Blog : But do we want British Leyland back?

Keith Adams

Jeremy Corbyn

I make no apology for my politics – I’ve always carried a torch for the left of centre approach to government. It’s not a perfect system, but I always felt that Socialism was just a little fairer to Society as a whole and, when properly executed (note, I said ‘properly executed’), it is just a little fairer for everyone. Hence, then, my interest in the current Labour Party leadership election – it’s certainly asking some interesting questions of the party’s past and future, sparked by Jeremy Corbyn’s inclusion in the race – and apparent poll lead.

Those with any interest in politics will be following his effect on the leadership election with interest. He’s from the traditional left of the party, and speaks in a way I’ve not heard in a long time from a front-line politician. He talks about anti-austerity, re-nationalisation and nuclear disarmament. And that’s left the more traditionally centre-left politicians, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, rather on the defensive.

On the re-nationalisation issue, it’s interesting that, after all these years, British Leyland still remains a politically toxic issue. When answering Corbyn’s claims that bringing vast swathes of our infrastructure back into public ownership, our beloved car company came sharply back into focus. My favourite, Liz Kendall, said, ‘nothing new about Corbyn’s politics’ while Yvette Cooper said what we don’t need is, ‘a return to the days of British Leyland’.

Why not? Thing is, it amazes me that British Leyland’s failure in the 1970s and ’80s could still be referred to by front-line politicians, more than 40 years on. For one, it could be argued that the company was a creation of Labour or, more precisely, Tony Benn, through the merger of BMC and Leyland. This was nothing to do with nationalisation.

Sadly, British Leyland’s execution was shonky between its inception in 1968 and its initial collapse in 1974. But it wasn’t the fact that the company was then taken into Government ownership in 1975 that killed it – no way. If anything, it saved it. Instead, it was poor management, union belligerence, interference from Government (both red and blue) and a poorly-executed model range, that killed BL (both before and after Government ownership) – a badly thought out merger of unequals.

I’d not be averse to a dose of re-nationalisation of what’s left of our infrastructure – and, if that means people start bringing up British Leyland again, then all the better. It’s always nice to have our cars in the limelight, whatever the reason.


Some of us probably do want a return to the days of British Leyland


Keith Adams


  1. The problem with Jeremy Corbyn is that he would like to turn the clock back to May 1979. All the laws brought in to restrain the trade unions would be repealed. No secret ballots, the return of the closed shop, wildcat strikes. Corbyn and his supporters see the unions as representatives of ordinary people. Renationalisation would result in the unions being able to hold the state to ransom again.
    The hard left see it as people power,others see it as collective suicide.
    BL was a microcosm of all this. A job for life, double digit inflation fuelling wage claims, no quality control, particularly at Cowley and Solihull and a feeling by the labour movement that the future was theirs. Too many people of influence had an anti-business agenda and seemed to think the world owed Britain a living.
    It has taken a generation to recover from all this collective madness,and going backwards is not the answer.

    • Since we are talking about politics and the 1970’s there is a point about Labour vs Conservative of the era that most people miss. Double digit inflation, oil shocks and the Dollar coming off the link to gold in 1971, which then meant Central Banks could 33:1 new money into existance, was more to do with fuelling inflation that wage claims. In the late 1960’s under Wilson inflation was low and the government was running a budget surplus. It was the Heath government who wrecked the books not Wilson or Callaghan. If Labour won the 1970 election and continued the ‘hard slog’ approach to economics the UK would have been in much better shape when the almighty wallop came in 1973 as oil rocketed. The Barber Boom was wreckless money printing if ever there was. Labour then cleaned up the mess. By the mid 1970’s the established industries were collapsing and revoloution was potentially in the air. The car industry at the time had to be subsidized to keep it going. As economic and political historians have said, 1974 the year of unreality, 1975 the year or realization and 1976 the year of implementing reality. The tough medicine implemented after the ’76 IMF bailout and in my opinion this was the result of the Barber Boom rather than BL or Miners pay claims, pushed workers into a corner and so eventually the old order of Union management crumbled and the Winter of Discontent. What if Jim Callaghan called the election in late 1978? Labour was running well into the 40’s opinion polls, inflation was receeding, the deficit rapidly shrinking. Its likely whoever won the election would reform union laws. Its easy to imaging that a rejuvenated Labour party in control of the oil revenue of the early 1980’s would have invested in industry. Yes governments were weak in the 1970’s but its too easy just to blame unions and leftist agendas. after August 1971 banks and other financial institutions could print money with abandon. Follow the money and you find the problem.

  2. The unions want nationalisation so that they can hold the country to ransom again.
    All these state owned assets were privatised because ;
    1. Tory dogma
    2. To break up the state monopolies and prevent the unions from holding the country to ransom.
    The latter reason is why New Labour did not renationalise all these utilities. Memories of the 1974-79 period when Britain had to endure an annual public service strike were still strong.These disputes resulted in wage rises that were then passed onto the customer and fuelled inflation.
    Nationalisation was meant to benefit the nation as a whole, in practice it was for the benefit of its unionised workforce. We must not get sucked into this fantasy again.Is the grass greener on the other side?
    To answer your question. Nationalisation is related to union legislation, because most of the people calling for it are on the hard left, and see the anti-trade union laws as an attack on the working class.In their mindset, shop stewards are representatives of ordinary working people, they are after all elected.

