UK plc needs a long-term strategy

Why is it that, while any other organisation needs to have a strategy in place to survive and grow in changing times, governments seemingly get away without having one?

At a recent Industry and Parliament Trust President’s dinner, attended by an impressive list of chairmen and CEOs of major corporations, conversation centred on the rapid slide of the economy, the extraordinary collapse of the financial services which precipitated it, and how far legislators, politicians and business leaders should share the blame for the situation, or be answerable for delivering solutions.

Mervyn King is reported to have said that the strategy for steering the economy is “working effectively”; possibly, but at best it is a damage limitation strategy.

A clear sense of direction in Germany, Japan and, more recently, China, India and other Asian countries, has demonstrated the benefits of devising a clear industrial strategy, and boosted all these economies and their ability to compete globally, though not without hiccups.

The same is not true of Britain. While some would argue that it was innovative thinking that led to the UK’s boom in financial services and London as a pre-eminent financial centre, it was “the market”, driven by financial entrepreneurs, that created the boom, not a government-inspired long-term strategy. Hence the absence of any plan to handle failure or to spread the risks through ensuring a diversified economy.

So where to start? Well one positive outcome of the current situation might finally be the realisation amongst policy makers that UK plc needs a long-term strategy. In which case, why not focus on harnessing the creative, innovative, and non-conformist thinking that still characterises British enterprise at its best. It seems that we recognise and celebrate its expression in the arts, media and fashion, yet fail to nurture it through strategic and coordinated investment in the necessary incubators.

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