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Total and the Wimbledon effect

Robert Peston | 12:51 UK time, Monday, 2 February 2009

Almost exactly two years ago, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce - the UK's most successful manufacturer - gave a stark warning about the risks to the UK of the government's "everything's-for-sale" industrial policy.

Sir John Rose told the FT: "It is pretty obvious that if businesses are not from a particular country, and the brand, and the routes to market and the intellectual property and everything else are vested somewhere else, then any decisions that are made about investments and dis-investments will have a national flavour. They are bound to, it is human nature."

This was so against the political and industrial consensus at the time, it was as if Sir John had blown a raspberry at the Queen.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown listens to an apprentice at the Rolls-Royce Learning and Development Centre on January 7, 2009 in Derby. Leon Neal/WPA Pool/Getty ImagesBecause Rolls makes stuff (dirty great turbines, among other things) that giant overseas companies actually wanted to buy, Rose was listened to politely by ministers - and ignored.

Today, however, the nationality of businesses suddenly seems more important.

As Rose said, it is human nature for a business with operations all over the world to favour its home country when making decisions about where to expand - or, as in the current horrible economic climate, where to cut.

So it should be no surprise that an Italian company IREM, hired by Total of France on a construction project in Lincolnshire, should itself be employing Italian workers. In a way it would have been more surprising, at a time when money is tight all over the world, if IREM had shunned its own people and had hired new British workers.

And British ministers can't complain about the behaviour of Total or IREM, because it's been an article of faith for them that an open economy is a successful economy - which is why Peter Mandelson, the Business Secretary, hasn't complained about them.

The UK is an outlier in the degree to which it has put all its assets in the shop window and welcomed almost all and every possible overseas buyer of its companies. Even in the US, the great champion of the market, there are many more restrictions on the sale of businesses to foreign interests.

But Wimbledonisation - the notion that Britain is the winner even if none of the economic players are actually British - became official dogma.

As the UK sold its power industry, its few remaining car makers, its merchant banks, and its airports, the theory was that it would gain access to top quality management from abroad and lots of lovely cheap capital from foreign sources.

British consumers would benefit from the lower prices that would be the consequence of overseas businesses' deployment of this low-cost capital.

The money the UK received for its corporate trophies would be reinvested to create the trophies of the future.

And British businesses would shape up thanks to the more intense competition they faced.

So for years, the UK could look down its nose at those countries that took patriotic pride in the size and success of their companies.

The UK didn't care that not a single leading investment bank in the City of London was British, or that its airports were owned by the Spanish, or that every single mass-market car was made by the Japanese, or the Americans or the Germans, or that its power was supplied by continental interests.

The growth rate of the relatively open British economy went up a gear and unemployment fell - while unemployment in the more closed German and French economies remained resolutely high and their growth was more lacklustre.

But there was always a doubt - and one which I raised in this blog - about whether the openness of the UK economy would serve the British people quite so well when the economic going became tougher.

We'll know soon enough whether those fears were legitimate.

What we know already is that the shortage of credit is worse here than in many other countries because a disproportionate number of foreign banks supplied loans to UK households and businesses - and they've gone home, taking their credit with them.

By contrast, at the World Economic Forum that closed yesterday, the Indians and the Chinese were swaggering about how they've benefited in the global recession from retaining domestic control of their important industries, especially banking.

This is not to argue that a return to protectionism - the erection of national barriers against trade and flows of capital - would be anything other than disastrous, for the UK and for the world.

History does indeed tell us that protectionism in a worldwide downturn is the shortest route to slump and depression.

But, as Sir John Rose said two years ago, if Britain has become a giant "aircraft carrier" for foreign companies, jobs won't naturally go to British workers - unless British workers have a massive competitive advantage.

This is how he put it: "I think there is a growing recognition that if we believe we are going to be a knowledge-based economy, then not having a world-class education system is a disadvantage."

Or to put it another way, even if the British shouldn't weep about not winning at Wimbledon and should celebrate that it's the best tournament in the world, we should aspire to be a nation of players, managers and umpires - not a nation of ball boys.


Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Globalisation is important to be competitive, but there should be a percentage of employees from local communities. Ideally businesses would also tithe small percentages of profits to invest in the community too.

  • Comment number 2.

    The full impact of the severe reduction in manufacturing and the rise of service industries as a major employer has probably not hit yet.. despite a global economy and lack of EU trade barriers, within our borders there surely needs to be something be put in 'at the bottom' before it can serviced in the middle..

    It is telling that mentions can be made now of a 'People's Bank' and nationalised utilities and where as recent reaction would have been of scorn or 'lefty dreaming' now it is considered a real possibility - hopefully from this ungodly mess some good may come..

  • Comment number 3.

    one problem though is the big nations buy whole industries here (e.g. american banks, supermarkets etc) not companies, but keep the brand names to dupe the people.

  • Comment number 4.

    'But there was always a doubt - and one which I raised in this blog - about whether the openness of the UK economy would serve the British people quite so well when the economic going became tougher.'

    Would it be possible to post a link to these blog entries? I would be interested in reading them.

  • Comment number 5.

    "The money the UK received for its corporate trophies would be reinvested to create the trophies of the future."
    What happened to this money then?

  • Comment number 6.

    I am an Englishman who has been living for many years in Vienna, Austria. As I had grown up in another world, first England and then Australia, I could pretty well predict how the future for Austria would look. Back in the 1980's Austria was very post communist in style and thinking which rapidly started to change after joining the EU. I have never understood why England doesn't invest it's immense knowhow and potential in Europe instead of trying to be a little America. Look where it's gotten you all!

  • Comment number 7.

    It is still all about greed and short-termism.

  • Comment number 8.

    Excellent blog

    "Not a nation of ball boys"

    A classic, Robert

    Even i cannot add to that, except it could be worse

    A nation of bob a job boys

    With Gordon as arkala

  • Comment number 9.

    Ah, but British Workers will always come second to the Workers of a company's own Nationality, when Jobs are short.

    Britons may never be Slaves, but at this rate will be going begging for Jobs.

  • Comment number 10.

    How have the Building Companies stayed out of the Limelight ?

  • Comment number 11.

    The sale of so many of our assets is simply a reflection of our balance of payment difficulties. The capital into the country matches the current account deficit. Those countries described as "less open" are those who have run balance of payment surpluses with the result that they have not imported so much capital.
    In the long run current account deficits impoverish us all as we run out of things to sell at prices we want to sell them at. If we are to build British business and British capital we need to balance our balance of payments and start saving and investing as a country. That means the opposite of everything this Government is doing.

  • Comment number 12.

    Bottom line is this "who will give me a job"; if people have enough jobs to go around then there is no problem. As it is, people will support who every that will give them a job and its fair that people fell that their jobs are stolen by foreigners at this time.

    Few years ago people didn't even mind around a million Eastern Europeans coming into our country but things changed now. Either government should understand it or quit.

    Price of darkness made millions in EU so I can understand where his loyalty is; if I have, I am sure I will support EU but he should understand people are not fools. Also this time around we didn't even elect him.

