the Harrowell option

A lot of other countries who are small economies compared to the USA or China, industrialised, and heavily dependent on foreign trade have a government policy of keeping a substantial local ownership stake in important businesses or important technologies. This may or may not be held by the State. Examples of such so-called “core investor strategies”; Austria, France.

If the post-Thatcher game of running a permanent and large current account deficit reintermediated through a huge financial sector, which is then expected to export financial services derived from this task, really is over, should the UK be doing something similar, and what would be your strategy for making such decisions? I recall Dominique Strauss-Kahn (I think) saying that he couldn’t understand why the British had let the DNA sequencer activities of Amersham International, at the time the market leader, be sold to the US; I’ve also read somewhere that the French general staff consider sovereignty to be a function of R&D spending.

I reckon that if we start disbursing cash to industry (and the European Investment Bank loan to Jaguar-Land Rover shows that’s happened), we ought to take equity stakes in the companies in question, so as to build up a base of interesting technologies. Yes, this makes me an unreconstructed social democrat; I think that’s a feature.

But even if you object to capital being allocated by the State, you can hardly suggest that it shouldn’t be allocated at all. And, as I said back in October, with no financial sector there’s only one game in town. And further, what else are we going to do? So that’s the Harrowell option.

I think it’s fair to say that Foxtons won’t be on anybody’s list. I have a plan for them as well. A tower of redundant fake-graffitied fake-Minis, in Trafalgar Square, toppled by a screaming mob beating them with their shoes. The Harrowell option remains open!

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