MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Serious investment in a vital industry can never be a mistake
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s plan to start making this country self-sufficient in semiconductors, which The Mail on Sunday reveals today, is a good example of mature and responsible government.
It embodies several laudable elements. This prepares us for a possible crisis over which we have no control should China somehow forcibly take over Taiwan, which has a huge share of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing.
Obviously, it would be better if the free world succeeded in deterring such an event. Much political, diplomatic, and military planning is devoted to ensuring Taiwan’s continued freedom. But powerful despotisms, as Russia has shown, do not conform to normal rules of behavior and we cannot assume that such a disaster cannot take place.
Two recent convulsions, the first over Covid and the second over Ukraine, have served to warn all civilized countries that their seemingly secure and stable societies are intensely vulnerable to shocks that previously seemed unlikely, even far-fetched. In such cases, serious investment in the essentials of modern global industry can never be a mistake.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s (pictured) plan to make this country self-sufficient in semiconductors is a good example of mature, responsible government
It simultaneously protects us against the possibility of disastrous shortages in times of global chaos and strengthens us against the inflationary dangers that invariably follow war, and especially war in the energy-producing regions of the world.
For many years, UK governments have viewed any industrial strategy as alien to our traditions, clumsily “picking winners” or somehow imposing undue interference in the market. It would be great if it had been a resounding success as a policy. But, alas, the story of more recent British inventiveness, notably the concept of the World Wide Web pioneered by Tim Berners-Lee, is that great British ideas end up being exploited by others abroad because no one here is willing to put the necessary capital behind them. .
Imagine if, say, Google was a British-owned company based in Britain, and Silicon Valley was in the Thames Valley or the Trent Valley.
One of the indisputable advantages we gained from Brexit is the much greater freedom to subsidize and encourage local industry without breaching European competition laws. Much of the current skepticism about the value and purpose of Brexit would dissipate if the government took greater advantage of these freedoms. And of course, the ensuing creation of secure, well-paying jobs would greatly boost the government’s “race to the top” strategy.
Britain has undoubtedly been very successful in shifting from manufacturing to service industries over the past 30 years.
But the belief that a modern economy could rely entirely on such industries is falling into disuse, and the old view that a serious manufacturing base, preferably owned and controlled here, is necessary for a stable economy. and growing, is on its way back. .
Imagine if, say, Google was a British-owned company based in Britain, and Silicon Valley was in the Thames Valley or the Trent Valley. Pictured: Google headquarters in Mountain View, California
There are clear signs that Rishi Sunak’s government is taking a thoughtful strategic approach to the country’s problems, while acknowledging that it has a lot to do if it is to fend off Sir Keir Starmer’s challenge.
There has been serious recognition, prompted by the tensions of the war in Ukraine, that defense spending has lagged.
Recent efforts to rein in cross-Channel migration have also been designed to have real and lasting impact.
The Chancellor’s ideas on semiconductors speak to an understanding within Cabinet that to stay in power, the Conservatives must be guided by the practical needs of the nation and its people.
Such policies are not flashy and do not immediately make headlines. But, if pursued correctly, they bring real changes for the better in the lives of Britons. And it’s a more promising way to win back votes than a dozen clever slogans or an army of spin-docs.