THERE are risks attached to the patriotic economic policy being eschewed by Ed Miliband. The Labour leader was part of a Cabinet that injected £150m into MG Rover shortly before the car firm collapsed. “I’m not saying you always make the right decisions,” he said yesterday.
The Doncaster MP also failed to sufficiently neuter the charge of opportunism; he was, again, a key player in Gordon Brown’s government that set in train the procurement process for the controversial Thameslink contract which led to this major £3bn order being awarded to German firm Siemens.
That said, the “responsible capitalism” espoused by Mr Miliband should contain a strong commitment to British manufacturing at its core – and especially when it comes to the awarding of lucrative public sector contracts.
A careful balance needs to be struck. If there is a presumption in favour of UK firms, it could lead to government departments or town halls paying over the odds for a major contract at a time when the need for value for money is paramount if the budget deficit is to be cut. They also have an imperative to be fair to potential bidders from across the EU.
That said, there should be nothing to prevent all contractors from being asked, as part of the procurement process, to show how they intend to support the local economy.
A welcome vote of confidence was provided yesterday by Japanese car giant Nissan which intends to build its new model at its Sunderland depot under a £125m investment programme which will create 2,000 jobs.
The political challenge is devising a set of business policies that maximise the UK’s potential. And that will take more than token gestures.