  3. To add to my ramblings.
    Alan Johnson has rightly pointed out that New Labour did a lot for poor people through legislation. However New Labour is vilified by the unions and the hard left for not delivering a repeal of the trade union laws and nationalisation. That is all that seems to matter to them.
    That is why the unions are backing Jeremy Corbyn.

  4. Yet more ramblings. Nationalisation of the railways appeals to an ignorant public who thinks that Network Rail, the organisation that maintains the infrastructure, is in private hands. Network Rail is owned by the state and its funding comes from the taxpayer.
    Nationalisation means taking over the private train operators. National rail strike anyone?

    • As a regular train user, the services are much better than they were 20 years ago. Privatisation means less investment, as without any private sector ownership, there is no one pushing the government to invest (apart from voters).

      Pre-privatisation, the roads lobby had it all their own way. As much as I love cars, I don’t like sitting in them in gridlocked rush hour every day.

      Nationalising the railways would just be dogma, not about improving services at all.Twenty-five years ago we were closing stations, now we’re opening them.

        • I was going to decline to comment further, I have ranted enough today, but we have in the pipeline an article about the rivalry between road and rail for government investment, assuming the awfully nice editor chap approves.
          How many out there know what a class 47 is?

      • One thing that definitely has improved on the railways since British Rail is customer care. Train crews, platform staff and ticket office staff are far more polite than some of the miserable, unhelpful staff that British Rail used to employ. I do recall asking some moron in Newcastle Central which platform to use, and being told to look at the bloody board. Presumably as his job was checking tickets, he probably considered doing anything else was not part of his job description. Nowadays staff are largely the opposite and far more helpful and friendly.

  5. BL were a product of the era, when the old guard of a job for life met with modern profit seeking industry.

    If BL were to reform, what is there left to nationalise?

    Of the old stable, MINI are doing well under BMW. It could be argued that the 5 door MINI was what the Rover 45 replacement could’ve been. A modern day Maxi (and I mean that with reverence to both products), while the countryman was what the Rover badged Freelander was aiming for. If they threw in a 3/5 series sports saloon badged as a Triumph or Riley you’d almost have a full Rover range…

    Jag and Land Rover are going from strength to strength under Tata.

    MG had a shaky start, but the buying public are starting to notice them, especially the 3.

    What would he do – buy the Rover name back from Tata, buy the tooling for the axed Accord from Honda?

  6. having worked in both the private and public sector, the idea that one is iherently more efficent than the other is a nonsence. There definately is a case for public ownership of industries that are effectively dependant on state subsidies or monopolies (Railways, banks, utilities, post office). Nationalization is not some kind of creeping evil and it must have been at least partially successful or private companies would not have been falling over each other to snap them up on the cheep.

    The reason that MT went for privatization was about reducing the deficit. Unfortunately you can only sell the silver once. It was typical british short termism.

  7. I am not not totally against nationalisation per se, but I object to it being sold as being for the benefit of the wider public when in practice it was used as a tool to give the trade unions power and influence and a hold over the entire country.

  8. Like Keith, I make little secret of my politics when asked – I’m a neoliberal, supporter of Thatcher’s early years, but not so blinkered by devotion as to forget she got things wrong too.

    And despite the fact that my views are so different from his overall, I find myself agreeing with Keith to a degree here. He’s right; nationalisation saved BL at a point when it came close to drowning in its own duplication and mismanagement. Things didn’t necessarily improve immediately – and I regard that era as the beginning of the end when you look at everything that happened – but ultimately the period of nationalisation enabled MG Rover’s life-support for the next thirty years.

    Is nationalisation a good idea now? Yes, with the right industries – public necessities such as public transport, the NHS (Which has been eroded far too far in my view), the GPO etcetera ought to have some degree of state input. Anything which could be termed a luxury service or item – anything NOT vital – is better in the private sector for me.

  9. I declare that my politics are centre right and whereas I am broadly pro free enterprise and small government but also pro union. Basically, any politically extreme views are wrong in my view.

    I agree that the failure of British Leyland was complex and can be attributed to many causes including bolshie unions, marshmallow management and government meddling but we can be thankful that a lot of it still exists and, after a period of retrenchment has seen some good growth recently. Its failure was likely inevitable no matter whether it was publically owned or privately owned.

    I am generally against nationalisation due to a lack of trust in the government’s ability to run anything and the level of waste that is endemic in the public sector (this is not party political) – naturally there are some areas that should not be private – the police for example – but others should be i.e. who remembers that British Airways was once nationalised?

