The Nick Timothy plan

If your initial diagnosis is wrong then so too will your cures:

As a share of our total economic output, manufacturing fell from 27 per cent in 1970, and 17.4 per cent in 1990, to less than 10 per cent today. As production shifted to Asia, manufacturing declined across all Western economies, but nowhere as severely as in Britain. In America, Germany, Italy and France manufacturing plays a bigger role in the economy than here.

The result is fewer productive and well-paid jobs, and in particular fewer such jobs in the regions outside the south-east of England.

Sure, manufacturing output is a smaller share of the economy. But not because manufacturing has shrunk, because it hasn’t. It’s only a few percent off highest output ever. Other output has grown more, that’s all.

It’s also not true that manufacturing is lots of high paid employment any more. Precisely because it is easier to increase productivity in that sector than in services. This means that for any given level of output we require fewer people doing it over time.

What is actually happening here is that manufacturing is becoming like agriculture. A few percentage points of the economy, employing a few percentage points of the labour force, but still providing all the food/manufactures we desire.

Therefore:

We need a truly radical change to this economic model. Without it, there can be no levelling up, no great improvements in productivity or pay, and we will not make the most of Brexit. Such change will require us to smash shibboleths. Ever freer trade with developing economies may not work as the conventional wisdom assumes. Aggregate demand matters. And Brexit – supposedly a danger to our wellbeing – may well help us. Already supply chains are reforming and European imports are down.

This is not about bringing back the industries of the past, but building the industries of the present and future.

The industries of the future aren’t manufacturing ones. But Tomthy would have us design the economy to try to capture those industries in manufacturing which don’t arise. Not going to work, is it?

20 thoughts on “The Nick Timothy plan”

  1. It’s time we mechanised train driving. I mean, if we can seriously expect to mechanise car driving, it’s got to be easier to mechanise driving a vehicle that can’t be steered and whose progress along the ‘road’ is subject to frequent safety signalling. That would be a major productivity boost for all train users.

  2. “and in particular fewer such jobs in the regions outside the south-east of England.”

    I’m pretty sure the south-east of England is the area of the UK where manufacturing makes the smallest relative contribution to the economy?

  3. decnine, it is perfectly possible to land a plane on auto pilot (Autoland). Not sure I’ d trust a plane without a pilot though. And driving a main line train (non metro) is a bit more involved than you may appreciate…….
    I’d also hazard a guess that rail users wouldn’t see any monetary benefit to getting rid of the drivers (we know the government would spunk any savings on something else) and the RMT / Tossa would still be around to foment industrial action.

  4. Richard Beeching

    @ Addolff

    Yeah, you also need to look out for hazards like the self-driving cars.

    Correct on the unions, it’s the latest strike about reductions in “safety critical personnel” AKA train guards?

  5. Yes, cos we can all make ourselves rich by selling each other houses at ever higher prices and buying expensive coffees, while working as PR agents and diversity advisers.

    I guess the last few years have completely passed over the heads of economists. Security of supply means nothing to them.

  6. @Addolff
    “Not sure I’d trust a plane without a pilot though.”

    Hmm. Not so sure. If there’s no one up front, there’s no one to hijack.
    Also no one to lock the door and drive into a mountain (Lufthansa).
    Also no one to lock the door and dive into the ground (China 2022).
    Also no one to keep pulling back on the stick in a stall, despite the stall warning. “Cos I wanted it to go up, dur”. (Air France).
    Although to be fair, in the latter case, there was only one real pilot on board, and he didn’t have the wit to punch the stupid P2 unconscious when he thought he’d taken over (but being an Airbus, there’s no force feedback on the games console to tell the P1 the other guy is competing with him. The plane averaged the two opposite commands and crashed into the South Atlantic).

    I’d gladly be rid of those “pilots”. Not so the QF32 guy: happy for him to drive.

    The Nick Timothy drivel is another example of false metrics leading to false data leading to false conclusions.
    When I left Uni, I entered an electronics job in manufacturing.
    Some 5 years later, I was a freelance contractor, hence part of the ‘service sector’. The job was much the same, and still in manufacturing.
    Many people were like me: and hence we all showed as a drop in manufacturing jobs and an increase in service sector jobs.
    Same people, same jobs, Different damn statistics.

    GIGO redux.

  7. Comrades! The industries of the future will be built by central government, which is all wise all seeing and has never made an incorrect forecast. I can see our glorious destiny in my crystal balls.

  8. Tim the coder, i’ve read/seen too many sci fi books and movies where the computer goes rogue and kills the humans, educates itself and kills the humans or does exactly what it was told to do by the designers and kills the humans, to put my faith solely in a computer.

    I will grant you that both accidents on the Docklands occurred when a person was driving…..

  9. “What is actually happening here is that manufacturing is becoming like agriculture. A few percentage points of the economy, employing a few percentage points of the labour force, but still providing all the food/manufactures we desire.”

