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Rebuilding Britain

March 13, 2012

The Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Gateshead showed a party confident in its ideas and confident in discussing and disagreeing about ideas. This is good news for the party, because coalition government is absolutely about discussing and winning the argument.

There’s no doubt that raising the tax threshold for the low and average paid while raising taxes for the wealthy is Lib Dem, as is the Pupil Premium that allocates education money directly to the children who start life at a disadvantage. While we are still in the midst of the NHS debate, it’s increasingly clear that the Lib Dems are the party who are protecting the NHS against the acquisitive Tory business interests lining up to cream off services and make some serious money on the way.

But it was Vince Cable that really got me thinking. He’s already been thinking about how we rebuild Britain’s manufacturing, and has identified some serious problems. Not least that everything seems to be foreign owned.

However, one sentence sprang out at me from his speech to the conference: ‘Bringing the supply chain back to Britain’.

From a Rochdale manufacturing perspective, the outlook is about slowly reversing the flight of manufacturing out of the country. It will be backed by funding initiatives like the Regional Growth Fund, or the Green Investment Bank. Vince will champion the new industries, like green energy, and will do his best to ensure Britain can manufacture this capital equipment.

This is a good start, but I favour an even more interventionist approach. Government initiatives are targeted at specific deprived areas and at specific product areas. These need to be widened. It won’t be good enough to set up a new bank just for Green investment, what is really needed is banks that invest in new manufacturing plants and processes across the country and across sectors. The publicly owned banks should be the vehicle for this.

There needs to be a fundamental shift of money from the City of London into the wealth creating industries of the whole of Britain. For the last 25 years, financial interests have sucked out wealth from the rest of Britain. It’s now time for the money to move in the opposite direction.

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