OPINION: It is time for Labour to embrace the “white heat of the technological revolution” once more

By Christopher Herman

Brexit, however hard, must bring Labour a white heat moment if it is to reunite with working people.

Over half a century ago, in Scarborough of all places, Harold Wilson set out a vision of how a Labour Government would fix the problem which was the declining economy. Wilson saw that if the British economy was going to be competitive that British industry needed to grasp, with both hands, modernisation and a high skilled work force. This message is perhaps more relevant now than fifty four years ago with the emergence of Brexit.

With Brexit we must recognise that the areas who voted the most overwhelming in favour are the areas where these industries have either been greatly shrunk or have now disappeared into oblivion leaving behind only the ruins of our industrial past. With the decline of industry, the rise of immigration has made it only more difficult for these people to hold a sustainable livelihood. With that Labour has struggled to identify with these same people like it once had. Though it does not need to carry on like this.

We hold some of the greatest engineers, designers and scientists in the world. They’re just leaving University. We need to invest not just in them but in our remaining industries. Instead of just assembling cars with European sourced components we should build those factories which build those components.

Why would we not? As the European voice in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker, gets stricter on Brexit negotiations and with that strict position comes the fear of a ten percent trade tariff. Does it not make sense to stop merely assembling our cars but actually build them from nut and bolt to finished car?

So far the Conservatives have failed on this, only for Labour to continue these failures. We’ve allowed the Boris Bikes and their respective docking stations to be designed and built in Canada. Labour must aspire to hold that Wilsonite sense to back Britain. To grasp the technical skills and abilities of our graduates. To invest in their designs and source the funding to build the infrastructure to build those designs. This would not only provide sustainable jobs to areas of the country desperately needing them. It will provide a foundation to return Britain to its former productive power.

The current Labour leadership has failed to stand up for our steel industry. It has failed to both make the argument for the importance of retaining a steel industry for national defence and for the future prospects of our manufacturing industry. Labour must, as part of its Brexit strategy, argue not just to maintain our steel industry but to expand it. Brexit means that we cannot and should not be constricted to the current status quo of our old habits. Looking outside of Britain for the brightest brains and the most competent hands.

If Britain is to prosper outside of Europe we must remember what Harold had said all those years ago in Scarborough, of all places, that: “we must use all the resources of democratic planning, all the latent and underdeveloped energies and skills of our people, to ensure Britain’s standing in the world.”

Christopher Herman is Head of Marketing at Parliament Street

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