Greg Delaney, Richard Tudway and Jacqueline Darby respond to an article by Larry Elliott
I couldn’t agree more with Larry Elliott that we now have a chance to build a new economy for the country (What now for Britain’s economy – a new direction, or business as usual?, 3 September). However, I disagree with his declinist “potted modern economic history of Britain”. Historians like David Edgerton have shown that, far from Britain being on an inexorable downward trajectory from the second half of the 19th century, the UK over that period became a global economic power, outpacing many other modern industrialised nations, despite fighting two world wars. We then enjoyed the additional benefit, by the 1970s, of North Sea oil, which allowed us to become a net exporter.
It was when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 and started selling off many flourishing state-owned industries that the economy was fatally weakened. Her beliefs – that “markets know best” and that the state should not interfere – still influence policymakers. Other countries – notably Germany and China, but even the US – have always put funding into industries deemed vital to the economy, or which promise future technological advantage. The UK does now have a chance to invest in our future, but does anyone really believe that this government, with its umbilical connection to Thatcherism and free markets, will get behind a radical overhaul of the economy?