Thursday, April 20, 2006

MP bites dog

The most amazing thing about this Telegraph piece isn't that the economic analysis is so trenchant, but that its author is a successful politician:

I do not wish to diminish the gravity of events at the Peugeot plant when I say that there will also come a time when the forces of international capital will decree that there is no longer any economic justification for this space to be filled by the manual labour of this particular semi-skilled artisan.

The ancient word-plant will be shut. The gerundive turning-sheds will fall silent. The lathes will cease to hone the metaphors, and no sound will be heard in the vast grammatical assembly lines save the drip-drip-drip from the cracked skylight and the scuttling of rats in the stock of unused similes.

It will be a sad day, my friends, but no matter how tragic the prospect may now appear, it would be very odd to expect any kind of solidarity from my journalistic brethren. Will they down tools at the News of the World? Will the Sun come out in sympathy? Could I even expect any kind of secondary picketing from the lads and the lasses in The Daily Telegraph sports and arts departments? I rather fancy not.

....That is why I very much fear that Tony Woodley of the T&G and Derek Simpson of Amicus are laughably mistaken if they believe that the workers of Peugeot in France will strike in protest at the loss of 2,300 jobs in the UK.

....The workers of France and Spain will not go on strike for the workers of Ryton, for the simple prudential reason that they know that international capital will always be able to relocate, just as Peugeot itself is building a new factory in Slovakia and global manufacturing is moving to China, and whatever their sympathies for families in Coventry, the workers of France will feel that their first duty is to themselves and their families.

Now put like that it sounds cruel and ruthless; and yet what Marx also failed to understand was that this capitalist system was, in fact, the best available protection for the interests of the working man, since it is this very flexibility of labour, and mobility of capital, that allows new jobs to be created and all the joy and excitement of industrial innovation.

....The key point, the point the unions wilfully ignore, is that it is precisely these labour-market conditions that make the future job prospects of these car workers so much better than on the Continent, and (as I think I said two weeks ago) it is those 1980s reforms that mean we in Britain have unemployment running at about four per cent, as against 10.2 per cent in France.

One day, perhaps one day soon, shiny new products will emerge from gorgeous refurbished factories on the Ryton site; just as one day this columnar factory will gracefully yield to some gorgeous pouting new agony aunt or sudoku variant, and thanks to the vibrancy of the industry, and the flexibility of the labour market, your columnist will happily find employment writing headlines for Poultry Breeders Weekly.

It's the market and it's the only way.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley

If he's re-elected, James Buchanan's Nobel may have to be rescinded.

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