  • Comment number 13.

    And I must mention Public Sector pay, a sure way to get some spending back in the economy !

    Thirty percent raises all round (a raise is or everyone not just MP's).

    Every Pound spent on Public sector pay would circulate many times thro the private sector, creating jobs and profits........

    Would have more impact than throwing Billions away on the Banks ......

    But of course, it isn't Tory policy to do anything like that with the Public Sector.

    Oops ! I meant Labour of course !

  • Comment number 14.

    I have worked in the Water, Power and Oil and Gas Industries as a Chartered Engineer.

    The Financial sector has been supported by £billions and are STILL receiving massive bonuses.

    If we really antagonise the power and energy workers we can very quickly be in REAL trouble.

    Just try switching off the main power switch to your house for a few days. No central heating pump, no lighting etc etc.

    Mr Brown should be extremely careful with his choice of words. The intelect of British engineering workers should NOT be underestimated.

  • Comment number 15.

    When was the debate in the commons. Billions have been spent by this government with no scrutiny. Bush and Obama had to get there policies through congress but Brown has just acted unilaterally. Do we live in a democracy or a dictatorship?

  • Comment number 16.

    What RP says here won't matter if the money we (GB) raised by selling our capital at home has been spent investing in capital overseas.

    If, however, we've gone and blown it all over the past few years on foereign-made consumables, then we are up a long smelly creek with no outboard motor.

  • Comment number 17.

    Absolutely spot on!

    Mind you the ball boys/girls get to wear nice designer kit and get to see the games.......

  • Comment number 18.

    Mention of 'a giant "aircraft carrier"' is very germane actually.

    The two (now much delayed) carriers for the RN are a classic example of what Rose was on about.

    Most of the arguments in favour or against them revolved around strategic defence issues, but the reality is that if they hadn't been ordered the UK's capability to build large complex ships would have been lost for ever. As it is, a significant part of our shipbuilding capability (such as it now is) is under foreign ownership.

    This is just one example of many where our industrial expertise has been severely diminished in the last decade and where strategic decision-making partly or wholly resides overseas.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's all a question of boundaries really. As in personal life one learns to keep certain boundaries so it is with countries. When things are going well it doesn't matter so much but now we're in a bit of a pickle the chickens are coming home to roost so to speak.

    Whoever thought it would be a good idea to "outsource" contracts and jobs? Especially when the terms and conditions are apparently the same as if British workers were employed. What is the advantage to the employer? Well maybe the answer is that a lot of people from other countries are actually prepared to do a decent job and work hard. They're not too proud to do a job which people in this country might consider beneath them. They work hard, save money and even send some of it back home. They don't tend to spend it here on meaningless trinkets and fripperies.

    We seem to have lost something in Britain and maybe our welfare cushion has allowed us to become fat and bloated. It also changes the way we think about ourselves and about our values. Some of us will do anything for a fast buck which warps us. We admire people with money as if that were the only thing of importance. As Shakespeare put it "the love of money is the root of all evil". Usually the word love is omitted from the quote. Money in itself is neutral and can be used for good or ill. We seem to have strayed too far in the wrong direction.

    When the going gets tough it's only human nature to pull in the horns and redefine one's boundaries. This will inevitably mean British jobs for British workers for a little while at least. Maybe it won't be a bad thing if Britons learn to appreciate the jobs they have even if they've been lead to expect something better. If it puts food on the table then it's better than nothing and if we do a good job then employers will look to the people on their doorstep to fill vacancies.

  • Comment number 20.

    Now, is all this Snow due to Global Warming ?

    Can we export strange scientific theorems?

    Will the Gov't do anything to encourage British businesses to meet the needs of other countries ?

    If this is impossible due to false exchange rates, or near slave labour conditions, how will the Gov't address these issues ?

  • Comment number 21.

    Mr Peston!

    "Almost exactly" ? Tut, tut.

    I was taught something about "not qualifying absolutes" have things changed?

  • Comment number 22.

    Interesting that the strikes are in the private sector (what's left of it): public sector strikes were forecast a year ago as a likely recesion phenomenon, but they haven't really materialised.

    Interesting too how confident Brown is in condemning them, and how keen to backpedal on the 'British jobs' utterances. He may imagine the general public is still as hostile to wildcat actions and sympathy strikes as we were in the 1980s.

    But he may be wrong.

  • Comment number 23.

    That is more like it RP. Liked the analysis, good hard hitting stuff about the impact of economic policy over the last 25 years on the 'real' UK plc world .

    Have you been speaking to Paul Mason recently?

    It is an angle I had not thought about and it does add a new and potentially quite frightening dimension to it.

    Its like a perfect socio-economic and political storm for this country.

    - Over relianace on financial services for 'income'

    - Resulting in top heavy government full of 'non' jobs we can no longer afford.

    -Many companies owned overseas, so when protectionism kicks in we are more likely to get sucked dry...its human nature... behavioural economics, no matter how much the politicians will plead.

    - Reliant on service sector yet our education system is not the best / we need to compete with 5M Chinese graduates a year ( for example)

    - Oil running out

    - Gas almost run out

    - manufacturing severly depleted

    - Power companies owned by overseas interests, we have to ask the French to help us build new nuclear ones.

    - Not self sufficient in food

    - One of the most extended in terms of personal and corporate debt.

    - Lead by a party with a limited mandate as near the end of thier turn / is making decisions with an election in view not based on what the country needs long term.

    - Opposition parties hamstrung by thier institutionalised political nature to come up with the radical changes needed.

    - The far right stiring things up, seizing Gordon browns clumsy words ' British workers for british jobs' and parading them all over the picket lines at the first chance they get, no doubt further fuelling the unofficial strikes. They must be loving this.

    I love this country, I hate what is happening to it and the lack of fundamental understanding and action by those in a position to mobilise and motive our best resourse (our descent hard working people) to engineer a way out of this mess and build something that we can take some national pride in again.

    National pride without racism I hasten to add in these times. A sad indightment in itself that I fee I have to add that clarification.


  • Comment number 24.

    I am glad that you added the crucial paragraph about the link between protectionism and deppression. To forget the lessons of history would be to repeat that history.

    I am also glad that you fingered a longer-term solution to the problem, namely improving the education of your youth. Retraining and apprenticeship programs for those who do are not young are also critical; people are not prepared to wait a generation for this to end.

    There is a mindset involved among the part of older workers that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Henry Ford once said that if you think you can or you think you can't your right. Difficult as it is those who find themselves out of work and out of skills have to remember that saying.

    The retraining programs must be well thought out to avoid meeting the promise of a better life with dashed hopes and despair.

  • Comment number 25.

    Is this a new feisty Robert that I see before me?

    Obviously the mad rush to be part of Europe has left some gaping holes in the protection of our own workforce!


    It could take months or years to sort this out!

    Well done for that our politicians!

    Question is, as with the credit crunch, it's no good analysing it and talking about it - what is anyone going to do about it NOW? Will any action be taken to help our unemployed workers in the next few months?

