Isn't it amazing how a machine, a simple manifestation of man's hunger for progress, and to some, a simple and overrated collection of pistons, gaskets, nuts and bolts, can represent so many sentiments aspirations, and indeed so much about the state of a nation's psyche, outlook, and fabric?
I spent this afternoon at the National Railway Museum in York, negotiating the throngs of over excited school children, harrassed parents and open mouthed tourists as we walked between Mallard, the Intercity prototype, and many other examples of railway engineering that literally changed the face of travel.
As I stood looking at the streamlined surfaces and gracious curves of Gresley's A4 Pacific locomotive it occurred to me that the power that this nation once wielded was based upon our manufacturing prowess, our innovation, our eye for the way of the future...
During the time of Gresley, and that of Britain's earlier Locomotive designers and engineers, the imagination of the whole country was powered just like a locomotive, speeding forth toward a collective goal of brilliance, of perfection, of engineering and technological superiority, the only difference being that the fuel that powered the minds of our great engineers and visionaries was confidence, competence, and a keen eye for the new way forward, whilst the fuel that powered their great machines was coal, steam and electricity.
Contrast this with where we stand now as a nation; unsure of who we are or what we are meant to be doing, our manufacturing bases smashed and sold out to foreign asset strippers, our foundries and factories colonised by multi nationals.
We have gone from leading the world in technology, innovation, design and research, to a situation where even the most staunchly British company or institution is owned and administered by foreign money, and our hapless government think that it is cause for a tea party when they announce that seasonal anomalies, and governmental fiscal schemes have distorted the economy into the production of false indicators of an exit from recession.
Don't get me wrong. I am not going to spend the rest of this blog bemoaning the fallen stature of the United Kingdom.
Sure, it is a source of great disappointment to me that we have allowed our country to slip into this situation, but i prefer to focus my energies and thoughts upon the matter of examining how we can reverse and change the sorry place that we currently occupy.
We in Britain, or at least our political leaders, lack the drive, confidence and vision to afford ourselves the opportunity to make Britain great once more.
Where once our collective minds were filled with thoughts of greatness, achievement and rigour, it is now filled with meekness, under performance and turmoil.
The world is now standing at a massive crossroads in terms of the future.
The emerging industrial nations have all but cornered the markets of mass production, manufacturing and the like. We are unable to compete on the basis that the minimum standards that we quite rightly employ in the developed world in terms of health & safety and employee welfare etc make our products too expensive at source to really have a chance of posing any opposition to the dominance of these emerging nations.
The traditional manufacturing economies of the developed world are failing; Germany is struggling with rising joblessness, and Japan's economy has been flatlining for almost a generation.
So we must look elsewhere to gain a foothold for the future. The ethos that will dominate industry for generations to come will be the development of 'green' methods of energy production, manufacturing, and the construction of all the infrastructure that comes with it.
The British Government should seize the chance to steal a march on our industrial competitors by actively supporting the development and innovations that the British pioneers in these areas are developing. We should be actively promoting, assisting, and investing in the development for mass use of alternative fuel sources, energy saving municipal technologies, major capital projects such as the expansion of high speed rail, enfircement of energy efficiency measures in all new buildings and the like. Sure, it wouldn't be cheap, but we do have a way in which we could raise the funds to finance much of these plans;
Its called RBS Lloyds.
We own over 80% of RBS, and a sizeable chunk of Lloyds too.
I have already spoken in a previous blog of how i believe that the bankers have gone far too long in their irresponsible ways whilst enjoying impunity.
Well, the piper plays the tune I am afraid, and it is about time that our government shook off its media obsessed approach to running the country, looked deep inside itself for any last remnants of its guiding ideology, and harnessed the so far dormant power within these organisations that it holds, and finally start taking measures that will kick start our ailing traditions of manufacture, production, and excellence in innovation.
Over the coming years and decades, the world will be clamouring for green technologies and infrastructure in scales of demand that have never been seen before.
Britain can be at the forefront of catering to that ever growing demand, of shaping the industrial and environmental landscape of the world's commerce and industry in a way not seen for a century.
What we need are a new wave of grants and loans for research and development, manufacturing facilities, and export assistance for the companies that are devloping new technologies that will help the world to do business without sounding the death knell for our environmental future.
The government should be building a system that will release the might of the leviathanic financies that have been pumped into these banks in order to maike Britain a better place; to create jobs, smash the vacuum of hopelessness that is being exploited by the BNP and other extremists, to foster a new national confidence in our ability to build, innovate and lead, and our ability to be a true positive example to the rest of the world.
Put simply, to allow us Great British people to feel Great about Britain once more!!
Obviously, there are people that would claim that this would undermine the whole philosophy of the system that generated the wealth that made the country so propserous, but they are wrong.
Eventually, the government is going to put RBS, and its shares in Lloyds back up for private sale. The banks will, once mroe be entirely commercial concerns.
In the new industrial landscape that awaits us, we need not only banks that are experts, and that have experience in trading, investing, and participating in the development of these new technologies, we need strong, major banking organisations that are weaned away from their over dependence on the excesses of the City of London.
If the government were to direct RBS and Lloyds towards a green development agenda, these two organisations would be ready placed to be world leaders, and fiscal pioneers in these fields, once again putting Britain at the top of the tree, and opening up another inestment, devlopment, and innovative opportunity where once there was only hopelessness incompetence, avarice and failure.
I believe that it is true that we need a solution from way out in left field to provide us with an exit from the mess in which we currently lie as a nation.
There are many aspects to the problem, and the solution comes in many parts also. We are talking about joblessness, crime, poverty, aspit=ration, education, training, the list goes on, and the effects of one aspect exacerbates the influence of others.
We need a radical, almost revolutionary raft of measures to change the direction of the UK, and instill in the nation once more, the feeling of being brave and fearless pioneers.
More importantly, we need to usher in an age of financial recovery and propserity that is not based on over inflated house prices and irresponsible corporate trading, in order to finance the measures that we all wish to see living in a Liberal democratic society; true tax reform, free higher education, free personal care, improvements in the pay and conditions of our armed forces, nurses and emergency staff, expansion and reform of our borders to name a few...
Our steam engines once ruled the world, belching their thick smoke as they pulled the borders of the empire with them as they powered across the globe.
I want a Britain whose empire is based on innovation, development, excellence, and confidence, rather than the religious and cultural dogma of its victorian counterpart.
How ironic that it was whilst standing amongst the symbols of this counterpartm that the two extremes were joined together as a vision for a brighter, cleaner, more prosperous future...