If we’re not careful our country will blindly walk down insignificance alley and leave the British people with no way out.
This is the conclusion I came to whilst visiting China and Germany in the last month. Both countries are comparably economically strong and both countries internationally important and, coming from gloomy old Britain I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I came from a nation desperately trying to seek someone to put the ‘Great’ back in to Great Britain.
The first step to such progress would be to elect some decent politicians who favoured long-term, strategic pragmatism over short-term political gain or blind ideology (both of these later attributes I would place with the current Tory-led Government, by the way). The eldest members of our families might remember the days of Empire but I can assure you that to many of today’s young global powers, we are potentially worthless.
We are no longer economically important, nor militarily, we’re running out of natural resources and the only significant export we had – British finance – has imploded through immoral, deregulated nonsense.
Our position on the UN Security Council is historic, our role in NATO decreasing, our relationship with the EU in denial and we’re merely keeping our seat on the G8 warm until one of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations taps us on the shoulder and asks us to move on. Our saving grace is the English language and the English legal system. Both still in demand across the globe.
I’m clearly being dramatic but all of the above might just be accurate before we know it.
So how can we create a future for a modern Britain that is relevant to the world but also to our people? What significance does a strong relationship with China have to the people of Bristol?
This question became blindingly obvious to me this week after reading about the potential the Bristol Port Company in Avonmouth in North West Bristol has for economic growth and jobs in Bristol. Avonmouth is the best positioned commercial deep water port in the UK with direct links to rail and motorway and immediate access to millions of consumers.
For international manufacturers to get goods via boat into the UK, Bristol is the place to be. The recent news, reported here on Bristol24-7, about greater investment into Avonmouth to allow for even larger freight provides a fantastic opportunity for the commercial development of Avonmouth as well as the creation of tonnes of apprenticeships and jobs. From the manufacturing powerhouse of China to the premier distribution port of UK Plc, Avonmouth, it’s globalisation creating local jobs in action.
Bristol is also internationally known for its creative industries (with Aardman as its godfather) as well as its technology. I only recently found out that the South West is the largest producer of silicon chips in Europe and second largest in the world after Silicon Valley. We have BAE systems, Rolls Royce and HP Labs – who started innovating with the latest buzz technology, cloud technology, some 15 years ago – as well as two leading universities, a significant chunk of the professional services industry (lawyers, accountants, banks, surveyors, brokers, etc) and so much more.
Some long for the days of Empire when our manufacturing base was the supplier of the world but, believe me, we have lots to be proud of in Bristol today. If we can position Bristol correctly, in both a national and international context, we can gain greatly once the markets start to pick up (assuming our incompetent Government steers clear of any more omnishambles or, failing that, someone better gets elected next time).
The key, I would argue, is sustainable business – the idea that a long-term strategic approach to business where emphasis is placed not just on the bottom line but on how social, environmental and ethical performance can add value to the figures too is vital to wider business performance. Bristol has great sustainability credentials but let’s start to really embed the idea of sustainability – in all of its forms – into the very meaning of what it means to be Bristol and wouldn’t it be great to see Bristol leading the way towards what we want Britain to become.
We should all remember too that we will soon be presented with the prospect of an elected mayor for Bristol, who can play a vital role in all of the above. While individually we might only have a limited impact on what happens nationally we can all play a very significant part in what happens locally. I would hope that all Bristolians recognise this opportunity to create the Bristol of tomorrow and grasp it with both hands.
Darren Jones is a local trainee lawyer, Prince’s Trust business mentor and member of the Bristol Junior Chamber. He is a former Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate and graduate of its Future Candidates Programme. You can follow Darren on Twitter at @darrenpjones