Monday, 27 July 2009

April Showers

April wasn't long ago. In it we had a budget which pledged a load of money for wind projects and preferential treatment to businesses which created 'green collar' jobs.
In the preceding months we had seen the Government pledge around £2.1bn to the ailing car industry and there has been an unseemly scramble to save the European arm of General Motors. The two things did not seem to go together but it was all part of a policy announced back in February by the Business Secretary to save key businesses on a priority basis and favouring those who had a green edge - thus laying a platform for a greener industry base for the future.

It was all very idealistic and a lot of talk. It took ages to get a 'Scrappage' scheme to help the car industry when the scheme in Germany had already led the way and then we had GM come begging. Of course, the car industry is a big employer and should it fail some 800,000 jobs in direct and related businesses are at risk.

But make no bones about it, we don't have a car industry of our own in Britain - it as all owned by foreign companies.

So saying all this, was it not a surprise to see people picketing the site of the largest manufacturer of wind turbines in the world at Newport, Isle of Wight last week? They were picketing as Vesta had announced the closing of its factory in the UK due to slow orders and in favour of cheaper manpower elsewhere. When asked about this, the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, said it was a commercial decision and nothing to do with him.

I don't get it. If so much money was pumped into wind schemes around the country AND we are favouring green collar jobs, then why are we not bailing out this business? True, the parent company may be making a commercial choice and it is still surviving but if we truly want a green based industry platform for the future then Vesta was worth 'enticing' to stay at minimum.

Are we not going to need more turbines for the future? And we will have to import them when we do, now?

It was another example of plenty of talk and no action by particularly Mandelson but the Government in general. As we bail out banks with sums that we have no idea about and then help industries which clearly help to pollute, we allow a manufacturer of green energy systems to simply up sticks and move from our islands. Vesta may be Danish but there was no attempt made to avoid this. When steel making in Sunderland is threatened, everyone starts to help the parent, Corus, which is also a foreign company.

In another move by Mandelson, he is to make a speech in which he will say that rising tuition fees should not make further education the domain of the better off. After a report was shown only a week ago that says the professions like Law are dominated by privately educated people, it seems ever more appropriate that the whole policy is reviewed. But the Labour method is to pay lip service, highlight it as something that 'needs to be looked at' and then raise the tuition fees anyway.

Time and again we get these well crafted 'soundbites' that sound as if something is being done yet produce no change and long term we will reap the effects of poorly implemented policies. Tuition fees rising does affect the levels of education of poorer people - there is no doubt. There are more foreign students who attend our universities now than ever before because they can pay the fees and our kids can't. In 12 years, our system of education has gone backwards at all levels and the standards have dropped which means Britain will be far less competitive in the future.

Couple that with the fact that valuable jobs in green based industries are leaving this country with no attempt to stop them and you have a completely incoherent policy that flies in the face of what ministers say. In this case, it is just one man - Mandelson - as in the role created for him in his rescue mission of a totally failed Government, he is responsible for high education and business.

We could not have picked a worse person.

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