    I watch and wait with little hope!

  • Comment number 26.

    Is this a pop at gordon or is our beloved Pesto defending him.
    Im confused.

  • Comment number 27.


    I have a nagging feeling that this may be the most subversive blog entry you've ever written.

    "the theory was that it would gain access to top quality management from abroad"

    As opposed to the British kind which, judging by the banks, is what? Stupid? Greedy? Incompetent? Or maybe all of the above. And yet they continue to be lavishly rewarded for their utter failure.

    "and lots of lovely cheap capital from foreign sources."

    Yes, and as you point out, that's been another huge success.

    "The money the UK received for its corporate trophies would be reinvested to create the trophies of the future. "

    Although in fact it wasn't, was it? Mainly it was used to make Britain's vast balance of trade deficit look slightly less earth shattering. Any rumours about whether the January deficit will set another record?

    But best of all I liked ...

    "I think there is a growing recognition that if we believe we are going to be a knowledge-based economy, then not having a world-class education system is a disadvantage."

    To follow that advice would mean turning the education system into a ruthless meritocracy where the most able are pushed to the highest possible levels of attainment. But that would mean abandoning decades of commitment to equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. It's not hard to see why he was ignored. He went far beyond simply contradicting the government and was actually contradicting the ruling orthodoxy of the day.

    "even if the British shouldn't weep about not winning at Wimbledon and should celebrate that it's the best tournament in the world, we should aspire to be a nation of players, managers and umpires - not a nation of ball boys."

    A fine ambition. Where will we find a government that knows how to do that?

    And an electorate willing to do the long years of hard work necessary to achieve it?

  • Comment number 28.

    Surely the whole point of the free marget globalized economy is that this situation is exactly waht is supposed to happen.

    Companies are free to operate where they like using the cheapest, most flexible workforce.

    Funny how all the rent-a-quote commentators were quite happy when the free market economy was pushing up their property prices, giving them lots of cheap credit and cheap computers, ipods and holidays - but only now seem to see the downside.

    There are many elephants in the room with this global economic crisis - and outsourcing to cheap labour markets is but one of them.

  • Comment number 29.

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

  • Comment number 30.

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

  • Comment number 31.

    Is it true that Robert Peston knows everything in the world ever?

  • Comment number 32.

    Presumably the contract was awarded on the basis of cost.

    Given that the material costs would be broadly similiar for any contractor the only way that the costs can be reduced is by importing your own cheap labour.

    So Britain gains nothing from the whole process. The profits from the contract go abroad and the foreign workers taxes go abroad.

    Hopefully the workers will finally get the picture, particularly after GB's and PM's faintly insulting comments (try getting a job in France if you don't speak perfect French or have the right qualification)

  • Comment number 33.

    Robert, please make the distinction- it wasn,t the 'British' who did not care or think it unimportant who owned the companies and the assets, it was this British government encouraged by enonomists and commentators such as yourself. The British people follow their common sense which always told us that Head Office will always put the home country first and Head Office is now so often outside the UK.
    The British people are treat with contempt and at long last are getting angry. In your list of industries sold out you omitted British Energy, one more example our our country's future being sold out.

  • Comment number 34.

    Economics is a rally handy toolkit for allocating scarce resources to a world population with infinite wants... just a shame that the economic models used often aren't sophisticated enough to capture the utility people derive from nationalistic prejudice.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes, it is not protectionism to look after your national strategic economic interest.
    Wimbledon - an excellent metaphor - until A Murray wins (sic).

    What is appalling is that the process has been fostered by a Labour government who seem anxious to always demonstarte their worship of international capitalism.

    The Party would do a great service to UK if it ditched Brown, Mandleson et al asap!

  • Comment number 36.

    Capitalism will pay the least it can to labour to extract the most profit.
    All workers need to understand the problem is capitalism not other workers.

  • Comment number 37.

    Taking the line about the UK sale of the power industry:
    When the old GEC was split, the then board decided that power generation was a cinderella industry and sold it off to Alstom (France). The other half -telecommunications, was supposed to be the future; it was rebranded as 'Marconi' had a brilliant pension fund, was awash with the cash generated by old Lord Weinstock but within a few years the cash had gone and the company virtually broke. Thank you Lord Simpson.
    As for the power half, does it matter?- well when the steam turbine orders for the next generation of nuclear plants are tendered, they will come from Alstom or Siemens. The French and German took strategic decisions about which industries to keep and support. They now get their payback.
    As Gordon has now sold off our stake in British Energy, he has given up the opportunity to influence the manufacturing source. ( a quiet word from HMG to Alstom - build them in UK and the order is yours). The Alstom factories are there (Rugby and Stafford) but it will not happen for reasons beautifully put by Sir John Rose.
    This the penalty for having politicians with no flair for business.

  • Comment number 38.

    Peston is a genius. Peston for PM! Can we have that Rolls Royce guy in his team as well. Chuck in Frank Field and we will soon have it sorted!! Bye the way can we have a vote on the Lisbon Treaty please.

  • Comment number 39.

    No wonder you are more popular than Darling, you seem to have your finger on the pulse.

    When is anyone going to suggest a government of national unity as in wartime? Then Robert you would have to decide do you serve your country or continue to report it, because apart from Vince Cable I cannot see we would gain much.

  • Comment number 40.

    The point of business is to earn a profit, and then distribute that profit to the shareholders by paying them a cash dividend.

    When a British business has a foreign owner, its profits and cash are sent out of the UK when the dividend is paid. Therefore, if the owner so dictates, little money will be left in the UK business to protect it during an economic recession.

    Therefore, if there are more British businesses with foreign owners than foreign businesses with British owners, there will be a net outflow of wealth from the UK.

  • Comment number 41.

    Now revenue to the UK State from banks and financial institutions is down, UK owes huge sums to overseas investors. What do we (UK) have to offer to other nations to maintain our standard of living and repay all the debt?

    Generally we have high expectations from life and many of us can do not much.

    We have lost a lot of manufacturing, engineering. Our water and electricity utilities, airports are partly owned by Foreign companies.

    Now, Government try to inject billions of GBP into the economy trying to prolong the easy life based on "credit addiction". It would just delay day of reckoning and fall in standards of living.

    Globalisation will eventually bring wealth of average Chinese and average Briton to similar level.

  • Comment number 42.

    Brittain should have thought of "Protectionism" before it contracted out its Automaticaly Induced Debt Syndrome

    It might have saved the world in the process .

    Now every nation is having problems because of its AAA's holes becoming contaminated by the lip service of our bent racketiers with their insatiable appetite for the fresh balls provided by the central banks and their policy of zero interest "im free".

    ITS disgusting when you think about its mplikations

  • Comment number 43.

    That is what I would call a devastating indictment of UK economic, business enterprise and industrial policy under Nu Labour over the last 11 years. And a business like Rolls Royce which is a leader in the very competitive engineering sector is quite correct in suggesting that our poor education standards will cost us in the future.

