LETTER : The United Kingdom's 100-year decline

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The Independent Online
From Sir Geoffrey Chandler

Sir: Lord Roll is right ("Where and why did we go wrong?", 13 March) to identify roller-coaster policies as a factor in our relative economic decline. But these are contributory elements rather than fundamental causes of a decline now measurable over more than 100 years.

It is in fact doubtful whether continuity of policy or an earlier link with the European Community - however much to be desired - could have offset the crippling handicap of an education deficient in quality and quantity for a modern industrial nation; a level of training, whether of management or shopfloor, significantly below that of our chief competitors; and the anti-industrial attitudes of a society which has long encouraged its brightest talent to go into the professions, government and academe rather than industry.

"Gentrification" was no more than a symptom of a culture which stemmed from an industrial revolution pioneered largely by nonconformists in the 18th century and of an educational ethos shaped by Thomas Arnold at Rugby in the 19th century.

The Establishment has always regarded industry as socially, intellectually and morally inferior and, therefore, helped it to be so. Until we recognise that our relative failure lies in the inadequacy of the development of the human potential of this country, we will fail to reverse that decline, whatever the continuity and apparent success of our monetary policies.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE10

14 March