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Surrender: How British Industry Gave Up the Ghost, 1952-2012 [Hardcover]

Nicholas Comfort
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
Price: £20.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

19 Feb 2012
British industry at the start of the New Elizabethan Age looked a world leader. It led the world in the production of cars, trucks and buses, heavy machinery, aircraft, ships, chemicals, locomotives, household appliances and heavy electrical goods, and looked poised to do so with jet aircraft and computers. Its export trade was thriving. Now, sixty years on, many of these industries have virtually disappeared, while those of our competitors have flourished. Much of what remains is under foreign ownership. We have lost most of our export markets, and many goods essential to our economy have to be imported. How did this happen? The traditional explanation for Britain's loss of competitiveness blames outdated working practices, failure to invest and modernise, bad management, bloody-minded unions, the loss of Empire and the ability of Germany and Japan to start again from scratch after the war. All this is true, but the picture is far more complex.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback (19 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849541450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849541459
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A timely and significant book --Iain Wright MP, Total Politics --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

NICHOLAS COMFORT has had a lifelong involvement with politics, having worked as a journalist on the Daily Telegraph and the Sun, been a special adviser to a cabinet minister and served as a government public relations consultant. His books include How to Handle the Media and The Politics Book, a 900-page general reference book.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Losing the plot 30 Mar 2012
By ian2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent and well researched book by an industrial correspondent who has lived through and closely observed much of the post-war period described. It charts the fortunes of British industry from a world beating position for many manufacturers at the end of WWII (even if the public finances were shot from financing the war effort and demand stilted by lack of availability of consumer goods and consumables). With unemployment now around 8% it is striking that in the immediate postwar period there was virtual full employment (which also contrasted with the mass unemployment of the 1930s). In several key areas British manufacturing was ahead of American rivals in 1950. Although the US and all European countries have suffered an inexorable decline of manufacturing as a proportion of GDP in the last 60 years, Britain seems to have fared worse than most and, in particular Germany, France and the US. We still have a few success stories among major manufacturers notably Rolls-Royce and BAe Systems but in many sectors major British companies have withered or disappeared altogether, GEC being perhaps the most spectacular example. The book charts the story of the decline of particular manufacturing companies and sectors such as shipbuilding and aerospace and the final chapters deal with the particular effects of government intervention (or lack of it at key points)and the influence of the EU. Finally, a list of turning points and decisions which were key to the decline of manufacturing described earlier. There were many incompetents as well as a lack of vision of what was best for Britain in finding its way in the changing world in these years - as opposed to what suited the egotism or self interest of some of the drivers (including some notable trade unionists). Read more ›
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By Kleio
A clear, detailed narrative across key industrial sectors which offers some analysis & briefly lists some main blunders. These include the UK's missing the boat in helping set up & shape the EU in the mid-50's. We have been playing unenthusiastic catch-up ever since. The author presents a concise economic/political history of the period from the manufacturing perspective for those unfamiliar with the terrain. I have several quibbles. Firstly, I would welcome a simple table comparing manufacturing as a % of GDP & employment for the UK with countries such as France, Germany & Italy. All decline is relative & should be put into context. Secondly, I would prefer to see the author diving deeper into British culture as a way of trying to explain decline. Economics & politics only take us so far. For example, Comfort is scathing about the perceived incompetence of Classicists at the heart of the civil service whom he assumes had little understanding of - or interest in - manufacturing over this period. At the other extreme we have Communist shop stewards with their own class war agenda creating havoc across industry with unofficial strikes. As an educationalist, I agree with most of what Comfort has to say about education, especially the City's attraction for Oxbridge science graduates which has so damaged British R&D. At the other end we have the inability of our state system to cater for the bottom 50% of the ability range through proper (& expensive) vocational education since we raised the school leaving age to 16 in 1973. The lack of job placements as factories closed compounded this problem. All of this stems from the British class system which remains as entrenched as ever, affecting our society & economy in a way it does not those of our major competitors. Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Ben
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book should be compulsory reading for MPs and senior businesspeople.

The quality of writing is superb and it's a gripping and sobering read - at times reading like a thriller - hard to put down as it comprehensively documents the tragic story of British self-inflicted industrial demise - like a slow motion car crash.

The story is divided into 3 time-frames - from the post WW2 phase of ambitious national self-belief and technological advantage, thru' 1970s industrial strife, and the subsequent years of defeatist, short-sighted de-industrialisation that continues today.

As someone who has lived through much of this period, and marveled at the tragic betrayal of our great companies by the political class, greedy investment banker/asset strippers, hopeless highly-paid management and obstructive unions, the detailed analysis of individual companies and markets rings true. Factually accurate detailed explanations illustrate what happened to a host of former national champions and household names like ICI, GEC, Hawker Siddeley, Leyland/MG Rover, Coutaulds, BSA etc etc.
It shows how German, French, US, Japanese & Italian governments consistently and doggedly support their industries, whilst consecutive UK administrations have little or no economic patriotism - most recently placing multi £bn train orders to support German workers at the expense of UK manufacturing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read by all people in power and by those who think they...
Great book, should be a must read by all people in power and by those who think they understand what went wrong with the UK and why (you will be wrong). Read more
Published 1 day ago by Ken
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent Book -highly detailed
Published 1 month ago by Mr. V. C. Miles
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good read
Published 1 month ago by Sam
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Never received book by kindle
Published 3 months ago by malcolm slack
4.0 out of 5 stars Phew!
A rip-roaring ride through the decline of British Industry over the last 60+ years. Stuffed full of facts and figures it is nevertheless a real page turner. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Peter Burke
4.0 out of 5 stars treasure trove of information, but painful to read
it is an excellent book, which covers most of my working life. Indeed the trials and tribulations of many of the companies for whom I have worked. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Andrew Fawcett
5.0 out of 5 stars British Industries at their Best and Worst!! 1052-2012
On reading this authers Essay in the Saturdays Daily Mail I decided to read his Book
it was due to myself being the Job Market over this period of time,and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Ron/s
4.0 out of 5 stars A sobering tale of a lost inheritance
My working career has coincided with the last 40 years of this sorry saga and based on my experience, Mr Comfort's analysis is accurate and moroever easy to read. Read more
Published 21 months ago by P E Vickery
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Much of this book is dreary recitation from contemporary articles of history familiar to us all. There is a lack of critical analysis and I found this book dreary, read like a long... Read more
Published on 24 April 2012 by Gethin Darklord
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