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Dave Leggett | 31 January 2005

Just who runs the economy and in whose interests? Discuss. Okay, that's a big question and a pretty complex one, but I was reminded of it five minutes ago when reading some of the latest forum threads. Take volume car manufacturing in Britain. It's not the 'British motor industry', it's the motor industry in Britain. Just look at it: Ford (well, PAG makes as many cars as Rover), GM, PSA, Nissan, Toyota and Honda. And for the home side? MG Rover with its sadly declining output of not much more than 100,000 units a year.

Now, obviously the foreign-based manufacturers who have come to Britain have brought much-needed investment and jobs, not only directly, but also to the supplier industry and boosted the economy generally. And that's great. But when push comes to shove, these multinational guys won't be getting too sentimental about their British manufacturing operations. They have shareholders to answer to. And if there is going to be any bias, is, say, the Japanese-based firm or French-based one going to lean towards Japan or France, or Britain? Assume the business criteria balances out. What do you think?

The British strategic approach in the 1980s - in essence, British Leyland must survive on its own or die and let's get the Japanese in and help them take on Europe - has led to the auto industry in the UK being very heavily in foreign hands. At the risk of sounding a little Churchillian, perhaps the balance isn't quite ideal? Would the French, Germans and Italians have ever done the same to their auto industries? I think not. But it's too late to do anything now, clearly. Little Englander speech over. We have made our bed and must now lie on it.


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