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Britain's unbalanced recovery

Stephen Wilmot explains why he's learned to stop worrying about the decline of manufacturing and love the consumer-led boom
Britain's unbalanced recovery

This month has brought no fewer than three major blows to the UK steel industry. First, the UK arm of Thai group Sahaviriya Steel Industries entered bankruptcy proceedings, having mothballed the Teesside Steelworks in Redcar in September. A fortnight later Caparo Industries, a privately owned producer of steel products, followed suit, blaming intense competition from cheap imports. And then last week Tata Steel - the Indian group that now owns most of the assets once operated by British Steel, which was privatised in 1988 - announced a major redundancy programme at its plants in Scunthorpe and Glasgow. Overall, at least 3,400 jobs are being cut out of an industry total of roughly 30,000.

The news flow will not have surprised anyone who has followed China's transition away from infrastructure construction and the resulting overcapacity in global steel markets. But it nonetheless offers a stark illustration of Britain's failure to protect its manufacturing sector - even after industrial policy has made something of a political comeback. George Osborne's 2011 Budget speech painted a picture of Britannia "carried aloft by the march of the makers". "We want the words: 'Made in Britain, Created in Britain, Designed in Britain, Invented in Britain' to drive our nation forward," declared the UK Chancellor.


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