A leading Brexit-backing economist believes the UK steel industry should be left to die just like BHS.
Andrew Lilico, chairman of Economists for Britain, today accused MPs who called for the nationalisation of Tata steel – but not of BHS – of being “hypocritical and preposterous”.
It was revealed today that BHS has filed for administration, putting almost 11,000 jobs at risk.
The company has 164 shops around the country, but has accumulated debts of £1.3billion.
In an article for the Telegraph, Lilico claims those backing Government intervention to save the steel industry are doing so because “steel seems so much more manly than a department store”.
He wrote: “We imagine sweaty men and sparks in the background and an element of danger and blistered hands and honest toil. That seems like proper work – not, of course, that modern steel working is really like that – and certainly not that the vast majority of us want to do anything like that ourselves.
“We’d rather be safely in an office looking at a computer or standing in a shop selling something. But we feel slightly guilty about that and enjoy the vicarious romance of our fake vision of a 'proper worker' existing somewhere.”
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who is facing thousands of job losses in his Aberavon constituency if the Port Talbot steel plant is closed, was shocked by Lilico's article.
He told the Huff Post UK: "Andrew Lilico's analysis is so poorly informed, and wrong, on so many levels, that it's difficult to know where to begin. His central argument is based on drawing comparisons between BHS and the steel industry, but the two are poles apart.
"The British steel industry makes the best steel that money can buy, and the Port Talbot works is breaking all production records. But our steel has not been able to compete on a level playing field due to the massive dumping of Chinese steel, crippling energy costs, appallingly poor procurement guidelines and punitive business rates. In other words, our steel industry has been hamstrung by the government's abject failure to develop an active industrial strategy, that would have given steel a fighting chance.
"BHS is facing a range of challenges, but they are all the result of what appears to be a succession of poor internal judgement calls.
"It is therefore absurd to compare the situation in which the steel industry currently finds itself with the BHS debacle. The former has been caused by government failure, the latter by a series of commercial mis-steps."
Twitter users also questioned the comparison of the steel industry with BHS.
Last week the Government announced it was prepared to take a 25 per cent stake in any buy out of Tata Steel's UK business, which the company announced it was looking to sell.