resources. Starkly put....there is a chance for Britain to benefit greatly from Afghan and Iraqi hydrocarbon fuel reserves.....but if we are not prepared to fight for those reserves then they will go to the Iranians (and by proxy to China)

    These points may cause consternation to left wingers who balk at the thought of militarism, and they might alienate right wingers who believe that buying labour and goods on the spot market is the only economic strategy worth following.

    Could it be that the new industrialism will be underpinned by a fusion of right wing, left wing and green philosophies??? is that possible??

  • Comment number 88.

    77. JackMaxDaniels '..The difference between the UK and ALL countries I can think of is two fold:
    1) I cannot think of ANY other country which is so racist against it's own native population.
    2) I cannot think of ANY other country which is so liberal with it's health and social support system.

    In Europe I couldn't even use a library unless I had lived and worked there for 5 years and applied for nationality - AND THIS IS CONSDIERED NORMAL. An ambulance costs £150.00, I know I fell off my motorbike and broke my leg.

    In any other country ? forget it, you'd probably get attacked by the natives for even trying to use their services - even if you paid. And even if you got treated expect to get racism or nationalism because we are from the UK. Surprise, surprise the UK is considered violent and extremely destructive in a lot of countries.'

    At the end of the C19th and early years of the C20th Britain opened its doors to asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe. What Britain didn't seem to appreciate is that amidst those asylum seekers were anarchists who were feeling not persecution, but justified antagonism towards their anti-statist subversive behaviour. Some of those migrants moved on to NYC. In 1917 elements of this same group were used by the German High command to get Russia off their Eastern front by toppling the Tsar. Others were used by Britain according to Lloyd George to destabilise the Middle East, and thus make things difficult for the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany. In later decades, anarchism became free-market libertarianism which is anti-statist. This is why we have such a weak Public Sector. The anger today is because a clever minority use other less able groups to further erode their economic competition. For decades after WWII, Britain built up its welfare state through hard work and austerity. The 'liberalism' of the 60s was in fact subversion. After all, the kids hadn't paid for the state, their parents had. It's been down-hill ever since, with Thatcher's mob (Keith Joseph playing the the Grey Cardinal) promoting anarchism as freedom/individualism, whilst casting the USSR etc as evil (Saachi etc PR). It was of course quite the reverse in reality. The USSR, like China today, put people before self-interest, duty before rights, i.e responsibility before narcissism.

    Look at the demographics of NYC and work out who does well at whose expense and how.

  • Comment number 89.

    86. 'our dysgenic policies'

  • Comment number 90.

    @#23 Brains_not_Bozo:
    If you have a PhD in economics I suggest you don't crow about it, because the current unfair, unsustainable, shabby mess that we're in is YOUR FAULT. Why don't you people get it? It's a dead, discredited psuedo-science, constructed with smoke and mirrors. How dare you compare it with theoretical physics?

  • Comment number 91.

    Living in an area that was severely crushed before this recession even began, a post mining community, I see only one way forward. This country needs to become more self sufficient and everyone living here will have to get used to paying a little bit more for everything. That means encouraging small businesses not grinding them down with bureaucratic rules and stop stifling entrepreneurism. We need to invest urgently in small businesses to produce items, capture the last remaining morsel of skills we have left before they disappear completely with an ageing population.
    You summed up the problem last night, with the statement that news and policy originates in the bubble of prosperous areas like the City of London. Politicians are totally out of touch and so are the big newspaper journalists.
    We are sinking in this area very fast, a town that used to be bubbling with trade and industry, full employment, low crime rates, is now a skeleton of its former self. Labours lost generation of ill educated youths (not their fault), hang out and wait for their drug drop-offs outside Argos and the single mothers congregate by the boarded up shop fronts. This town had (in walking distance of the town centre, employing thousands): 2 local pits, local brewery, shoe company, 4 textiles manufacturers, Metal Box Company, large local hospital and numerous other businesses. All gone..................

  • Comment number 92.

    Interesting comments about last night's item over on:

  • Comment number 93.

    #23. Perhaps you'd like to tell us why the report is "absolute nonsense"?

    Paul Mason is one of the few who actually gets it.

    "I'm a professional economist with a PhD in the subject" - just the sort of person who believed an economy based on debt and selling overpriced houses to each other could continue forever.

    Welcome to the real world.

  • Comment number 94.


    It is a depressingly familiar tale. Trouble is I dont see an economy based on entrepreneurs setting up companies which organise trip for people to don wet suits and jump into the sea (as seen as the trailer to tonights episode) cutting it in the emerging world.