    The nationalistic side of things I think is not jingoistic but more likely a practical onsideration: communication skills are more effective when using your mother tongue. My second language is Portuguese but by preference I would rather use English on a day to day basis especially on technical and analytical matters.

    Amongst all politicians from all parties there are only a handful who have real work experience in business or industry. They may beable to spout the soundbites (well most of the time) but they certainly do not understand what they are talking about.

    What is also an issue is that many firms in the UK have grown through acquisitions and mergers. Other than supermarket chains there is very little evidence of sustained organic growth, which is also a sign of a healthy underlying economy.

  • Comment number 44.

    A surgeon working without anaesthetic may get some limited success when recommending to his patients that they should avoid wriggling when they feel the scalpel digging in.

    The government of a country in recession stands no chance whatsoever of persuading its citizens to steer clear of protectionist ways.

    It might be altogether more constructive to accept that protectionism is coming and instead to decide what kind of protectionism it is that we can and cannot survive with.

    For instance protectionism aimed at Saudi Arabia would be self defeating as it would deprive us of cheap fuel as well as losing us a good customer for British machinery, spare parts and engineering services.

    Protectionism aimed at certain highly developed Asian economies might well deprive us of cheap tv's and ipods but would it really lose us so many customers? .....I assume that the sovreign wealth fund customers to whom we sell our sterling backed junk bonds will stop buying pretty soon in any event...whether we buy their products or not.

  • Comment number 45.

    Knowledge-based economy ?

    It is now time to bring back all the 100,000's lost information technology jobs. There are aslo many £bn's of tax money to be gained and retained in the UK.

  • Comment number 46.

    Yes this is a very important point.

    This is where Blair and Brown should really be judged.

    Education Education Education, if that was all Labour had done over their 10 years in power they could be proud regardless of any budget deficit, any collapse in banking, any number of smoking guns, these could have been over-looked.

    They have failed us badly very badly. Even now Brown could spend the money he wants to spend in a Keynsian spree on Education but has this been mentioned? then at least our children would have the 'abilities' to deal with the debt we are leaving them..........

  • Comment number 47.

    All one can say about the fact that Brown, Mandelson and the rest of Labours sychophants think it's ok to accept foreign labour being imported into Britain to fill jobs desperately needed by British workers, is that it is an absolute disgrace, typical of a dying useless government more concerned with it's image in Europe than with the welfare of it's people.

  • Comment number 48.

    You will not get results whilst Labour continues with rhetorical claptrap but taxes ever more year after year, with Regulators who haven't a clue and Banks so greedy they refuse to admit their errors or come clean on the true extent of ther problems.

    Once we basis change from the above we have a chance. if we don't then the UK truly can be written off and we won't merely be ball boys, scragg ends of turf woudl be more appropriate!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Brown's open Labour Market policies were particularly devastating to the self employed. As an example, 2001 - 2007 a friends landscaping business fell in the daily rate he could make from £150 to £80, because there was so much cheap labour around.

    Naturally none of the self employed vote Labour, so Brown, as always, is looking after his own constituency, rather than the Country as a whole. Ironically this is what makes him a great Politician but a poor Leader

  • Comment number 50.

    Where is the moderator? I suspect this excellent piece is to be pulled shortly. After all it doesn't exactly mirror Government policy these last 12 years!

  • Comment number 51.

    ultimately, if you don't own anything you cannot control the decision making process !

    welcome to the legacy of Thatcherism.

  • Comment number 52.


    Too late for the statement

    "we should aspire to be a nation of players, managers and umpires - not a nation of ball boys"

    EDS who have run many government IT contracts over a number of years have set up call centres in the UK, where relatively low paid staff take the support calls and record them. In some cases the calls are handled by experts in India, where they are really running a "knowledge economy" for want of a better phrase. When has been a real tricky problem they have been known to fly out experts to the UK.

    The irony of this. Some of the UK call centre workers are skilled IT guys who couldn't find suitable work and are willing to take on the lower paid call centre work.

    The whole fiasco over the Oil refinery workers will eventually highlight far more serious problems in employment patterns. Problems that the Government have known about and been willing to overlook for a long time now.

    In many aspects we are now only the ball boys. Lets hope the foreign owned employers and masters of many a UK worker decides to keep playing the game. Things will take a turn for the worse. Exactly how the game will be played out, nobody yet knows.

  • Comment number 53.

    1 Britain didn't sell companies. The shareholders who might or might not have been british sold their interests

    2 If british companies win contracts overseas they use british labour, invariably, to fulfill the orders. We can't have it both ways

    3 Rolls Royce turbines are not 'dirty'. They are splendid

    4 In we want new enterprises and organic growth and new jobs, we have to offer a climate that rewards ideas, research and development, inward investment and return. Protectionism and low returns on capital are not the answer

  • Comment number 54.

    It is similar to being told you have to share your favourite toys with other children, for your own good, so put them in the car boot sale and wave goodbye. Maybe if you are good, you can afford to buy them back. Most of the time, we will never see them again.

    Goonhilly satellite station had its services transferred to the Netherlands, putting 90 or so British engineers aside. But that's the Global Market for you. Being pre-crunched, as it were, they had to melt into the undergrowth and re-invent themselves. No one came out in their support then. Just another bit of out-sourcing news. People are flexible, they can move around Europe to find work, if they have to.
    Engineering crown jewels are a little harder to replace.

  • Comment number 55.

    You have to ask if this was allowed to happen, in spite of the warnings of people like Sir John Rose, to feather the nests of unprincipled tycoons.

    The story of the last 10 years ( and longer), has been oil, oil, and again oil, and how to maintain its price. Westminster has rolled over on its back and been a poodle to oil and whoever controls it, and nothing else has been allowed to get in the way.

    Now we see Mandy at the helm (again), making sure the future is securely kept within the bounds of rules that only serve big business.

    If only we could outsource Parliament and Gordon, and get it run for us by Obama!

  • Comment number 56.

    "So it should be no surprise that an Italian company REM, hired by Total of France on a construction project in Lincolnshire, should itself be employing Italian workers."

    I find it utterly amazing that i had to learn about the above facts of the Lincolnshire dispute here.
    As Mandy forgot to mention this on TV this morning, the media must inform ALL The British public.
    We do seem to have allowed Britain's industries and utility to be sold off in bits to all and sundry over the last few years without a murmur.
    Once again the Government who allowed Britain For Sale to happen have failed us... or maybe we brought equally valuable global assets?

  • Comment number 57.

    This whole issue would not be the problem it is if education had more funding. If mickey mouse degrees were not promoted. And the recruitment and training of talented young people was focused at all stages. The mission of sending 50 percent of all school leavers onto degrees is meaningless unless the degrees have both quality and provide key skills demanded by industry. Further if places at top universities were not give away to foreign students to get money in for the same universities. Take a look at a top medical university student roster. Most are overseas students.

    On the industrial side the continual welcoming of foreign ownership is misguided and has been opposed by a minority for decades, but ingnored. Thatcher was accused of selling the family silver and scorned the comment. Few in politics seem to understand that foreign based multinationals tend to keep their key knowhow on their home turf. The fact that a one time leader in nuclear power now has to go to EDF for new nuclear power stations to be built says it all. And how many of those key workers will be non British when construction starts and production begins.

