Buck Up, Lads

By October 21, 2008Economy, Labor Unions

From the U.K. Telegraph, “UK manufacturers’ confidence plunges to lowest since 1980“:

British manufacturers are at their most pessimistic since the bitter recession of 1980, as the collapse in the housing market starts to severely affect the whole economy, according to an influential survey.

Factories that make furniture, building materials and electronics are all reporting dismal trading. Many are complaining that they can not get access to finance, as the credit crunch spreads from the City to the “real economy”.

These are the main findings from the CBI Industrial Trends survey, a snapshot of the manufacturing sector that has been undertaken by the business lobby group once a quarter since 1958.

We remember that year, mostly for the British rock ‘n roll (London Calling, in particular, although TRB’s Winter of ’79 is evocative), but also for the beginning of Britain’s re-emergence as an economic power.  From Time’s profile of Margaret Thatcher:

The legal duels she took on early in her tenure as Prime Minister sounded the themes that made her an enduring leader: open markets, vigorous debate and loyal alliances. Among her first fights: a struggle against Britain’s out-of-control trade unions, which had destroyed three governments in succession. Thatcher turned the nation’s anti-union feeling into a handsome parliamentary majority and a mandate to restrict union privileges by a series of laws that effectively ended Britain’s trade-union problem once and for all. “Who governs Britain?” she famously asked as unions struggled for power. By 1980, everyone knew the answer: Thatcher governs.

Once the union citadel had been stormed, Thatcher quickly discovered that every area of the economy was open to judicious reform. Even as the rest of Europe toyed with socialism and state ownership, she set about privatizing the nationalized industries, which had been hitherto sacrosanct, no matter how inefficient. It worked. British Airways, an embarrassingly slovenly national carrier that very seldom showed a profit, was privatized and transformed into one of the world’s best and most profitable airlines. British Steel, which lost more than a billion pounds in its final years as a state concern, became the largest steel company in Europe.

Lessons learned?

Join the discussion One Comment

Leave a Reply