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back to front - anywhere won't do


BETWEEN 1978 and 2000, London lost 432,000 manufacturing jobs. And according to a new report (see News Analysis, p6), the decline is set to continue. With just over a quarter of a million now employed in manufacturing in the capital, numbers are expected to fall between 21% and 40% by the year 2016.

The figures show up starkly the manufacturing murder sweeping Britain, a growing crime wave committed by successive governments. British workers remain the most productive in the world, but still employers look to move work overseas, and still governments refuse to protect British industry against often subsidised imports.

These days, it seems, almost any work can be stripped out of Britain and set up abroad. Indian call centres and Dyson vacuum cleaners are among the most publicised, but other industries, too, are finding that now literally anywhere can do. So insurance back offices, typesetting, web document preparation, draughtsmanship and technical drawing are joining the growing number making the one-way trip to Madras or Bangalore.

If logic were all that mattered, you'd have to wonder why Parliament is still sitting at Westminster. Surely the government can find 600-odd people somewhere in the world to do the job cheaper. After all, they only have to follow a very simple set of instructions, and these days don't even have to show familiarity with local circumstances and culture.

Jobs in manufacturing are now disappearing faster than they were during the great Thatcher-inspired depressions of the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the current rate of loss, it is calculated, there will be no manufacturing jobs at all by the year 2040.

It is not as if there's no demand for manufactured goods. Just that they are not being made in Britain.

The neglect from governments shows up in their disregard for the jobs exodus, their refusal to use import controls or purchasing policies to protect our industry, the dereliction of the transport infrastructure. We see the results in unemployment, loss of self-respect, the undermining of our ability to remain independent as a country.

But who is holding them to account? Not Parliament. Not the press (itself increasingly foreign-owned). Certainly not the European Union, for which the "free movement" of goods and labour is its key article of faith.

Things are not helped by a strand of thought in the labour movement that says denuding Britain of jobs in order to transfer them to developing countries is some kind of justified settlement of a post-colonial debt. Some even think (with true colonial mentality) that along with the transfer of jobs, they can transfer their negotiating skills and teach the poor benighted Indian workers about industrial relations. You have to pray they don't try to teach them how to defend jobs.