    The basic problem is there are too few people in government who have any experience of industry, yet they think they are up to formulating strategic policy on the subject. They just spread their disability with crippling effect.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think I would like to propose that we start a campaign = Peston for Chancellor = in a government of unity. A voice of common sense when all around are mired in the effort to open political distance between themselves as they start jockeying for position in the run up to the next election.
    DO NOT BE FOOLED - the current government is most definitely trying to buy some breathing space so they stand a chance of winning the next election. If they were serious about savings, there would be several initiatives they could take - abandon the Identity Card, abandon the central database for the NHS, abandon every other doomed computer project that will never work properly....
    Abandon the follow up to Trident (I'm actually slightly pro nuclear deterrent, but I believe we could just buy a few from the US rather than design and build our own at ridiculous overspend)

    Finally, a couple more policy suggestions to the Chancellor in waiting of the government of national unity....

    1) if you want to re-liquidise the nation, you need to put money into the hands of the over taxed, over burdened middle classes - they are the ones who buy and sell houses, purchase aspirational goods etc. The wealthy have money to spend anyway, whilst throwing money at the cash based amongst us, albeit deserved, will makenot a jot of difference.

    2) If you want to know when the housing crisis will end, compare 75% of the average price of a first time buyers home with 3 x the salary of the average first time buyer. Once those figures reach parity, it will all start moving again (but they might need a few years to save up the other 25% deposit!)

  • Comment number 59.

    Robert, the other side of the coin is that Britain owns/controls businesses in other countries. I remember Hanson showed the Americans a thing or two about how to run a few of their business. It works both ways.

  • Comment number 60.

    10. At 1:23pm on 02 Feb 2009, supercalmdown wrote:

    How have the Building Companies stayed out of the Limelight ?

    General consensus is I still have a job. These poor people who have lost theirs.

    Not literally speaking. It is my trade and its been diabolical for a while. Best of luck to the rest of you by the way. The forgotten dirty workers whom don’t wear a suit!

  • Comment number 61.


    "But, as Sir John Rose said two years ago, if Britain has become a giant "aircraft carrier" for foreign companies, jobs won't naturally go to British workers - unless British workers have a massive competitive advantage."
    Herein lies a possible silver lining. After years of overvalued Sterling (which may not have been unrelated to our asset sales), the sinking Pound may well make our workers (and our farmers) once again competitive....Meanwhile, still sliding, but maybe it's the 5cm of snow?

    Enjoy the slide
  • Comment number 62.

    What really comes over in this blog is that the British have been sold down the river again for short term advantage by government and large corporate businesses.

    When push comes to shove we have nothing left to offer apart from tourism.

    That smells of third world status to me.

    Foreign companies have employed the Brirish worker to gain a strong foothold in the country but now times are hard they are looking to their own nationals first

    If that is not protectionism in reverse what is?

    We have a much bigger problem here than anyone was prepared to accept.

    Is social unrest the only way it can be reversed so foreign owned companies have to change their policies or be unable to operate?

    Again this is a new phenomona unlike the social unrest in the past which was about closing down major parts of our coal and manufacturing industries.

    Something which has to be sorted out very quickly before the whole thing spirals out of control.

  • Comment number 63.

    Nation of ball boys classic Robert - I am just reading your excellent book too.

    I recall being made redundant in the 1980 recssions and again in the 1990 one (I was in engineering)- I then spent 6 years doing an OU degree in Computer Science i am now an Infrastructure Architect in IT.....hope the same does'nt occur.

    We need marketable skills and products/services - The financial sector is finished for years at the level it was at.

  • Comment number 64.


    I can see what you're tying to get at but am not entirely convinced; also don't know if Wimbledon is the best analogy. Premier League football certainly could be. All and sundry hail it as a tremendous success and 'fans' troop loyally to the grounds to watch their traditional local team - which is now made up in most cases by a World XI of mercenary players who are paid more in a week than the average UK annual salary; it is hard to imagine exactly how this is doing anything good for the fan who is now paying £1000+ for a season ticket but it is a very big success for SKY et al


    You say that Rose described the UK as turning into an 'aircraft carrier' for foreign companies; this is true and it's true that the UK has more enthusiastically embraced foreign ownership and deregulation than just about any other country; I wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the same mindset that led to our so-called political elite selling the UK down the river after WWII by making us the real aircraft carrier for the US; so that the UK could carry on punching above its weight and our leaders could preen and ponce around, talking about the special relationship --- which nobody in the US has even heard of!


    The last 50 years or so have seen an accelerating trend towards companies moving production and jobs to cheaper countries; there has been no question of patriotism and corporations have only kept manufacturing in more expensive home countries when forced to do it by legislation, trade-union pressure or the fear of censure; and then the work will be put out to tender and will be contracted and sub-contracted; in the US and Canada huge numbers of job have been relocated to Mexico or the Far East; there is very little commitment to the workforce any more

    I'm not convinced that global corporations will reverse this trend now and repatriate production except in a few high-profile cases where they are being criticised.

    Or because they smell bail-out money!

    Or they are predicting protectionism and want their factories and investments to be on the right side of the fence when it arrives!

    But otherwise why would they? The masters of the universe and wealthiest shareholders have long-since become non-doms or ex-pats or live in gated communities; they do not really care what kind of passport they carry and few of them carry a cross for the factory in their home town (if it still exists)

  • Comment number 65.

    "But there was always a doubt - and one which I raised in this blog - about whether the openness of the UK economy would serve the British people quite so well when the economic going became tougher."

    Of course - we were promised an end to boom and bust!

  • Comment number 66.

    AAAir craft carrier Britain sunk off bright Tone Rock by his comickazi things can only get better leftwaffle and its writing on the wall st

    At the going down of the pund we will remember those braversouls [tb or not tb types that is the question] who guided the leftwaffle past the quack quack mplacements of the FSA and onto the Rock

    In the anals of history never was so much damage done by so few to so many in the name of progueress.[credit given where credits due]

    I propose a giant mammorial to the suckers who made tutts out of them and destroyed inklands bottom line by letting the $$ in and out ,to be carved into the whiter than white subprimessists cliffs of doever ,with the MPortal words "Im free"

  • Comment number 67.

    No 14

    Mr Brown needs to be more than careful. Silent might be his best option now. Perhaps he and his tame parrot, Mandelson, should pull green baize bags over their heads at the present time instead of further inflaming British workers justifiable anger with their ill considered and insulting comments.

  • Comment number 68.

    Gruadd999 is right in post 49.

    Being self employed myself I can attest to the reduction in the returns available for labour. My industry has been laid low by the ability of importers to exist comfortably without the encumberence of taxation, whilst many set themselves up "offshore" and sell millions maybe even billions into this country without the tiresome problem of accounting for vat, many others come to this country claiming free housing and benefits while working for their brethren at way below minimum wage, cash of course.

