I want more people to have jobs. I want more jobs to be better paid.
One of the myths perpetuated is that the “right of centre politicians” in the UK want cheap wages. Ironically it is we who want to limit immigration to give people already resident here more chance of a job, and to keep wages at a better level for the employee. It was Labour who relaxed our borders, encouraged large numbers to come, and created strong competition to keep wages down for many jobs. This is something Unite as a Union would wish to change, as do Conservatives.
The main positive way to create better paid jobs is to drive forward higher productivity. If we work more effectively we can be paid more. Higher productivity does not necessarily mean working harder. It can be done by working smarter. It may mean providing employees with more computer and machine power to assist them with their tasks. It may mean better training. It may simply mean managers and employees sitting down together regularly to review how jobs are done, to identify ways of doing them better. Doing it better may mean faster, smoother or more easily. It may mean taking longer but cutting the wastage and failure rate.
Quality is not the enemy of lower cost and higher productivity. It is the friend. Doing things right first time saves time and money overall, even if it apparently takes longer and costs more compared to dashing and getting some wrong.
Nor do Conservatives want to favour the few and the south at the expense of the many and the north. All governments that I have witnessed in the UK during my adult years have wanted to create a better balance between north and south, between London and the rest. All have tried a variety of policies, some different, many the same. The main emphasis has been on creating more public sector activities in the regions away from London, and pursuing a regional policy which seeks to subsidise jobs and enterprise in the slower growing and lower income areas. Well intentioned though these policies are, there is no evidence that they usually work. The list of lower income higher unemployment locations in 2013 is very similar to the lists in previous decades.
So what does work? Our past tells us that a cluster of talent, skill and competition can work. The Potteries became the centre for ceramics, and the North East the centre for shipbuilding and steel in their day. Now the Thames Valley has a useful cluster in hi tec industries, and London in financial and business services. The question is what can other great cities develop as their special expertise?
The past tells us that a transforming entrepreneur or two can make a huge difference to a city. The Potteries owed a great deal to Wedgwood, and then to a range of talented designer-potters in subsequent decades and centuries. Twentieth century Us success owed a great deal to dynasties of the Rockefellers and Carnegies. Great cities have to live with the riches and talent of the few, as they can produce jobs for the many.
The past tells us that government rarely transforms a city and creates that energy and dynamism that success needs and breeds. What government can do is ensure taxes are competitive, transport links good, the potential workforce well educated. Modern industry does not need a large amount of low cost labour. It needs limited numbers of dedicated professional managers, engineers, designers, salespeople and the rest. Above all industry in the UK needs a new generation of Brunels and Dysons, Wedgwoods and Bamfords.