    As for the car sector the best thing to do is for governments and unions to promote investment in the UK and provide an environment for it to succeed (I would like to see a lower rate of corporation tax for manufacturers for example). It would also be good for the unions to agree to no industrial action deals for time periods in exchange for suitable pay increases directly related to profit or other quantifiable performance metrics.

    With regard to other sectors such as rail privatisation has generally worked well with passenger mileage having soared since privatisation and many new trains being delivered. Have a public sector bid by all means e.g. East Coast Trains bidding against Virgin, First et all and let the best proposal, by the objective criteria set out in OJEU, win whether it is public or private.

  10. I agree that nationalisation saved BL in 1975, but paradoxically also sped up its market share meltdown. The job for life culture resulted in more strikes and the company running out of money again in December 1975.
    The Ryder report destroyed the independence of Rover Triumph an Jaguar.
    I believe that had Bernard Jackman and his Rover Triumph team been allowed to continue the job they were doing, they would have got on top of the quality issues that afflicted the TR7 and SD1, and that both Rover and Triumph brands could still be with us today. Instead, Leyland Cars, fronted by finance man Derek Whittaker and ex-Austin apprentice Richard Perry, ran the whole show from afar, and any meaningful quality control went out of the window. Ironically Richard Perry was later the boss of Rolls Royce cars.

  11. Just for the record I am not right wing, but I would like to see the return of capital punishment for;
    1.supporting Manchester United
    2.Driving German cars at Tesco
    4.watching anything on TV involving Simon Cowell
    5. Mobility scooter users
    There is probably more, but I’ve probably antagonised most of you already!

    • Haha. I can add to the list:

      1) Ladies to put their makeup on whilst on a busy commuter train
      2) Anyone who breathes through their mouth
      3) All tipper truck drivers
      4) Anyone who takes an ‘all inclusive’ holiday
      5) Anyone who calls themselves a consultant

      I too could continue….

  12. I find it interesting that occidentals regard government-run institutions as inefficient, when occidentals left various former colonies in the far east with very efficient civil services after the sun set on the Empah. Get a passport or an ID card in, say, Hong Kong or Singapore, and you’d be wondering just where this notion of an inefficient state comes from. Perhaps it’s not who helms the organization—public or private—but the quality of people it employs and the integrity behind the system. There are, after all, some woefully run private enterprises, too, and the 1960s’ corporate raiders (like Slater Walker) who claimed to be making British industry more efficient through their dealings in the private sector never did anything of the sort. Greed was their motivation, and integrity stood in their way.

    • OK public services in Singapore and Honk Kong may be efficient however today Singapore is effectively a one party state and Hong Kong is under Chinese rule. I’d like to see the reaction from everyone in these places to wild cat strikes and how the authorities deal with them. I’m a floating voter and Id like to keep my right to put my cross where I want to.

    • The thing about Hong Kong is that the state was – and remains, despite the PRC – tiny compared with the European norm. This was principally due to the influence of Sir John Cowperthwaite, who rose through the local civil service to become Governor in 1962. When asked to come up with a recovery plan for the colony after WWII, he noticed – much to his satisfaction, as a classical liberal – that it was recovering rather well on its own, without any intervention, and recommended that this state of affairs should continue. When he was appointed Governor, he reasoned that since the local people had never asked for him to govern them, he had no right to impose the sort of heavy-handed laws, regulations, and social experimentation that was fashionable in the “mother country” on them. So he didn’t.

      It used to be said that the Hong Kong tax code could be written on the back of a postage stamp, and it wasn’t much of an exaggeration if you had neat handwriting. Britain’s is now published in two, very hefty, closely-printed, volumes.

      Yes, states can be efficient and effective when they mind their own business and stick to their core functions. Building cars isn’t one of them.

  13. From a non-political viewpoint, my experience of private vs non-private organisations can be summed up like this:-

    When I attend a meeting with a private sector client they will have two or three attendees, each with a good reason to be at the meeting, the agenda will be short and actions will be agreed.

    At meetings with non-private sector clients as many people will attend as can be fitted into the room, few will be directly involved in the reason for the meeting and may simply be ‘shadowing’ someone else in the meeting to ‘gain experience’. Others will be an assistant to a deputy to someone who can’t attend the because they are away on a training course. The ‘Purpose of the Meeting’ will be the first item on the agenda. This will be discussed at length until it becomes obvious that no one knows what the meeting is about or why they are there. A further meeting will then be called to discuss what items need to be on the agenda for the real meeting. The real meeting will then be arranged for 6 months time because everyone will be on holiday or in training courses in the meantime.

    When the real meeting does finally take place, no decisions can be made because they need to pull in someone off the shop floor/clinic/control-room who ‘knows how it all works’. This person can’t be spared though because they are covering several colleagues who are on holiday/sick/training, and they themselves are only agency staff because there’s no money to pay for permanent staff.

    OK, some of this is exaggerated, but not all of it.

    • I don’t think you are exaggerating at all..
      I have many years experience in both sectors and your summary pretty much sums them both up perfectly. ..