    After 27 years trading in the computer market I am now in a position to deregister and spend what is left of my career below the radar, where it is still just about possible to scrape a living, until I can retire and get something back from the state for the first time in my life. Oh what am I saying, hands up everybody that thinks this country will still be able to support its own in their later years ?

    This whole country is totally fubar and Crash and Ali don't even bother to take up the fiddle, they just pour on petrol.

    If I sound bitter that is because I am, the begging bowl doesn't come easy when you have worked hard for 35 years only to see the wealth of the nation wasted by fools like Mandy who have never had a real job.

  • Comment number 69.

    No 19

    Dear wandering janchild. Speak for yourself
    You may be fat and bloated but most of the rest of us are rapidly losing weight.

  • Comment number 70.

    Briiliant article Mr Peston.

    My wife (who has shed loads of common sense) has been asking me for years why we Brits seem to have been offloading companies to other countries at a fantastic rate of knots. "What happens when times get tough?", she would ask. "Will the new owners look after us 'foreigners' if they need to cut costs?" (she's a doctor, by the way, not normally concerned with, or interested in matters business or economic).

    It seems that my dear wife is about to find out the answers to her questions.

    Remind me again who shapes the economic environment in our country? Oh yes! It's our political elite (ha!). So, here we go again then as we start to suffer the consequences of yet another brilliant piece of strategic planning by the dolts in Westminster.

    Here's the one to watch though: we've now all but reached the end of mankind's era of cheap energy. Our politicians have yet to grasp, let alone address the monumental implications of the UK's growing reliance on third-parties (countries and businesses) as far as our future energy supplies are concerned.

    If we think that having relinquished the UK's commercial organisations is now going to give us a headache, just wait until we discover that the politicians explaining to us why the lights are going out will be the same geniuses that are currently formulating British energy policy.

  • Comment number 71.

    The elite of the world (politicians included) swear no allegiance to any one country, only to each other and their brotherhood.

    They move money, capital, companies globally at will. They believe nationalism is for the little people - a way of manipulating them.

    When they see you getting all agitated about "foreigners" "stealing" your jobs they laugh at you behind closed doors.

    They want violent protest as this will allow them to crack down hard with the army / police. Don't let them. Any protest must be peaceful (that Ghandi guy had the right idea). We are powerful. If everyone took a deckchair and sat in the centre of every city each weekend until Gordo resigned, the governemnt would soon fall.

  • Comment number 72.

    Rose also said something else that was of importance and it helps explain why our education system is now in such a mess.

    He pointed out that "if you don’t have a nuclear industry, then anyone who is smart enough to be a nuclear physicist is not going to choose that career”.

    In other words, it's a question of demand. If the demand is not there for physicists, chemists, electronics engineers and so on and so forth then students will quite rightly tend not to go down that route.

    The real question we have to answer then is why demand has fallen? A comment from Richard Lambert - the Director General of the CBI - provided a very good clue. He said "In today's rapidly changing economic world order, we must create more global enterprises if we want the UK to remain in the top tier of world economies. Yet in the past 20 years the number we have built from scratch has been low."

    So here's the underlying problem. Low investment in new particularly high tech high value adding companies. That's down to the financial services sector and the govt.... again........ !

  • Comment number 73.

    I see the complaints...that we are the most exposed...but it's an over pessimistic reading...just as the previous few attempts at "new paridigms" were over optimistic.

    If it were 3rd quarter 2010 I would like it as the terms of this debate are a good example of capitulation (whereas everyone simply pretending it's so bad that it's reached the bottom is just another 'buy' argument)...However I fear it's just too early in the downslide yet for it 'work' as such.

    The argument seems to me to be a bit of a slightly higher toned example of rubbish of which 'send home the foreigners'... is the more usual BNP based version.

    How does it all square with the talk of "No protectionism... that's what turned the drama into a crisis and then a World War in the thirties."

    When you boil it down it's just someone getting in their "protectionism" first!

  • Comment number 74.

    Yesterday I was watching one of those old classic Miss Marple films with Margaret Rutherford ('Murder Ahoy').

    Maybe I am too nostalgic, but Britain didn't half seem a better place then.

    I have a strong feeling that the country has completely lost it's way as a nation. What are we thinking of, selling all our industries and destroying our national identity?

    I used to think the British people were smart. Now we just seem dumb and uncouth.

    I suspect this will become all too evident when the olympics start, although I strongly doubt now whether they will be held here as planned.

    Things need to change, and getting rid of Gordon Brown and new labour would be a great start.

  • Comment number 75.

    Silver Lady (62),

    "When push comes to shove we have nothing left to offer apart from tourism.

    That smells of third world status to me."
    Welcome to the third world We even grant-aid colonisation (sorry - "inward investment (and re-patriation of profit))

  • Comment number 76.

    We live in a World where there is free movement of labour.

    The Italians didn't moan when two Brits, a German and a Frenchman were ensuring Ferrari won seven F1 world championships in a row.

  • Comment number 77.

    Knowledge based Economy

    CARNIL KNOWLEDGE Mandlesons carpithaulism apitomises New
    Labours "itaint over till the flat lady singks"

    throttling is to good for them

  • Comment number 78.

    BHP Billiton
    Imperial Tobacco
    SAB Miller
    Standard Life

    This is the quick off the topof my head list of big UK based corporations with huge international businesses

    I don't know who the shareholders are or where they pay their taxes

    It changes all the time. But they do pay corporation tax here and their UK employees pay income tax here and UK based shareholders pay tax on dividends here.

    I don't know what share of overall taxes comes from income tax but I bet its quite small. What we have to promote is the UK as a great place to be incorporated and do business

    The most recent non-dom tax changes didn't exactly send that message and for little revenue.

    Potty policy for political positioning

  • Comment number 79.

    Mr P,
    Can I suggest that you read the chapter on the economy in Tony Blairs book 'New Labour, New Britain', written before he came to power?

    In it he says that there is no place for manufacturing or engineering in New Labour New Britain.
    Being an engineer myself, I thought this was a bit like Adolph saying there was to be no place for the Jews in the Third Reich.

    The point is that our non-elected Prime Minister is only continuing Government policy of repressing anyone who actually creates wealth, whilst celebrating those who spend their entire working lives diminishing the wealth of the country, like themselves.

    And the results of this policy are plain to see.

  • Comment number 80.

    Here is a wild theory:

    Maybe the Italian company who got the contract for Total prefers Italian workers because they speak Italian.

    Maybe they will send the same guys to the next job they get somewhere else in Europe. Maybe it is more efficient to use the same team for multiple jobs.

    Maybe a French company like Total quite likes doing business with a supplier in Italy. Lots of Italians speak French and it may be faster to get to meetings than with a supplier in the UK.

    We just devalued our currency to help us export into europe. The UK now has a price advantage against the Euro zone, not the other way round. It would be very stupid to give the Eurozone an excuse for protectionist measures against us. There are plenty of contracts where UK companies will win against EU competition.

    Trade within the EU and with the US is not the problem. The problem is the one-way trade with Asian countries who have extremely low wages, rampant intellectual property theft, low environmental standards and protected markets.

