Miliband wants ‘patriotic’ manufacturing approach

By Alex Stevenson

Politicians should patriotically support British manufacturing even if it means backing companies based overseas, Ed Miliband will say later.

The Labour leader, in his latest major speech calling for "responsible capitalism", is expected to argue that ministers should be doing more to help manufacturing without resorting to protectionism.

He will call for more "pride and patriotism" in a speech which argues that manufacturing and engineering are key to an economy based on long-term productive growth.

"We should not be embarrassed about the need for more patriotism in our economic policy," Mr Miliband is expected to say in his speech to manufacturing organisation EEF.

"It is patriotic to have an active government using all the means at its disposal to give competitive British firms every chance to succeed.

"That patriotism should be rooted in our knowledge that British firms can and do compete with the best in the world, in the belief that they deserve our backing, and in supporting fair competition so that British firms can make it on to the pitch to compete in the first place."

The leader of the opposition will criticise the coalition for downgrading the engineering diploma from being worth five GCSEs to just one and their lack of support for the 'Made in Britain' mark backed by industry – but not by ministers.

"We need more pride and patriotism in our industry, in our inventors, designers, and our makers," Mr Miliband will add.

"It is about inspiring our young people with what is possible through engineering innovation and excellence, and about building the brand of British manufacturing around the world."

Labour has struggled to strike the right balance in its approach to manufacturing ever since Gordon Brown generated controversy with his 'British jobs for British workers' line in 2007.

Mr Miliband's arguments about support for manufacturing being patriotic irrespective of whether firms are headquartered in this country or internationally owned will be viewed as an attempt to move the debate on.

"Opposition to industrial activism was wrong," he will acknowledge. "Too often opposition to protectionism became an excuse for believing the best way to help British business success was to stand aside.

"And governments underestimated the extent to which we need pride and patriotism – infusing everything from government to culture – if British business to succeed."