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'Left Behind By Globalisation' Is Not An Excuse To Do Nothing

16/11/2016 10:59

The Western world has a problem. Many millions of people are angry. They voted for Donald Trump and they voted for Brexit. On the 4 December they may choose to vote for the far-right Freedom Party in Austria; or vote 'No' and against the government in the Italian Constitutional Referendum on the same day. Next year, perhaps, they'll vote Front National in France, or Alternative für Deutschland in Germany.

Why are people moving to the Right? Because in many cases they're poorer than they were 20 years ago; they don't like the direction their countries are going; and they don't trust their current leaders to take decisions that will benefit them economically.

The new, popular way to describe this growing anger is that people 'feel left behind by globalisation'. But to the very large majority of people this actually means nothing. They don't see the global picture - and frankly, why should they? All they know is that their lives are getting worse. Their communities are changing out of all recognition, and their children are facing long-term under- or unemployment. So are we, in reality, missing the point by covering it in fancy politico-economist-speak...again?

The fact of the matter is that, despite growing global competition, in the UK we've sat on our laurels and watched for decades as our manufacturing base has been eroded in favour of the service sector. At the same time, as we've just seen in America, British blue-collar working people and families have watched other people get rich while their communities slowly died. But this aside, what strikes me more than anything else is that we've all watched our young people become less and less equipped to find a job - any job.

Globalisation is a fact of life. But that does not mean that all we can do is sit idly by, occasionally wringing our hands before retreating back into the strategies that have failed countless times before. This time we must act. This time we must take the steps necessary to ensure we have young people who can compete in a globalised world - a next generation that will power our economy into the future. We must think global but do local. If we do nothing we are facing the modern-day equivalent of the French Revolution via the ballot box.

There are a couple of very simple steps we can take right now. Starting today.

First, we can invest funding to prevent unemployment, not just pay for it; ensure children are familiar with business and finance from an early age; place much greater emphasis on job skills and vocational training, and get our young people job-ready as a priority. And, most vital of all, plan long term and execute short term, starting in the most deprived areas of the UK.

Secondly, invest in teacher training, Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and, as in education 'star' countries such as Finland, begin to raise teachers' status to equal that of doctors, lawyers and engineers. Train teachers as thoroughly as doctors in return for greater autonomy in the classroom, and make teaching at all levels a highly prized, high-status profession.

If we commit to all these things - really put the money, time and expertise into ensuring that we deliver - Britain will be a stronger, wealthier and more productive place for everyone. But we must act fast, with true purpose and vision. So many, many times before I have seen good intentions go to waste; countless schemes and strategies announced with pomp and vigour, only to be discarded or the funding reduced a year later. We cannot let this happen again. Change must come now - before it's too late. We are rapidly running out of road to kick the can down.

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