  • Comment number 81.

    #13 supercalmdown
    Trouble with protectionism is people only think of themselves.... not a Public Sector worker I presume? If so maybe you would also consider taking on the vagaries of a Private Sector Pensionl!
    In addition the Keynes approach of flooding the economy with cash only works if it does go around – our problem in the UK is too much of it goes out to the countries that produce the goods we buy. Try and think for a minute about the sort of goods you buy and then think how many are manufactured in the UK.......... how much of the Billions this Gov is spending, is going to help the Chinese out of their slump?

    I”m sure we can make “Tat” here, can”t we?

    And for my part – I presume the thinking behind an open economy is that a collection of businesses working in their own interest will by default act in the interest of the Country they are situated in, the Region that belongs to and finally the Global Economy................. just look at OUR banks, what would GB give now for the return of the call centre jobs they gave to India! (I often wonder if any of them lent money to the companies they subsequently used – not only do you save money on the staff, but you make it on the loans – Smells like a modern bank to me!!)

    The Openness appears to be “they make it – we buy it” – Oh and the Banks that will lend us the money to buy, open a Branch in the City - a perfect Open Economy.....

  • Comment number 82.

    So, is the UK's economy better off for being open and free and allowing foreign companies to buy up its major businesses? I would argue that on the whole it has been better off, in the good times at least, but personally I would prefer the country to have greater control over infrastructure businesses (energy, water, transport etc.) this is because if there is a truly global and major crisis it would be reassuring to know that the businesses running our infrastructure will have the UK's interests at heart.

    On the jobs front, should businesses operating in the UK be forced to employ only or mostly British workers? Of course not, if a business believes that it can employ workers from outside the UK to do a better job and cheaper then I see nothing wrong with that, if anything complain about the government's immigration policies the businesses are only maximising their shareholder value.

    more musings here:

  • Comment number 83.

    Please advise who I can vote in the next election? Labour, conservative and libdem all want to be in EU and sell every thing we have.

    I want to vote for some one who will put this country first; rater then sell us down the drain.

  • Comment number 84.

    Robert - you are correct that protectionism will only make matters worse at the moment, but your analysis of the impact on Britain of globalisation is very one-sided.

    What about all the British companies that remain British owned and benefit from their operations and in many cases acquisitions overseas? BP, Shell, Vodafone, Glaxosmithkline, Diageo, HSBC, Unilever, British American Tobacco and so on and on. While Total employs Italians in the UK, Shell employees Brits in Sicily, so to pretend that we poor Brits are only ever losers to globalisation is populist nonsense.

  • Comment number 85.

    The problem with protectionism is that in the
    current global economy, you have to be a big
    player to be able to defend your market.

    China, the US, and the EU are competitively
    sized units.

    If you Brits try to play tit for tat with other
    European countries, then you've already lost
    the game.

    Over here, we have the Congress attempting
    to smack Canada, our best trading partner
    in the world, with a 2"x4" in the stimulus bill.
    I can't imagine any more stupid policy in the
    whole wide world.

  • Comment number 86.

    When Nissan have to decide whether to close a plant in Japan or the UK which are they going to choose. When HSBC have to decide whether to loan money in the UK or in Hong Kong which are they going to choose. Some protectionism is frankly unavoidable and the government have done a very poor job through there monitoring organisations of protecting us.

    Boots the chemist ended up belonging to KKR in America, Asda to Walmart and all this was funded by cheap credit. Not only did we loose are manufacturing but we were paid with ponzi credit and any asset wealth that could have protected us in the downturn was detached and secreted away to another country.

    I don't advocate protectionism and the current dispute at total from the information presented suggest a very good reason for the opposite. It is obviously more complicated than currently reported but the facts seem to be that a foreign company under bid a UK one. This is achieved not by paying the Italian workers less but by expecting them to do more in a day. The union and demonstrators are upset because they were not offered a chance to work for the foreign company. This suggests to me the management of the UK companies were incapable of organising their work force efficiently and perhaps unjustly the work force are portrayed as lazy. If road works in the UK in comparison to Europe are anything to go by then this is not an isolated occurance.

    When barrack Obama and his team pass into law the buy American legislation as part of the TARP plan the wheels of protectionism will be hard to reverse. Do we have enough food, clothes ,petrol, gas etc to survive on our own. I think not so we have no choice but to fight protectionism at every juncture.

    Still pizza delivery jobs are on the increase and what education do you need for that?

  • Comment number 87.

    Robert, your article touches quite a few relevant points.

    However, your outright rejection of protectionism is somewhat spurious. You said:

    "History does indeed tell us that protectionism in a worldwide downturn is the shortest route to slump and depression."

    Does it? I know that this has been the commonly held view of economists. But does it truly bear scrutiny? If we had not adopted some protectionist policies in the 1930s, we would have had no capacity with which to arm ourselves in WW2!

    Even if there are few examples of overt protectionism as yet, there are plenty examples of the covert type. Look at Obama's recovery plan. It is underpinned by a buy American policy.

  • Comment number 88.

    EdUKaaa'shun ,EdUKaaa'shun,EdUKaaa'shun

    Every fool is entitled to a Labour EdUKaaa'shun in the theory and practice of sodUKomy from 1 till 9 and 9 till 1 GMT[Gordon Meen Time]

  • Comment number 89.


    Your quote:

    The UK is an outlier in the degree to which it has put all its assets in the shop window and welcomed almost all and every possible overseas buyer of its companies. Even in the US, the great champion of the market, there are many more restrictions on the sale of businesses to foreign interests.

    Arguably, the recession has bitten the UK harder with a depression because of the UK's intrinsic economic structural vulnerabilities as combined with the effect of these foreign controlling entreprises which ALSO having the option of trading not only in their own overseas currency, but also EEC and £'s sterling which has the effect of leaving the UK and it's currency as 'whipping boy' and more exposed to the most volatile currency movements - not only by price, but also by volume of international transfer which in itself lowers the UK currency exchange values.

    The first point being that this arguably this would not have happened to the same degree had the UK been in the euro and had applied a degree of so called 'protectionism' and fiscal responsibility as per Germany, France.

    Despite the street protests in Paris, I think that the French are in better overall shape than the UK on any equivalent measure and arguably some of this is due to being in the euro currency.

    The second point is that the UK appears to need to elevate its own home grown entrepreneurs and industrialists and let the banks/ City of London be there, primarily, to serve their needs and those of borrowers/savers. We need more Richard Branstons and those who get to be called 'Sir' for all of the right reasons. I look forward to his next interview as controlling both major UK industry and finance.

    Very timely of you to identify who we need to be listening to - not the politicians and banksters who got us into this mess. In the earthquake zones - certain types of construction are essential to withstand shocks - we need to use those principles to rebuild the UK economy and finances and for this reason the UK's finances are uniquely vulturable... er sorry, I mean 'vulnerable' and more vulnerable outside of the euro.

    Question is also ...Will either main political party be bold enough to offer the UK (in 2009 ?) a full referendum on joining the euro as part of their election manifesto?

