LETTER : The United Kingdom's 100-year decline

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Bebbington

Sir: Congratulations to Eric Roll on his perceptive catalogue of the decline of the British Economy. The answer to his question: "Where did we go wrong" is all too simple.

Fifty years after the British Empire ceased to exist, the attitude still persists (at all levels, from company directors to soccer hooligans), that Britain has some God-given right to be a major world power. There is no understanding that Britain is merely one of the many average-sized European countries and has no choice but to behave in much the same way as the others, and, indeed, act in concert with these.

Dismally badly educated, British people regard foreigners with fear and incomprehension, which they attempt to mask with ridicule. And they have such a weak grasp of economics that they cannot accept that a strong manufacturing base, staffed by well-trained personnel, is essential to generate the export earning that alone can produce economic strength.

There are, of course, exceptions to this attitude, but they form a distinct minority that has had no influence on government policy in the past 16 years. That policy has relied exclusively on the service industries, with their intrinsic tendency to produce balance-of-payments deficits, and has welcomed foreign companies (mainly Japanese) that wish to establish "screwdriver" plants employing low-waged, low-skilled personnel.

It remains to be seen whether votes will warm to this seemingly obvious explanation, which has been propounded for some time by the Liberal Democrats and, latterly, by Tony Blair; but the signs do not, at least to me, appear to be good.

Yours sincerely,

DAVID BEBBINGTON

Broadstairs, Kent

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