Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s plan to start making this country self-sufficient in semiconductors, which The Mail on Sunday reveals today, is a good example of adult, responsible government.
It incorporates several elements worthy of praise. It prepares us for a possible crisis over which we have no control if China somehow forcibly seizes Taiwan, which has a huge share in global semiconductor manufacturing.
Clearly, it would be better if the free world managed to deter such an event. Much political, diplomatic, and military planning is being devoted to ensuring Taiwan’s continued freedom. But powerful despotisms, as Russia has shown, do not conform to normal rules of behavior, and we cannot assume that such a disaster cannot occur.
Two recent upheavals, the first due to Covid and the second due to Ukraine, have served to warn all civilized countries that their apparently safe and stable societies are intensely vulnerable to shocks that previously seemed unlikely, even implausible. In such cases, a serious investment in the essentials of modern global industry can never be a mistake.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s plan (pictured) to start making this country self-sufficient in semiconductors is a good example of adult, responsible government.
At the same time it protects us against the possibility of disastrous shortages in times of global chaos and fortifies us against the inflationary dangers that invariably follow war, and especially war in energy-producing parts of the world.
For many years, British governments have considered any kind of industrial strategy to be foreign to our traditions, as it involves inexpertly “picking winners” or otherwise imposing excessive interference in the market. All of this would be fine if it had been a resounding success as a policy. But unfortunately the story of much recent British inventiveness, particularly the World Wide Web concept pioneered by Tim Berners-Lee, is that great British ideas end up being exploited by others abroad because no one here is willing to invest the necessary capital behind them. .
Imagine if, for example, Google were a British-owned and British-based company, and if Silicon Valley were in the Thames Valley or the Trent Valley.
One of the undoubted advantages we have gained through Brexit is the much greater freedom to subsidize and encourage local industry without breaching EU competition laws. Much of the current skepticism about the value and purpose of Brexit would dissipate if the government took greater advantage of those freedoms. And, of course, the resulting creation of secure, well-paid jobs would greatly boost the Government’s “levelling up” strategy.
Britain has certainly done very well in the shift from manufacturing to service industries over the past 30 years.
But the belief that a modern economy could depend entirely on such industries is going out of fashion, and the old view that a serious manufacturing base, preferably owned and controlled here, is necessary for a stable and growing economy, is on the way. back. .
Imagine if, for example, Google were a British-owned and British-based company, and if Silicon Valley were in the Thames Valley or the Trent Valley. Pictured: Google headquarters in Mountain View, California
There are clear signs that Rishi Sunak’s government is taking a thoughtful strategic approach to the country’s problems, while recognizing that it has much to do to overcome Sir Keir Starmer’s challenge.
There has been a serious recognition, sparked by the tensions of the Ukraine war, that defense spending has fallen behind.
Recent efforts to control cross-Channel migration have also been designed to have a real and lasting impact.
The Chancellor’s thoughts on semiconductors heralded an understanding in the Cabinet that, to remain in office, the Conservatives must be guided by the practical needs of the nation and its people.
These policies are not flashy and do not immediately attract big headlines. But, if implemented properly, they make genuine changes to improve the lives of Britons. And this is a more promising way to win back votes than a dozen clever slogans or an army of propaganda specialists.