    However, it doesn't seem that we can do all of the right things for UK industry and remain in the EEC and/or join the euro - definite 'cross roads', it seems, but why are the UK's politicians so reluctant to discuss these issues - Looks like plain old dithering to me.

  • Comment number 90.

    Dear Mr Preston you do write some absolute twaddle (to use a less offensive term).

    The reason companies who have overseas branches in the UK is because of our less than stringent employment laws. Longer hours, easier to be put out to pasture, lower corporate taxation and other payments. They are hardly likely to bring over masses of French and Italian employees into the UK as even though they work in the UK they would be bound by the terms and conditions of the state where the mother company is based. Just like our expats who work for Bae or the ilk in Saudi. A company is responsible to the share holders not the country they hark from. Consequently if the board agree to undertake redundancies they have to look at what is beneficial for the company, not the state unless these companies are nationalised like the banks.

    And there is this Wimbeldon tripe. It is seen as the greatest tournament in the world only by some English people who like tennis. Would you find it odd that the Australians think the Open is the best, The US theres and I don't think that you are going to hear many French extolling how Wimbeldon is so much better than Roland Garros because play is interrupted by rain all the time.

    As for becoming a nation of "players, managers and umpires" if you thought it through you would realise that umpires are pulled from different nationalities to ensure non partisan decisions so it would be players or umpires, managers well that's fine but why not the ball boys as well. The whole tempo and excitement would be diminished if the players had to go running around fetching the balls, and lets face it's child labour, so it should be cheap.

  • Comment number 91.

    based on the enormous snowmen erected in our back garden by two grownup off-spring unable to get to work, there is plenty of latent design and engineering with a bit of british ingenuity

  • Comment number 92.

    Globalisation for China seems to mean that foreign company investment must have a Chinese partner, a minority stake and technology and know-how must be transferred.

    The UK has failed to invest any windfall proceeds in new energy technologies and left the nuclear power option until the very last moment.

    I wonder how Chinese we will be with the French when they build our new generation of nuclear power stations?

    BTW – if 85% of the cars purchased in the UK are imported we don’t really want the government to subsidise new car sales, do we? After all, the Germans usually buy their own cars, as do the French but we buy from everyone except ourselves.

  • Comment number 93.

    Your article, RP made telling reading. I always thought the 'inward investment thing' was a myth.

    Yuh know, it seemed as if, somewhere along the way, possibly under Thatcher, certainly under Major and successors, that there was a belief that the British were idiots who couldn't make anything right. Thus it would have made perfect sense to let foreigners take off and do a better job. That would have been heresy in the 50s when Britain was king of all things manufactured and exporting all over the world.

    My take is the idiots were the politicians who signed up for this wishy-washy guff. I don't know who they were listening to in industry but I would tend to think it was a bunch of hopeless dugouts in suits who thought they were heaven's gift to management. You know the type - always looks like he's just had a heavy lunch, drives a company Jag, adheres rigidly the military doctrine that the strategy is that of the senior officer on hand at the time (that's him, of course) and lord help anyone who gainsays him. And leadership skills - because British workers are notoriously difficult to please and need the most inspiring and skilled leadership to get anything done right and on time - would really not been high on his list of imperatives. He's a bureaucrat really, a pen pusher but he's King.

    And so there were the top politicians, lunching with these cretins and their assoc lobbying organisations, listening to the whining and pleading and ultimately opting for the big selloff rather than put the whole mess back to together.

    A strike is a sure sign that the management are out of touch with the workforce and that there is no leadership. Human Resources have taken over the asylum. Cross the little people on the shopfloor at your peril! Leadership of the most incisive kind is the only way to run a company in profit. This was amply demonstrated in the late 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and is being demonstrated rather forcibly again NOW! British jobs for British workers is fine - if the leadership is THERE to direct, encourage, supervise them and produce effective product to drawing within budget, at the agreed price, on time. There - which leadership is demonstrably not in the case of the Total (and other) walkouts.


  • Comment number 94.

    there are many many people from GB working abroad

    do they balance out the people from abroad working here

    if so what is the problem

    except positioning ourselves so that we are trained to get a job anywhere

    ah but there is the rub

    education education education

    education has drowned in new initiatives in the last ten years

    but I don't think the result is what I would call a world class education system

    what we get is micky mouse degrees in garden design, media etc

    I was shot down a while ago and asked if a degree was about more than getting a job

    I would agree totally that education is about more than getting a job

    but one has ones whole life to become an educated rounded person

    meanwhile we need a working population who can not only get a job but do a job to an excellent standard

    they also need to be willing to accept the going world rate for the job

    and take a pride in their work

    is the standard of teaching up to the job

    how about maths teachers, are there any maths teachers who have actually studied maths

    why is teaching such a horrible job that most people, especially men, dont want to do

    is it something to do with the mountains of paperwork and lack of backing for discipline

    oh dear I think I had better stop now

    our poor country full of salt of the earth people, badly led and badly served

  • Comment number 95.

    Is this the same Rolls Royce that has been moving jobs abroad for 20 years under the guise of "risk and revenue" sharing

  • Comment number 96.

    Dear Mr. Peston: Excellent article, and allow me, from the other side of the pond to echo jerichoa's words from #23:

    I love this country, I hate what is happening to it and the lack of fundamental understanding and action by those in a position to mobilise and motive our best resourses (our descent hard working people) to engineer a way out of this mess and build something that we can take some national pride in again.

    It's all happened here as well.

    My fear is that if rational people do not step up and make the hard choices, and really begin to tell the truth, then extremists will find an audience for their message.

  • Comment number 97.

    why can't I post?

  • Comment number 98.

    Most manufacturers in UK, Europe and USA have plants in China, Eastern Europe, South East Asia where they now manufacture their equipment. This is cheap because the labour is cheap.

  • Comment number 99.

    Most new factories to manufacture anything are currently being built in China, Eastern Europe, South East Asia and Middle East. The Middle East is the exception because they are investing to build an infrastruture post oil in some sort of strategic plan (hmmmmm strategic plan - maybe the UK could think about one of those).

  • Comment number 100.

    The people running these manufacturing plants are not all just stupid little foreigners &, particulalry the Chinese, are extracting all our knowledge too, so soon they will be the brains of the world as well as the brawn.

    Then starving and poor and desperate for the basic necessities of life we will go to them on our knees and have to give up our basic rights to survive and live.

    The playing field is not level and the ones who are prepared to risk their lives for little pay are always going to be more competitive than those who want a nice safe job which pays well.

    We need a PLAN
    We need a PLAN
    We need a PLAN
    We need a PLAN

    which has this situation as the basic reality and starts working out how we avoid the current inevitable conclusion. eg Invest in the fuels of tomorrow while the Chinese use up the fuels of today - but don't export this knowledge - keep it for a rainy day.

    Look at USA and oil - I don't know for sure this is true but someone once told me they are hoarding oil and using up everyone else's first so that come 2030 and its all gone - hey presto!

    We need to create our hey prestos!!


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