  14. Unfortunately the last opportunity for the old BL to be owned by the people was back in 2005 when the ‘New Labour’ decided it would rather pour billions into the banks than keep 6,000 workers gainfully employed in actually making something….unfortunately I just can’t see how the UK will ever have a Government owned car manufacturer again – where would they start – certainly not from scratch.
    Nationalisation is a bit of a dirty word with lots of people – it brings to mind rampant Unions making unrealistic demands for its workers – you only have to look at the current situation with the tube drivers in London; £50k+ a year and 40 days+ holiday – what’s not to like? – the majority of commuters who are at their mercy can only dream of getting such a salary package.

    • Would you have invested your savings then in MG Rover in 2005? I certainly would not have, so I would not have expected the Government to do the same with my money.

      The business in 2005 was unviable and could not have been returned to viability without massive “illegal” state intervention.

      The fatal error was the failure to provide the 200 million clean-up assistance to BMW for Longbridge, which would have seen some 5+ Billion coming from BMW to rebuild the Longbridge plant 5 years earlier that triggered BMW looking for an exit from Rover ownership.

    • I’ve been told that London Underground normally struggles to keep staff even with all those perks.

      The long & unsocial hours being a big part of it.

      It’s said an economic turndown is the best recruitment drive they can have.

    • It is not that the drivers are overpaid, but that many of those commuters are underpaid, my reasooning: cost of a 1-bedroom flat in London £300,000, six times the drivers salary, double the amount the mortgage lender will advance.

  15. Funny how Mrs Thatcher was prepared to sink probably the best part of £2bn of the circa £2.7bn that the UK government sank into BK but New Labour weren’t prepared to sub BMW a paltry £200m.

    Especially considering that BLMC had an Allegro & a Marina to show for their recent labours whereas the Rover group had a MINI & the forthcoming Rover 35.

    And the Labour party these days wonder why people brand them anti-business?

  16. Are we not confusing the private versus public ownership debate with the issue of competition versus monopoly?

    Like others, I’ve worked in public and private sectors, in big and small organisations. One workplace was a Government agency which lost its monopoly supplier status and had to compete for work. That shook the place up, forced efficiency changes and resulted in many pointless jobs being scrapped. But we remained in the public sector, I believe we were then at least as efficient as private sector rivals. I left just before it was sold to a private concern. I doubt it would have survived long in public hands though, given the inherent difficulties of being in the public sector. These include silly Treasury rules aimed at keeping public sector borrowing down, but actually preventing investment. Run out of stationery in February? Wait until the new financial year in April before you’re allowed any more, for example. These days there’s also the utterly counter-productive public procurement rules from the EU, such as OJEU. It can take a well-run public body 6-8 months to jump all the hoops and place a contract by tender, whereas 20 years ago 5-6 weeks would have sufficed.

    My conclusion is that it would be harder to run a competitive business in the public sector in these cut-throat, globalised but more regulated days than in the 1970s, when BL did at least survive in a competitive market place. Without Ford, Vauxhall and others fielding rivals, our car market would have resembled its Iron Curtain counterpart.

    However I can see benefit in some vital services being under State control. I’ve never seen a solution to the conflict between minimising consumption of energy for ‘green’ reasons and the suppliers’ incentive to maximise sales, and therefore profits, for example.

    Oh, and finally Union militants in my view are anarchists, not socialists. Remember how they brought Callaghan down and put Arthur Daley’s hero in Number 10?

  17. Woohoo, Corbyn for PM! I look forward to three day weeks, power shortages, and transporting my family in a lovely Allegro. Or maybe a Marina if I’m really lucky.

  18. Keith, I do not believe you can claim that Nationalisation saved British Leyland at best you can say it gave it some life support to deny the inevitable demise as volume manufacturer.

    British Leyland when it was nationalised was already finished as a volume manufacturer, as the failure of the Allegro to recover ADO16 market share meant that the nationalised company came into being without any significant presence either in terms of market share or dealer networks in export markets and its domestic market share freefalling.

    Tony Benn’s shameful piece of political meddling which was the Ryder plan, which pretended that “by magic” British Leyland could re-establish itself in the European export market to take some 25% of the whole European car market, with some 35% of domestic sales, was nothing but wishful thinking by Benn and the Union Leaders who helped create it, to avoid facing the reality of what needed to be done restructure the business.

    The criminality of the Ryder Plan was that whilst it squandered tax payers money which should have been invested in new models on keeping the volume business afloat. So it left British Leyland’s world leading and profitable products underinvested, the Range Rover and XJ6/12, its testament to quality of these products that they both survived the British Leyland years. Also the product that could have been saved, the Stag was allowed to go to wall.

    I can’t help but feel that Benn’s and the Unions left wing politics were partly at play here, aspirational products like a 4 door Range Rover was not going to be a priority, when your politics dictate that ownership of such a vehicle represented a crime against the proletariat.

    This of course is the danger of Nationalisation, not that the state runs a business, but that it allows the opportunity for Politicians like Benn and Corbyn to meddle with Social Engineering and or avoid the reality of the situation.