    The only tangible real solution is as follows:

    1) Make huge cuts in red tape and non jobs very quickly in the public sector, print the money required to pay them all off with their amazing severence packages if needs be.

    2) With the red tape and beurocracy out of the way dash hell for leather towards a sustainable economy using the 'money' from the scrapping of non jobs and beurocracy and funnel it directly and free from beurocratic interference into real projects primarily sustainable energy projects and support to manufacturing of components which contribute to sustainable technologies along with associated research. On top of that up-grade the housing stock to be more energy efficient, dont talk about it and waste billions measuring it via 'HIPS'packs when you sell a house... just fix it, dont talk about fixing it and think of 100 different ways to talk about fixing it ..just fix it!!!!!

    The above would generate a huge ammount of employement in sectors that have recently been devastated (construction and manufacturing) so that those people can get on with the business of progress instead of wasting billions on non jobs and consultants which produce nothing of real or lasting value.

    It could form a blueprint to move towards a new economic model which no longer relies on the insane principal of eternal growth.

    Afew stats

    £1 invested in construction generates £2.84 in total economic output.

    92p of every £1 spend on construction is retained in the UK

    every £1 invested by the public sector yields a return of 56p to the exchequer so the net investment is only 44p.

    Why on earth are we flushing this tremendous opportunity down the toilet
    to keep an army of self serving unionised buurocrats in jobs??


    Can anyone tell me?

    Can any politician please respond and let me know why the above is not a good idea and why they are not doing it.

    As usual I will not be holding my breath on behalf of the pathetic self serving bunch of psychologically needy types which pass for leaders nowadays.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 95.

    Some poster above made a good comment about educating yourself if you wanted to improve your employment prospects/increase income. Fair comment but then finished with this:

    "Also BBC should STOP writing articles to create public (racial) hatred!"

    Why should the BBC ignore whats already there. They ignored it for years already.

    Why is Britain broken: The globalist agenda was always to turn Britian into a financial power house and service sector. As for the prols, they can work at Burger king and man the phones, the smarter ones can create video Games in the IT sector - to echo one poster on here. Just what the country needs, a bunch of socially inept anemics telling us the way forward is to make games for people who sit at home all day staring at a screen which exercises only our thumbs while the brain tells you you've just innihilated a whole squadron of mutants. This industry is worth billions. We have no job, no money but we can play all day long, just as long as the social security cheque keeps coming, well be able to afford the next game...and some pot noodles...and maybe some vitamin-D.

  • Comment number 96.

    93. constable 'Paul Mason is one of the few who actually gets it.'

    A lot of sensible people seem to agree with that statement. What he posts is certainly more comprehensible than what Stephanie Flanders tends to post. Mason tries to describe what is, whilst Flanders appears to me to 'cleverly' potter around in economic folk psychology, even though that's as much a 'busted flush' as the economics she was trained in. There's a rational basis to that criticism, it isn't personal.

    I'd be intrigued to know what poster 23's PhD was on, as I've been led to believe, by a credible source, that over the years, classical economists were effectively moved aside in academia and elsewhere in favour of Chicago/Austrian School anarchists who worship deregulation and promote egalitarianism + caveat emptor despite overwhelming biological evidence for behavioural diversity (i.e that some/many people are childlike).

    Liberals are very fluent in my view, only because they conveniently ignore the complexities of sociobiological reality.

  • Comment number 97.

    40. Bvaria 'What do they mean "Foreigners mate??!! Do they mean people who come in our country to work and are highly qualified and (have MBA/Degree/Skills) to do the job we don’t want to do or have no education/qualification to do?'

    Do you think you need an MBA/degree to pick and pack farm produce etc?

    'We might progress, if we stop spending most of our precious time collecting cheques from agency and down the pub.'

    How would that help them progress? What if they aren't able? Do you subscribe to the thesis that people can acquire 'get up and go' if they just 'put their minds to it'?

    'Stop complaining and go get education and skills then you might be able to get nice little job in IT, Banking… be someone!'

    What if your IQ is around 85 or under like 16% at least of the country?

    'We live in world where we have to constantly improve our selves from competition. Get the point?'

    People are born the way they are. They reach certain heights too. How can they 'improve themselves'?

    'Also BBC should STOP writing articles to create public (racial) hatred!'

    Most of it is confusion rather than hatred. If poorly educable people see others from across the channel etc eagerly working for money which they could not get by on here, they resent it. They may not have the cognitive ability to analyse and express their resentment properly, but why should that be something to damn them for if they can't 'improve themselves'? Socialism accepts diversity and manages it. Capitalism/anarchism exploits it and denies its biological basis via political correctness (that way they don't have to do anything about it), blaming it on 'laziness' and 'lack of will' etc.

