As I\’ve been saying for some time now

British factories boosted their output by 7.5pc between the second quarter of 1979 and the third quarter of 1990, when she left Downing Street, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Output had grown another 4.9pc by the start of 1997, when the Tories were booted out. Given the bitterness of the 1980s’ recession, caused by the desperate need to wring out extreme levels of inflation from the system by using high interest rates, it shows just how effective her supply-side reforms turned out to be.

The real decline happened under Labour: in the second quarter of 2010, when Gordon Brown left office, the output of UK factories was fractionally lower than it was when Thatcher took her last, tearful ride in that ministerial Jaguar. It was significantly lower than when John Major left.

So a little less of that massacre of British industry in the 80s rhetoric please.

18 thoughts on “As I\’ve been saying for some time now”

  1. Yes. But the problem you have is you’re arguing with people who measure an industry’s success not by how much stuff comes out the factory gates, but by how much labour input it consumes.

  2. Can someone tell Robert Peston? He drones on that the question of whether the 1980s reforms were positive or not are “the question of our time”.

  3. Tim, why are you surprised that those who fall for the relative poverty tale also fall for the relative economy-by-sectors tale?

    Plus, Ian B.

  4. Surreptitious Evil

    Ian B has it – the decline in “good industry”, i.e. that which employs lots of unionised labour and, ideally, is nationalised, is fact.

    That much of that decline would have happened regardless of Thatcher is also, except for the semi-romantic left (those wedded to the 1950s not the 1650s), also pretty much fact.

    That Britain kept producing stuff (and much better stuff, that it was able to sell abroad), is also fact.

  5. If coal is losing 1.2m a day why does it eat ~1000 days losses in subsidy every year rather than ~365 days losses?

    Who’s grafting?

  6. Ian B,

    Exactly. And one thing that happened in the 1980s was that we replaced a lot of people with robots.

    The whole thing of “manufacturing” is daft anyway. I buy PC games via Steam, which means they come down the wire, and that replaced me buying games on DVDs in boxes. Apparantly, this is bad because it lowers the amount of manufacturing we do. But as a consumer, it’s a good thing. It’s also greener.

    All that matters is the total value of goods and services, less the amount spent on government.

  7. @ #5 SE
    “That much of that decline would have happened regardless of Thatcher is also, except for the semi-romantic left (those wedded to the 1950s not the 1650s), also pretty much fact.”
    Actually, no.
    BT was a monopoly until the Thatcher government denationalised Cable & Wireless and allowed it to compete. So was the CEGB. So were the water companies, British Gas, electricity distribution, British Airways, … Transport costs meant that it was only economic to import high-quality steel from Germany despite British Steel’s decline in quality and increase in cost post-nationalisation. We could have continued getting gradually poorer (except for members of public sector unions) or relatively poorer indefinitely: like Argentina, which was one of the ten richest countries in the world and is now ranked 51st on a per capita basis.
    BT removed *five* layers of management after privatisation. The Chairman of National Power claimed that pre-privatisation it had three men for every two jobs etc etc

  8. A lot of people are missing the pleasure and anticipation of waiting for the BT telephone to be approved and then the happy day of finally being connected!

  9. No, industry was not destroyed under thatcher/the evil Tories. However, less than 1% annual growth is not a spectacular achievement.

  10. Another of my childhood anecdotes…

    In 1980 me, sister and mum moved to a new (develeopment corporation) house and, as was still required in those days, asked the GPO (or was it BT by then?) if they’d be kind enough to eventually bless us with a telephone, at their convenience. So, by this point they were trying to be more faux-commercial by offering a range of telephones, even in different colours, and we got the brochure. And, excited by this new vista of opportunity, settled on a particular model that was compact for the time, and blue.

    And seasons passed, and eventually the man from BT turned up in his van, and started installing a telephone. Which was the standard design, in a hideous avacado/mustard colour. So my mother politely explained to him that this wasn’t the one we had ordered.

    “Oh yes. What did you order then?”

    So my mum got the brochure and showed him and he laughed. “Oh, you’ve got no chance of getting one of them. I could get one of them, but you’ve got no chance.”

    And that was that. My mum had that fucking hideous great mustard telephone until finally sockets arrived and you could buy your own.

    Secondary anecdote: a friend of hers’s husband worked for BT. The mustard telephone had a like three foot cord on it connecting it to the wall, so Neil agreed (taps nose) to put a longer lead on it, hush hush, don’t tell anyone I did it. Of course that was a big thick hard plastic insulated lead that got all twisted up, but at least you could haul the whole assemblage out into the hall if you wanted a bit of privacy.

    People really have forgotten what it was like.

  11. Surreptitious Evil

    More anecdata about BT …

    When I was at Uni, a little bit later than the above story, I bought a flat. Which had a BT phone in it. One of the old hideous mustard ones. And when I got my first phone bill, I saw I was being charge an extortionate amount for “phone rental” – about the same per month as a cheapy phone cost in Argos. But it was hard-wired in to the wall.

    I phoned BT up and asked for the phone to be changed and they quoted me some wholly excessive sum plus a whole bunch of disclaimers about the quality of the wiring. I demurred. I happened to know some guys who worked for BT and after I’d whined to them about this, they offered just to stick me on the end of the next day’s docket. Being a bit naive and thinking this might get them in to trouble, again, I demurred.

    One of the older ones took me aside and told me what to do – a drop of superglue on the bell screw and the phone will ring really quietly. Phone up and complain, they’ll see there is a problem on the test they do and they’ll send a guy round. He’ll look at your phone, refuse to repair it and whip it out and put a socket in and give you a new phone (same phone rental.) Which you then then pull out yourself, take the BT Shop and hand in, and get yourself a cheap phone.

    Which might, or might not, be something approximate to what happened.

  12. Another BT anecdote:

    When I moved house I took my old number with me. Despite working phone lines in the new flat, it took BT over five weeks to get the thing working, including broadband.

    That was 2009. They are still completely shit. Dealing with BT today is like a distant echo, or whiff, of how bad the 70s and early 80s were.

  13. Mr P-

    No, not a trimphone, it was actually after them I think. It was just compact in the sense of being smaller than a breadbox, which could not be said for the enormous mustard breeze block.

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