  19. I look forward to three day weeks.

    Actually my memories of the 70’s mostly good. The power shortages meant sitting as a family by candle light round a parafin heater in the living room. It was a bit like camping in your own house. A few hours without TV, laptops, mobiles, tablets etc has a certain appeal

    I remember the bread strike too, home made bread ever day when you got in from school

    Oh and I would love to have an allegro. Series 3 for me though

    • Sorry but Chairmans Corbyn and Commissar McCluskey have decreed that a Series 3 Allegro is aspirational.

      You will drive a Series 1 and be proud.

      That’s an order!

      • Compared to Chairperson Merkel of the EU who have decreed that a 3 Series is aspirational.

        You will drive a 1 Series and be proud.

  20. Nationalisation would not bring the kind of investment in the British car industry that we see nowadays with private ownership. British Leyland always had to go cap in hand to the government for extra funding.

    The most successful car Rover ever produced was their last. The Rover 75 was designed with money from a private company and it showed what they could do with proper investment and not having to beg for money from governments. I dread to think what it would have looked like had they still been nationalized but I’m pretty certain it would have had Morris Marina door handles.

  21. ” I’ve always carried a torch for the left of centre approach to government. It’s not a perfect system, but I always felt that Socialism was just a little fairer to Society as a whole, and when properly executed (note, I said ‘properly executed’), it is just a little fairer for everyone. ”

    ” I’d not be averse to a dose of re-nationalisation of what’s left of our infrastructure. ”

    Keith, I totally agree with you. As you say, Socialism aims to be fairer to everyone – how can you possibly disagree with, not support this objective?? It fits a more civilised society – working for the benefit of all as opposed to the individual.

    I would not be against some re-nationalisation. Essential services, basic infrastructure needs to be of a uniform standard. The private sector is not suited to this objective as it will focus on the more profitable areas, regions.

    How, though, will Labour achieve power again, Scotland having been taken by the SNP ?

  22. I am in NZL but I would be surprised if renationalisation would extend to Motor companies. Back in the 70s the motor competition came from Europe and Japan (not north America to any large degree, nor Korea) but now it comes in abundance from Korea, China, Japan , Thailand (not all Jap cars are Jap cars now) , North America(making smaller cars), South America, Europe etc. Re-nationalisation could(and should in my opinion) extended to things like core services such as domestic power, domestic gas lines and phone lines (or fibre) but I don’t think nationalisation will go back to the motoring industry. If JLR starting making Rovers again, that would be nice, and some nice entry level nice cars from Tata (eg the City Rover properly built -I thought it was a nice looking car), that could work too. The best thing the government can do is to provide tax relief and grants to special motoring projects. Perhaps subsidise alternative fuel conversion / electric conversions.

    • Over at your neighbouring continent AUS, there are calls to build a national car industry, given that Ford, Holden and Toyota have thrown in the towel and are shuttering Australia factories. Australia-only cars such as the Commodore and Falcon could be no more, or in the future RHD conversions of US vehicles.

      There are calls to build cars to meet Australian needs, big cars, maybe a little basic compared to European competitors, but built locally. Whether someone will start it up, or if it is nostalgia in a global industrial economy we shall see.

      • I think the main reason ford failed in Australia was because those falcons were rubbish ever since the XD and they were therefore only selling 10 thousand a year. We had them at work and they were nearly as bad as my discovery2. The cops wouldn’t even buy them because there was a reasonable chance most of the time there would be something non compliant on them. Holden and Toyota only gave up in Australia because the supply chains said if Ford was out then so are they.

  23. … and as you point out nationalisation was not the reason for British Leyland’s decline (certainly not the only one anyway – state ownership would have encouraged workers to strike, made it a safer thing to do).

    With effective management, strategy and less union influence British Leyland could have been rescued by State ownership but then been returned to profit and the private sector.

  24. ….. recently, I got a sarcastic comment about the amount of time I spend here “what you talking about tonight – exhaust pipes?” They have no idea !!!

  25. Does it have to be complete nationalisation or can we not learn from the past and our competitors.
    Is there a middle way?
    Perhaps the state should have maintained part ownership of BL as Germany does with VW, perhaps that would have prevented the BMW fiasco?

  26. British Leyland was nationalised as it was the biggest producer of motor vehicles in the country, and one of the biggest vehicle producers in Europe, and its collapse would have led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and a major loss of face for the country. I don’t blame Labour for doing this in 1974,but the sad thing was it led to no improvement at British Leyland and the company was heading for oblivion by the end of the seventies.

  27. Union participation in the US is about 20% , UK its about 25%.

    In the US the majority are government workers, not sure about the UK.

    I am slightly left of center by the US classification , probably makes me a fascist in the UK, it seems that unions are an anachronism . Needed certainly in some dangerous industries like mining etc.

    The current nature of car manufacturing makes it almost a “white collar” job ,I visit the car plants and see auto workers working wearing tee shirts and shorts.

    The company unions like in Germany and Japan with a representative on the board seem to be a better solution. Detroit is moving that way.

