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Home >Blogs>Charlotte Stonestreet >Back to the future

Back to the future

22 May 2017

While some may argue that industry, manufacturing and technology – as covered in CDA – are not political issues (indeed, the CDA editorial team has had feedback from some readers indicating this view in no uncertain terms!), I am of the opinion that these subjects are of utmost political importance.

Indeed, in the light of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and the current Government’s intention to also break away from the European single market, the strength of these sectors is absolutely vital if the UK is to hold its own in the global market.

Therefore, as the various political parties gave detail of their manifestos this week, I was keen to see how how these issues featured and whether there were any firm promises to be welcomed. To be honest, I think maybe I was being a bit naive in hoping for moves to strengthen the industrial sector to be at the heart of any political party’s manifesto - but I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that there seems to be very little of substance to welcome.

Of course, one of the Labour Party’s main commitments is to renationalise mail, rail and energy firms. Perhaps depending on where you consume the majority of your news from, this could be a good or a bad thing. While much of the right wing press is bleating about a “return to the seventies”, it is worth considering that many of our European counterparts retain a strong element of public ownership in these areas and still provide a level of service that Southern Rail commuters can old dream of.

While we’re talking about rail, it should be noted tthat Britain’s rail franchises are already owned and operated by state-owned companies; it's just that they are not the home state! For example, Arriva, which runs the Welsh railways, is part of Deutche Bahn, ScotRail is in the hands of the Dutch state rail operator, Abellio, Southeastern line is 35% owned by Kelios, the French state rail operator’s international subsidiary and the Essex-operator C2c is part of Trenitalia, the Italian state rail company.

And, on a bit of tangent, let’s not forget that EDF, which supplies many a domestic property with energy, actually stands for Électricité de France, which is largely owned by the the French state.

I’m by no means saying that renationalisation is a no brainer. There’s always the danger that state owned and run industries will be less than disciplined when it comes to budgetary issues. It might even be the case that such organisations will be run in the interests of the employees rather than the consumers (although in this day and age, that does seem to be somewhat unlikely). However, the UK really should look to its European neighbours and the way in which they successfully run state-owned industries before writing off reationalisation as a purely backwards step.