    But all countries want to be self-sufficient in food – that’s one of the prime requirements for independence. I think we’re now finding out that our manufacturing supply chains need to be self-sufficient as well.

    Yeah, you can say that a country which isn’t will be less likely to go to war. But that country is also not able to withstand blackmail either.

  10. Tim the Coder,

    “When I left Uni, I entered an electronics job in manufacturing.
    Some 5 years later, I was a freelance contractor, hence part of the ‘service sector’. The job was much the same, and still in manufacturing.
    Many people were like me: and hence we all showed as a drop in manufacturing jobs and an increase in service sector jobs.
    Same people, same jobs, Different damn statistics.”

    Yeah. I’ve often asked these people about tea ladies vs the company that puts in coffee machines, or canteens vs the McDs over the road. The former would both be classed as “manufacturing jobs”.

    It’s also the case (at least based on two of my clients) that most “manfacturing jobs” aren’t what people imagine: low-skilled sticking things on a production line. I do some freelance software work for a manufacturing company and about 10% of the jobs are assembly. The rest are in engineering, software, sales, marketing, user support, QA, user training and accounts.

    Here’s what I think Nick Timothy thinks: Northern people are thickos, and manufacturing gives jobs to thick people. Both of these are wrong. You want jobs for thick people? It’s things like warehousing.

    And “levelling up” is already starting to happen. And not because of the promise of high-speed choo-choos, or because of Northern Powershite, but because all the internet stuff means you no longer need your software team or web marketing team within the M25. Six months before Covid hit, a manager told me that he’d been tracking the difference in salaries between programmers in London and programmers in Manchester and they were getting closer. There’s growing numbers of people moving to places like Stoke because it’s cheap and you can do your job from there. Mark my words, in 5-10 years, people living in London are going to be talking about how fucked they are with the level of negative equity that they have.

  11. Driverless trains aren’t new, Vancouver built a driverless metro system for Expo ‘86 and 32 years later not only is is still running they are building the 5th expansion to the system, has one of the best safety records for a metro system. They don’t have guards/staff on each train, actually not even at every station so a different model can work no matter how much the London rail unions complain.
    For a metro system with high frequency and need to change demand for events or seasonal changes a driverless system makes a lot of sense as it’s a big cost saving and there’s always staff nearby by, for long haul the safety and other factors vs cost is going to be different.

  12. There are many things which simply are not economic at the scale of one country. Chip fabs for example. And as regular readers here will know I used to be the world’s only scandium wholesaler. Absolutely no point in each country having one of them….

  13. Tim the coder, i’ve read/seen too many sci fi books and movies where the computer goes rogue and kills the humans, educates itself and kills the humans or does exactly what it was told to do by the designers and kills the humans, to put my faith solely in a computer.

    Just shows that those sci-fi boys have never done any serious coding. I’ve never had an unbounded conditional lead to the death of the firstborn. As for stuff like AI, it’s useful for detecting nebulous conditions like image analysis and saying “Is my cat carrying a mouse”, then just classifying images into “Yes he is” “No he isn’t” and training a fuzzy logic on them, but that’s about it.

    Mouse-free data science

    The rest of it is just “If…then…else” and “for…while…until” statements.

    So if you want a robot uprising, someone is still going to have to code the bugger.

    KILL ALL HUMANS!

  14. @BoM4
    “You want jobs for thick people? It’s things like warehousing.”
    Or MP.
    Diane Abbott. Theresa May. Jeremy Hunt. And the most punchable face in politics: The Gove.
    And Gordon ‘is a moron’ Brown, with his eternal cry of “Expropriate! Expropriate!”. Which brings us back to the robots 🙂 Anyone for Cricket?

  15. “The industries of the future aren’t manufacturing ones. ”

    The problem is…. What is going to replace them and give “meaningful employment”..

    When a fair fraction of the population is without “meaningful employment”…. We’ve got to that level.. and we’ve got to deal with it..

  16. Nick Timothy; One of PM May’s two head honcho advisors. Sh1t advise to sh1t PM

    Rarely read his scribblings in Telegraph for above reason

    @decnine

    The 1960s Victoria Line is fully automated, as are most subsequent. The drivers are passengers on the lookout for a suicide so they can claim PTSD compo

  17. So we have to fight “over consumption” and also, simultaneously, increase our industrial output.

    I’m not sure that they link the dots very well.

  18. Could be me, but with progressing age I’ve begun to admire Alexander the Great more and more.

    May have been an utter bastard, but at least he stood right at the front of the battle lines.
    As opposed to the modern pussies who shout “should” , and can be absolutely guaranteed to be found nowhere near..

    Can we agree that anyone who has the temerity to tell anyone else what they “should” do, could at least have the decency to show up and….well…. Take The Lumps?

    Too many people think the rules of the Marquis de Fantailler apply to Real Life™. And the Other Side is very much aware of this fact….

  19. I don’t really like ponytailed computer nerds calling me a L-User. Putting them to work in a factory fitting bumpers to cars would do them the world of good.

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