    The public sector unions are an entirely different problem, if you have been reading recent US news the police union protects a lot of bad officers.

  28. I have to say, none of the Labour leadership candidates impress me, or look like potential future Prime Minister’s. I honestly can’t see a return to nationalisation on the scale it was. I’m not against the principle for some Public services, but not the car industry.

    I am in a Trade Union, so not a Union basher, but don’t agree with everything they say or do. In any case, it would take generations to undertake such a change of policy and none of the current politicians will be around then.

  29. I had a minor operation earlier this year and my (private) surgeon nicely summed up the public vs. private work ethic.

    I asked how long it would be before I could get back to work. His response?

    “I see you are self employed. I should think you’ll be up for doing some light duties within 5 days. That said, the last gentleman that I carried out the same operation on was worked in the NHS and took 5 weeks off.”

  30. How did other countries cope?

    Fiat was always family run, but effectively the national car company of Italy. Perhaps with the family keeping tight control, poor management wasn’t an issue. These days they’re riding high with 500 riding the coattails of MINI’s trendy retro small car market. The acquisition of Chrysler, and Jeep, gave them a genuine off road company when SUV sales are booming (and Maserati / Alfa Romeo SUVs planned. Who can blame them – even Jag are producing one)

    VW was in a bad way until NSU front engined FWD air cool knowledge was placed into a tidy Guigario designed body to become the mk1 Golf. The company went on an agressive acquisition spree in the 80s and 90s, now has an entire range of brands and models sharing platforms and engines.

    Renault, nationalised by the French government, had struggles, has axed a lot of its range in the UK, but has a useful alliance with Nissan (who are riding high, literally and figuratively, on the SUV trend) and an interesting tie up with Mercedes which has led to the Smart ForFour and Twingo being codeveloped, as well as Mercedes using the Twingo as a small van.

    • It is an opinion that Renault was nationalized post-war as a punishment. Renault having been too collaborative with the Nazis

  31. JC is the gift from Heaven to the Conservatives, he will lead the Labour party into a position of unelectability, in soccer yob parlance “six easy points”

  32. Having worked in the private sector and the public one I can carefully say that pogress on getting things done in the public sector is slow,and Cliff’s comments about meetings is a bloody good description!

    I am of the centre left persuasion, but I am against e-nationlisation of many of our institutions. Although MT, and then New Labour cocked up privatisation by creating behmohs like Centrica and the contraction of the energy market, private investment has helped this country although sometimes damaged it.

    Instead of re-nationlising bus and train services, and the energy industry we should be puting in proper regulation. London has a very good regulated private bus service that could be translated across the country. This would allow for unprofitable routes to run, in exchange of the profitable runs in areas of the country where County Councils are having to review their funding for these services. Licenses should be tougher for the energy companies to make sure that they reinvest large percentages of their profits in energy security and clean energy. Another example is the housing market we are one of the few countries in the world without a regulated letting market – even the biggest free economy in the world have tougher regs than we do!

  33. Interesting to note that in all this talk of being for/against nationalisation in certain sectors – rail, utilities – we already have state run organisations in those areas….just not run by the British state.

  34. Does anyone know the world combined sales og MINI,LandRover & Jaguar and MG Roewe?.It could be fun to see what they sold and compare it to see when the last time BL had (roughly) those same sales.

  35. Bl were only saved with tax payers money in 1975 because of the 200 000 factory jobs dependent on the company and the 48 or so factories in operation at the time, otherwise it might have been another story ie broken up and sold off or parts closed.
    I believe in nationalised industry held in prosperity for the nation for future generations, run by an efficient management, if that was ever possible.
    The French and Germans have a strong car industry because they knew how important it is for future engineering and prosperity for up and coming generations. We lost our way along time ago and patriotism died along time ago in our home built products

    A shame really. UK Plc has got it s just deserts today with not a lot left of British industry and major profits being shipped back to mainland Europe.

  36. The sad thing is while Mini and Jaguar Land Rover are doing extremely well, they probably have, at best, 5 per cent of the new car market. These are fairly niche, expensive products that don’t compete head on with the likes of Ford and there is no way these two companies could ever be the same size as British Leyland was 40 years ago.
    It is a shame that a very large chunk of our car industry has gone in the last 40 years and we are now dependent on multinationals, who in the case of Ford and Peugeot have stopped producing cars here, Vauxhall maintain a token presence and the others could move production abroad at very short notice.

    • Not sure on the latest numbers but I understand current total UK car production volumes are higher than ever. Mustn’t forget the contribution made by the likes of Honda, Nissan and Toyota who have effectively taken the place of Ford and Vauxhall.

      We also should recognise the changed manufacturing landscape of the auto industry over the past few decades. There is less manufacturing of whole cars in one country, let alone on one site like Dagenham in its hey-day. Instead we have whole sub-assemblies manufactured in dedicated factories and then shipped to a vehicle assembly facility. The UK is very strong in this area, building around 2.5 million engines per year with about two thirds going for export.

