I’ve just spotted an interesting snippet of a speech Sir John Major will give to the Ditchley Foundation today, which is a welcome change from the hysteria over Hack-gate.
Coincidentally, Hack-gate has happened in the same week Bombardier, which has a major plant in Derby, lost out to German group Siemens as the preferred bidder to supply train carriages for the new Thameslink route between Bedford and Brighton. The result was Bombardier have had to sack 1400 British workers. The one of two questions (guess which topic the first was on!) asked on BBC Question Time was on this sad event. Hugh Grant, the actor, eleoquently linked the issue around EU tender law, which many blame for the reason why the Government chose German jobs over British jobs, with the loss of morale in what was once “Great” Britain. It was the only time Grant and fellow panelist Jon Gaunt agreed with each other, although Gaunt would like a full withdrawal from the EU, which I tend to agree with him on.
When I look around Britain today, I see a nation with very little identity. This cannot be said of other EU countries (except perhaps Luxembourg) and this is at the heart of many of our problems.
Sir John Major puts it very well:
“In terms of GDP, the UK is the sixth most wealthy country in the world. But our national balance sheet carries many liabilities. Our physical infrastructure is old. Our health service is creaking. Whilst the best of our education – especially higher education – is world-class, some of it is unforgivably awful,” he says.
“We are up to our ears in debt. The Exchequer is empty. The gold is gone. The post-dated cheques are accumulating interest. We are over-taxed. We have an under-class: poorly educated, poorly housed and unmotivated.
“We are no longer an Empire, nor will be ever again. We are a shrinking military power. By choice, and with majority public approval, we are semi-detached members of the EU. And even America – for so long our closest ally who generally sees the world as we do – is turning her face to the East, as self-interest determines she must.”
No wonder we are losing morale. This is the time, as Sir John puts it earlier in his speech, for politicians to step up and think long-term. Only Thatcher was really able to do this and at the same time in the 1980s did give identity to Britain and British people. Blair tried but was held back by Brown.
These are the questions our national politicians must answer with haste:
What is Britain’s place in the world (however hard that might be to realise)?
What do we want to do, make, sell?
Where do we want to go?
Now, more than ever, we need visionary leadership. I fear we may not get it for sometime.