In thinking about our problems today, I started looking back over the centuries at the horrendous mistakes that have been made, not only by this country but by the whole of Western Europe since the Middle Ages. The worst of them all I believe was the slave trade. This, like most of the other mistakes, was to do with greed. In retrospect I am convinced that the building of national empires, the religious indoctrination of the indigenous populations, and the boundless commercial greed at the same time, brought us to where we are today – international chaos.
It was the exhortations concerning global warming that we are now receiving, which started the thought process. For the first time I realised that those who, in the past, had charge of our national assets, such as coal and iron, were hell-bent on selling it abroad for their own aggrandisement, enabling them to build monumental houses on vast estates. In fact they were giving away the heritage of those assets for future generations. One example is that we’re now arriving at the situation where the quality of the coal being mined, and sold to households, is so inferior it is a hazard to life as a result of the inclusion of slate.
The aspect I find most serious is that we are still handing over to foreigners control of aspects of our lives that are vital to us, for example, our labour-force is providing the muscle and the local supervision of some of our utilities, while the ownership of those utilities and the profit base is abroad. Once upon a time we could rely upon our banks being British owned and British run, that is no longer the case. It’s hard to find a British manufactured car on our roads, and the majority of our electronic equipment is sourced abroad. What I think the government fails to understand is that apprenticeship, in its broadest sense, as a matter of starting at the bottom and fighting your way up the ladder, is the only route to a high quality workmanship, and it can only be achieved in a manufacturing environment. The quality of the majority of tradesmen that we have today cannot compare with those who were earning a pittance in the 20s and 30s. This is not their fault, it is the responsibility of the government and industry, who are not prepared to finance the old apprenticeship system. It is also to some extent the fault of the nation as a whole, who have this conception that a university degree is the very least that their children should achieve, and that working with their hands is beneath them. The fact that 20% fail to finish the course and thousands are finding a job of their choice is unavailable, doesn’t appear to come into the equation. It seems that our finances are now based more on intellectual properties, financial dealing than manufacture and export, where this will ultimately lead I have no idea, and will not be here to find out – once again I am wringing my hands at the future that I see for our young people.