After Covid, the UK is facing its second greatest challenge, Brexit, and as a result, the phrase “once great manufacturing nation” is coming up a lot more. Al Dean has some serious beef with those that repeat it
I don’t think I’ve hidden my disgust over how we’re turning away from the European Union — it seems to have been a decision that’s based on a raging streak of nationalism, which in turn is based on a mythology for a period in our collective history where facts, lived experience, has long been replaced with a pervasive glorification and sanitisation of war via celluloid and the television.
Politics aside, Brexit is likely to be a mess. Whether you’re all for it, dead set against it or really couldn’t give a shit either way.
Just as we’re seeing light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we’ve got this next mess to clean up along with the fall out of 60,000+ deaths in the UK alone.
While all of this is going on, I’ve noticed that I keep hearing one phrase that truly boils my piss and it is when the UK is described as a ‘once great nation of manufacturers’. Typically by someone in a poorly fitted double breasted suit and flushed red face from the subsidised bar, jumping up and down in the Commons.
Yes, the UK has had a decline in its manufacturing output compared to the halycon days of old, where everyone had a job for life, the masses trooped into work everyday on bicycle and doffed their cap to the foreman and died at 60 due to overwork and poor health. Things have moved on.
And to say that manufacturing in the UK doesn’t exist anymore is complete and utter nonsense.
Just this month, I’ve interviewed the folks at Swindon Motorsport — half a century of experience at the cutting edge of internal combustion engine design — and now they’re looking to electrification as a new revenue stream.
If I look back over the last twenty years, there are companies that have blown me away and they’re in this country.
If you live in the West Midlands, you could thrown a stone to companies that build custom wheelchairs for everyone from the kid with complex disabilities to the lunatics that compete internationally in wheelchair basketball.
There’s a company that design, makes, sells and exports espresso machines across the globe. Another that’s developing robots, medical devices, computing for harsh environments, the list literally goes on and on.
Across the country these companies are striving and thriving hard in challenging times, making it work and we should celebrate them properly.
Not by adopting the cliches of the nondom tax evading millionaires (I’m looking directly at you, Mr Branson), and draping them in the Union Flag, but showing off what they can do on the world stage — properly. Not tell the world that we ‘still manufacture things’, but that we haven’t stopped and those things are important, desirable and wonderful.
Show them how in the large, shiny new factories on business parks down to the small trading estates that you’d probably be terrified to leave your car parked in overnight, across the country, companies small and large are manufacturing things, selling things, things that go into other things, things that change people’s lives, things that give people pleasure.
To say that we don’t manufacture things is a nonsense and disrespectful to those folks that run these outfits, to their design and engineering teams, to their shopfloor wizards that bring things to life.
Don’t agree? I’ll see you out in the car park.