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Jubilation fever

Send her victorious, happy and glorious

Forgive me for inflicting some of the details of my domestic life upon you all, but as I sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by union jack flags and all the paraphernalia to make red, white and blue themed cupcakes for tomorrow’s school Jubilee street party, a thought occurred to me.

We’re busy celebrating our general feeling of Britishness, yet you look at our manufacturing base and it’s concerning just how many of our manufacturers are still under UK ownership. Precious few.

I don’t mean to come over all UKIP about this, after all, some of my best friends work for “foreigners”, but it seems a shame that a nation that once turned most of the atlas red, doesn’t make anything anymore.

OK, that’s wrong. We do make stuff, lots of it and very well. But we make it, by and large, on behalf of companies whose base is in another country. And that’s where all the profits of from the stuff we do make here will eventually end up.

Anyone else remember the Hanson TV adverts in the 1980s, fronted by Denham Elliott, Glenda Jackson and George Segal? All pointing out that Hanson – doing very well ‘over there’, was actually based ‘over here’. Not anymore.

I suppose, with all this Jubilee celebration this weekend I’m just comparing what we have now with what we had in 1953 at the Coronation. A nation of shopkeepers (as Napoleon called us) sure, but also a nation of family-run enterprises that made stuff and sold stuff and kept people in work.

Which is why, I guess, the UK merchanting industry is still – for now – such a jolly place to be. Despite national takeovers, there are still enough family run independents out there to give the big boys a run for their money and long may that continue.

Incidentally, I always think it ironic that most of the foreign companies that have bought up our once UK family-owned manufacturers are themselves, still – especially the European ones, family-owned and run. What do they have that we didn’t – long-term vision, deeper pockets, longer term strategy?

And finally, in 1953 we may have owned more of our manufacturing base, but it was a very different world. A world in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, fought against the televising of the Coronation in case it was then shown in public houses, where drink might be taken. Can you imagine an important national event these days that wouldn’t be shown on a big screen TV in the pub?

Incidentally, that bit about the Archbishop is absolutely true: he was Dr Geoffrey Fisher and he was my great, great uncle.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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