    Get the point?

  • Comment number 98.

    The problem about retraining or re-educating yourself, often at considerable expense, is that the politicians can move the goal posts at a whim or, for some kind of social engineering, and before you know it the cutting edge skills you have just learnt are redundant... or, worse, being done for 10K a year by foreign workers brought in by Govt departments outsourcing work to foreign firms.

    I know I keep going on about it but I think some serious questions need to be asked of why IR35 was brought in and the ensuing almost overnight destruction of the UK IT & Engineering industries - a workforce which was highly skilled, at the cutting edge and bringing in hard currency to the UK?

    I think some serious questions need to be asked of at least one Minister as to why she/he was seemingly so keen to outsource so much work to Indian IT firms or to allow said firms to bring in Indian IT workers to work in the UK for salaries sometimes as little as 10K per annum? Again, the dramatic affect that this has had on both UK IT workers and companies has been enormous.

    The above is important because, for example, you can go out today, research the latest eco-industry skills in demand and then, most likely, have to pay out many thousands of pounds, perhaps tens of thousands, to retrain with the latest eco-skills only to find yourself in the position where this Government does the same to eco technologies, or whatever, that it did to the IT industry - bring in punitive taxation and then, for some perverse reasons that escape me, then decide to outsource that work to firms in India or China or wherever... and then change the employment rules allowing very cheap labour ot be brough in by those firms to work in the UK and to work at wages that simply no British worker coud work out.

    For example, you regularly see jobs advertised in IT on UK IT job websites for wages as little 10K to 11K but they demand that you have very expensive, very time-consuming and very complicated skills to learn and qualifications, often which cost many thousands of pounds in training simply to obtain, but the jobs are advertised because they know that no British worker can afford to work for those low wages whilst paying for the qualifications... which then allows the firm hiring to say that they cannot find a UK worker with those skills and hence they lobby the Govt to be able to bring in foreign workers to work for those increidbly low salaries.

    It is no different from an NHS Trust advertising for a surgeon on 15K a year, waiting 3 months and then going to Govt and saying "Hey, we can't find any surgeons in the UK, let us bring our own ones in from India, China or Noggin the Nog Land!" and so the company makes a very nice fat profit charging UK rates but paying Indian-style salaries, British workers are out of a job and, worst of all, the long-term economic viability of the UK just goes down the plug-hole.

    The politcis of envy, the politics of social engineering, the politics of ethnic engineering and seemingly a complete lack of understanding of how businesses work, grow and generate income has seen our IT sector go from world leaders to almost non-existent under Labour.

    It is an economic tragedy and there is nothing stopping what they have done to IT to any other industry. Think about that before you spend a penny or waste a moment of your time retraining in, well, anything that could be outsourced overseas or for which they can bring in very cheap labour to undercut you.

  • Comment number 99.

    I have to ask why more of the media won't leave their cosy little lives in London and go out like yourself to see the real decline in the country overall.

    This is not part of the illusion that New Labour wanted to portray when they and everyone else was awash with illusionary money pushing up illusionary property prices.

    Illusionary it all was but the interest now having to be paid back on all of that borrowed money is not.

    What we have left is the reality that was ignored over the past ten years.

    That China emerged from relative obscurity as an exporter and is now making most of the world's goods at prices that we could not even begin to compete with. Lending us lots of money to buy their goods and cashing in on the interest now.

    What was left of our manufacturing is closing down or has already shut down. Our expertise is being sold off to China so they can continue to make even more of the stuff we need.

    We outside of London woke up to this many moons ago but I suspect inside the bubble the illusion still goes on and no-one wants to face up to the harsh reality.

    I suspect that it will only be when it's reached the point of no return that people will once again be galvanised into action and realise they have to be self sufficient but what sort of state we will be in when that happens I would not want to make a guess.

  • Comment number 100.

    98. tawse57 'I think some serious questions need to be asked of at least one Minister as to why she/he was seemingly so keen to outsource so much work to Indian IT firms or to allow said firms to bring in Indian IT workers to work in the UK for salaries sometimes as little as 10K per annum? Again, the dramatic affect that this has had on both UK IT workers and companies has been enormous.'

    One thing that must be 'good' about being a 'globalist'/'cosmopolitan'/internationalist' politicians ostensibly domiciled and 'working' for a UK constituency, is that one will have access to far more grateful contacts/customers. So long as one can persuade the folks back home that nasty nationalism/protectionism is next to nazism, it's hi ho silver....(and gold) presumably? See their international jollies?

    People - ever so child-like, and ever so narcissistic too. They don't need no nanny state... :-(


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