  37. Many of the posters here clearly don’t understand what socialism is. Professor D Wolfe has made a recent You Tube video for the purpose of explaining the term to an increasingly interested U.S. audience. His video explains it quite well, but in the context of UK car making and BL let me explain.

    BMC = capitalist controlled. All the profits and policy controlled by the owner.
    BL = state capitalist controlled. All the profits and policy controlled by government bureaucrats.

    When BL was nationalised it did not become socialised. Public ownership means controlled by the government not the people. The whole electoral process in the UK is not very democratic and government policy does not reflect the will of the majority people.

    For BL to have become truly socialist it would have needed to have been nationalised or baled out, but then immediately given ownership to the management and workers or and customers.

    Having large nationalised companies in state capitalist control can have some benefits to the public. The government can spend the profits from it’s nationalised industries on defence, education, health care etc.

    By subsidising loss making industries government can have a policy of preserving skilled jobs and supporting component industries and economic zones.

    Many capitalist controlled companies have been directly subsidised by government to particularly in the defence sector. Many private owned companies have robbed the government blind, either independently or as a result of cronyism with traitors bribed to trick the government into bad purchase decisions.

    So in the context of BL my guess is that the goals for nationalising and sustaining those car companies were to avoid the perceived even greater costs of mass unemployment and skill drain. No BL and the British public would then buy foreign cars that would drain large amounts money out of the country.

    Some people think that government shouldn’t be tasked with running any company or business concern for they will make a muck of it. This is simply not true, sometimes they do make a muck of it, sometimes things go well.

    This propoganda that demonises nationalisation is preached by those convinced by, but whom generally have no proper understanding of objectivism and monetarism. Which both are based on unscientific faith based economics, complicated enough to impress yet confuse it’s deluded followers.

    This complex ideology which recommended de-nationalisation and de-regulation was invented by bankers and accountants, whom had little power at the time. There policy ideas were put in place in the UK and used by the IMF and World Bank and the results are plain to see.

    Governments no longer have much control, neither do workers, nor capitalists, entrepreneurs, aristocracy nor rich or poor people. The Banks have seized control. Golman Sachs owns the world.

    Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Economic & political scholars all over the world including recently the IMF have declared Nationalisation could in fact be a good thing after all.

    Should BL have remained nationalised, should BMW been given tax payers money to build R35? probably yes they should have. French cars firms get loads of support, Germany EU policy alone massively helps the VW group. Obama bailed out GM. Ford have taken the UK’s and Sweden’s money and run off with it. Ford don’t build cars in the UK any more only bailed out GM.

    What of the ‘market knows best’ capitalist car manufactures. Well they’ve gone bankrupt, been bought up or moved to China. It is inevitable that only one or two major European & US manufacturers will survive. Freedom of choice eh!

    Japanese cars and car companies, notice how they are built, how their factories are run, ‘jobs for life’ ’employee envolvement’, I wonder if they will suceed…

    • In response

      “When BL was nationalised it did not become socialised. Public ownership means controlled by the government not the people.” You forget Tony Benn failed experiment of Industrial Democracy in BL.

      “Having large nationalised companies in state capitalist control can have some benefits to the public.” A nice theory but reality you don’t, history has taught us that business does not prosper in the state. Mainly because they lack the commercial focus to drive efficiency. For example by the late 70’s most of Britain’s nationalised industries had become dependent on the tax payer to keep them in business.

      “By subsidising loss making industries government can have a policy of preserving skilled jobs and supporting component industries and economic zones.” Can only be justified in the short term, anything more than that is locking skilled workers in to unprofitable work, when they could and should be released for profitable work.

      “So in the context of BL my guess is that the goals for nationalising and sustaining those car companies were to avoid the perceived even greater costs of mass unemployment and skill drain.” Correct but the Ryder Plan showed the dangers of public ownership, when the Government and Unions were not honest enough to confront the true problems of the Business and instead guide the business down the road to nowhere at the expense of the Tax Payer. More successful was the Thatcher / Tebbit strategy of keeping BL alive to allow time for the Japanese to establish a viable car industry in the UK.

      “Which both are based on unscientific faith based economics, complicated enough to impress yet confuse it’s deluded followers.” I would argue those that promote Nationalisation are still clinging to Keynes Economic models developed at the turn of the 20th Century. Certainly relevant then when most production was focussed on essentials and we made virtually everything we needed in the UK. Clearly we know from history that these model were no longer working by the mid 60’s and certainly has no place with the modern Global Economy. For example you stimulate domestic demand in the current UK economy and the biggest effect will be to suck in imports of manufactured goods from China.

      “There policy ideas were put in place in the UK and used by the IMF and World Bank and the results are plain to see.” I worked in Eastern Europe in the early 90’s and had a chance to see first-hand where the alternative got you. It was not a pretty site. I would also note that in Sweden for example, a country that made Socialism work for a while had to confront the fact that the money ran out in 92, and since then they have followed (in a quieter Scandinavian way) the Thatcherite path, with denationalisation and have gone further denationalising Schools and Hospitals (30 min average waiting time in A&E anybody getting that in the NHS?).

