Theresa May is very angry with Prince Harry. There was the great lady – Theresa, I mean, not Harry’s intended – with more press releases than she has pairs of shoes. For yesterday was to mark the launch of the government’s Grand Industrial Strategy: to give it its full title, The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Acres of newsprint had been set aside for the publication of details of this great national plan. I nearly wrote Five Year Plan, after the manner of the former Soviet Union. But Theresa is far more ambitious than Joseph Stalin and her strategy looks forward as far as 2040. Television and radio schedules were cleared in advance for exciting ministerial appearances. Then, wouldn’t you just know it: the Prince and his Yankee girlfriend – “I’m just wild about Harry” – are the only news in town. Surely Theresa must be our unluckiest prime minister: first she loses a general election which even a pussycat would have won; then she cocks up the Tory conference with a coughing fit; and now her big strategic launch lies smothered under a pile of royal fluff.
Theresa did actually say something yesterday but, since nobody was listening, I’ll give you the gist of it here:
“Our modern Industrial Strategy will shape a stronger and fairer economy for decades to come. It will help create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and support these businesses in seizing the big opportunities of our time, such as artificial intelligence and big data, whilst also making sure our young people have the skills to take on the high-paid, high-skilled jobs this creates.
“As we leave the European Union and forge a new path for ourselves, we need to focus on building a better future for our country and all the people who live in it. With the Budget last week, and our Industrial Strategy in the years ahead, we will build a Britain fit for the future.”
So you see, whatever the deficit in its other capabilities, our government can still be relied upon to produce shoals of jargon.
In the strategy, the government has identified Four Grand Challenges. (Have you noticed how, whenever the country is in the middle of some irretrievable mess, it’s always referred to as a “challenge”?)
Brace yourself for another fusillade of gobbledegook: “…global trends that will shape our rapidly changing future and which the UK must embrace to ensure we harness all the opportunities they bring. The Four are:
Artificial intelligence – we will put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution
Clean growth – we will maximise the advantages for UK industry from the global shift to clean growth.
Ageing society – we will harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society
Future of mobility – we will become a world leader in the way people, goods and services move.”
You will be wanting to know how much it will cost you – not Harry’s wedding but the Grand Industrial Strategy (GIS). It will, of course, cost as much as it takes – but £725million for starters.
To be honest, there were a few paragraphs about the GIS in today’s papers, but these were most depressing. All the newspapers assumed that industrial strategy has something to do with the business of government. Then, after much head-scratching, I twigged what’s going on here: Theresa May is doing a Tony Benn and reinventing the National Enterprise Board which – as the GIS will be – was doomed from the start. For the government doesn’t know anything about industrial strategy and there’s no reason why it should. The government’s job is to defend us from foreign enemies and keep the peace at home. So why are we spending more on the GIS than on our armed forces? And why has expenditure on the police forces fallen steadily for the last five years?
There are plenty of people in our country who know loads of stuff about industrial strategy, inventiveness and entrepreneurialism. Government intervention is the last thing they need. All they require is for the government not to get in the way, but to step back and let the hands-on people get on with the job. They would best do this by creating the conditions which will allow industry and enterprise to flourish: that is make huge cuts in taxation and scrap business regulations.
But Theresa and the corporatist gang of left-wing ideologues who surround her won’t do this one thing needful.
Britain today is unique among the nations: we have a socialist opposition and a socialist government.
As for the GIS, it’s a bigger romantic fantasy than any royal wedding