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The Best of British

2012 – What will it bring?

There’s seems to be a two-tier mood in the UK at present. While undoubtedly there is a deep depression nationally about the dire state of the UK economy with thousands of people in both the public and private sector being thrown out of work and many old established companies going bust, there is conversely a strong buoyant feeling in certain quarters. We are also worried about the state of the global economy and, nearer home, the European crisis. But I’ve never been more pleased that we did not join the Eurozone when the UK had the chance in 1999, and I’m guessing Denmark and Sweden are similarly relieved.

 It seems to me that Europe is inexorably dividing itself into two economic regions; north and south, with Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and, bucking the geographic trend, Ireland, becoming hugely vulnerable, while the northern members France, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Finland, all historically far more stable and prosperous, being understandably reluctant to put themselves at risk by endless pay-outs to their southern EEC co-members. I can’t see it working too well with a dual-class system in an allegedly ‘common’ community, where the rich states call the shots. Rightly, I think, we have stepped away from this debate to allow the Eurozone to reach effective solutions for themselves. Ireland is obviously somewhat different; they are our nearest neighbours and we have already shown our serious commitment to them with a multi-billion pay-out directly from our coffers.

 So the UK, although obviously linked to Europe by trade, history and locality, has, I believe very sensibly, decided to maintain a sympathetic distance while concentrating on our own economic woes, which are considerable. We too have a steep climb to make in order to drag ourselves out of the pool of reckless waste and excess which had become the norm for much of western society. We need to revisit our core values, asking ourselves what is really important for Britain in the 21st century. Easy cash loans to the patently unfit has thankfully ceased; indeed it was this ridiculous practice which ultimately slaughtered our banks – I still can’t believe that any bank could ever think that giving cash to millions of people without the means, or even the ethics, to repay such loans (the so-called “sub-prime” market) was a great idea! Yet, unbelievably thousands of these ‘fat-cats’ signed up for this ludicrous scheme which ultimately brought them (and us!) to our knees.

 For me, I’d like to see a huge renaissance in British manufacturing. We are without doubt one of the most innovative nations on earth with a long history of world beating inventions, technologies and concepts far in excess of our geographic size or population. We virtually invented industry, as we know it today, and, one hundred years ago, we dominated world trade. Foolishly, with the post war slump and some really antediluvian thinking and lazy practices by so many British business leaders, we ended up with a deserved reputation for making unreliable rubbish which the world no longer wanted. The Far East grasped our lead and continues to hold it today.

 So what do we do? Well we’re not going to get back into coal mining, ship building or steel making; the rest of the world can supply these products cheaper than we could ever hope to achieve. Most heavy engineering is no good for us either for the same reason. But let’s shoot down a couple of urban myths: car production in the UK in 2010 was nearly 1.3 million, not far off its all-time peak of 2.0 million in the 60s and 70s. True, todays car manufacturers are foreign owned and almost no UK owned car production exists outside a few elite brands, but it doesn’t matter, these are still well made British cars built with great skill and care from largely UK sourced parts by a world-class British workforce.

 We need to play to our strengths, not try to compete on volume or price, but on design, innovation, quality, traditional skills and cutting edge technology. We can do this right now in a fairly modest way; indeed many British companies are doing just that. But we need to convince the short-sighted, dullard thinking of some British industrial management that we are still capable of making the best products money can buy – because we can – and we do!

 Short-sightedly and stupidly these idiots in the last three decades closed our manufacturing plants, made skilled men redundant, gave them jobs in call centres, and then exported the call centres and their new jobs to the Far East leaving them redundant and disillusioned. Those original skills can still be restored if we don’t leave it too long.

 What we need is a bit more of that slightly piratical entrepreneurship with which our Victorian forebears dominated the world in the 19th century, and a little less of the politically correct clap-trap with which our politicians douse originality and innovation. Successive governments have trotted out reams of apparently supportive rhetoric claiming to boost small manufacturers while doing precisely nothing. All innovators want is relief from interference and over-zealous legislation while having access to minor risk funding, allowing them to explore and develop their products and markets.

 Not a ‘big ask’ you might say, but you try and obtain funding from any of the banks when you walk in with your prototype world beater– they’ll ask about collateral and laugh you out the door! A far cry from the sub-prime idiocy they dreamed up a year or two back? The trouble is that crucial decisions on design, marketing and technology are being made by ‘bean counters’. The government’s trite assurance that the banks have been instructed to assist, support and nurture new small business ideas is just so much hog-wash. The banks simply take the safe and easy option and if ANY risk is perceived the new entrepreneur can whistle for his funding.

 OK, OK, I’m off on one of my rants again. But before they haul me off for a cold shower I’d better get to the point. We at Country Attire are privileged and delighted to be able to market many truly great British made products. Just a few are foreign made but under strict British quality control to ensure their consistent excellence. So may I commend you to view some of these British icons by clicking on the links below?

Barbour    John Partridge   Hunter   Joules  

Johnstons Cashmere   Viyella


Nikwax   LiBErty FREEdom   Beaver of Bolton  

The British Duffle Co.

These companies represent some of “The Best of British” and they have got it pretty well ‘spot-on’ when it comes to promoting their brands and products and we should be proud as a nation of their success. Indeed we should be studying their strategy in order to emulate such achievement for our own products and innovations.