According to Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, Labour will reboot UK growth. A key part of this will be the creation of a new committee to be known as the ‘industrial strategy council.’ This brings back shades of Harold Wilson. This quote from the Wikipedia entry for George Brown is telling:
After Labour's victory at the 1964 election, Wilson appointed Brown as First Secretary of State, making him the next-most senior member of the Cabinet, and appointed him to the new position of Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to curtail the power of HM Treasury.
The new Department of Economic Affairs didn’t last long, and despite Wilson’s optimistic ‘White Heat of Technology’ speech, I think the swinging sixties did more to inject some life into the British economy. But what is being proposed now has no intent to ‘curtail the power of HM Treasury.’ Perhaps all is not lost. The Blair/Brown governments eschewed anything that might be called an industrial strategy. Governments, in their minds did not—and could not—’choose winners.’ In the field of renewable energy technologies this blindness was extremely frustrating. Such thinking if replicated e.g. in Denmark would have prevented them from becoming world leaders in wind turbine technology. I think we can thank Tony Benn for the Blair/Brown ‘choosing winners’ aversion. Benn’s injection of aid to ailing businesses met with little success.
The industrial strategy council will come with a lot of baggage, which is to say that every industrial interest (such as we have left) will come with a prepared agenda, which will be based pretty much on business as usual. And I wonder who exactly will be invited to join this great body? With a name that includes the word ‘strategy’ I doubt it will get much more than a sniff from the short-term capitalists who have done so much damage to the UK economy.