      “Japanese cars and car companies, notice how they are built, how their factories are run, ‘jobs for life’ ’employee envolvement’, I wonder if they will suceed…”

      Built – Very little different to how we build cars in Europe and US.
      Factories are run – Very little different to Europe and US, and are generally weaker in profitability.
      jobs for life – This has gone to the same place final salary pensions have in the UK private sector.
      Employee involvement – having worked in Japan I have found it to be a much more rigid business culture than in the UK and Scandinavia and most importantly extremely sexist so wasteful of some 50% of the national skill base.

  38. Let’s be honest most of Labour would still be worshiping the feet of Tony Blair were it not for two things – Iraq and Afghanistan.

  39. I very much doubt Comrade Corbyn could nationalise the remnants of British Leyland. All that would happen is BMW and TATA would move production abroad, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Even if he decided to nationalise the other car manufacturers that are based here to form some kind of modern day BMC, they would do the same. Anyone who thinks a modern day British Leyland could be recreated, producing everything from Minis to HGVs, is very much deluded as the world has changed since 1975.
    However, it would have been nice if British Leyland had become a success and the company existed like a British VAG Group, being a huge player in the world market and a massive success like its German counterpart.

  40. @ Keith Adams, had British Leyland worked and produced successful products, with a far better industrial relaitions record, then most people on here would love to see latter day Austins, Morrises, Rovers, Triumphs and MGs on the road, with British Leyland being bigger than Ford. Yet we all know what happened in the seventies, often dismal products, terrible industrial relations, government bailouts and collapsing market share. It’s no wonder the company went through a long, slow death as even when they introduced good products in the early nineties many people still associated Rover with British Leyland.

  41. To be fair to Corbyn I think he is talking about natural monopolies like the utilities and the railways. Since these are monopolies, they tend to work poorly in the private sector.

    As for BL, it was merely part of the story. I read a book about the development of the Mini, and there was plenty of barmy stuff going on in BMC. It BMC’s financial failure that lead to BL in the first place.

    The British car industry was plauged by poor management, under investment and bad labour relations long before BL. The Mini was never properly costed, the factories producing it didn’t talk to each other, almost acting as competitors. Problems in the design were ignore, such as the floor plan leaking, and allowed to go into production with those flaws, even when people inside the company pointed out the problems.

    The British car industry got away with this through a combination of weak foreign competetion and good designs that people wanted. Once other countries build up their industries, a dud like the Allegro was always likley to prove fatal, public ownership or not.

    • @ Bartelbe, the creation of British Leyland was a disaster and destroyed once respected marques like Triumph. BMC and Leyland should have been kept well apart and apart from the survival of Rover and Triumph under Leyland ownership, the huge bus and truck operation would probably still be a success. However, I do reckon BMC, which waa starting to falter in the late sixties, would have ended up being nationalised in 1974 and slowly fading away.

  42. My dad always had British cars and this talk of bringing back BL makes me feel nostalgic. I remember wanting so badly to be able to drive his Austin Maxi when I was three. Of course, I now know what a pile of junk it was but that dream was there. And that dream was further turbocharged by the Rover 3500 P6 that he bought second hand. Still remember that whoosh of Buick inspired torque when he put his foot down!
    Since I’ve allegedly grown up, I’ve only driven sensible foreign cars. My current car is a Toyota Verso which my wife loves but which I think of as being a washing machine on wheels – reliable white goods but no more than that. So it was with pleasure that I visited our local Land Rover dealership to check out the new Discovery Sport. I was very, very impressed indeed. Even the wife was quite smitten. Could it be that I might be able to buy a British designed and built car and not regret it?
    In fact, I’m starting to wonder if British Leyland needed to have been the utter disaster it turned out to be. Or if JLR as it is today could be the kernel of something grander? Jaguar and Land Rover are obviously going from strength to strength but I dream of something rather ridiculous. Somehow, somehow, JLR and Tata get their mitts on MG, Mini, Triumph motorbikes and Aston Martin Lagonda. How would a new British (or Anglo-Indian) British Leyland equivalent work out? One thing that would work better in my fantasy world than in the post 1968 Leyland merger real world is that MG and Mini are basically assembly operations rather than independently minded car companies that don’t want to be merged in the first place. I think such a combined mega group might work out like this:
    • Jaguar – as it is now
    • Land Rover – as it is now
    • Triumph – the British VW, with a dash of Alfa and Saab thrown in.
    • Rover – the English Volvo. Imagine a cross between Mercedes, Volvo, Bentley and Land Rover. Maybe some of the style of that Lincoln Continental concept that debuted not so long ago as well? I can imagine new model Rovers sitting very nicely indeed in the showrooms alongside Land Rovers and Range Rovers, especially if they were inspired by the spirit of the P6, the P8 and the SD1 rather than the fuddy duddyness of the P5 which Rover was obsessed with the 90s.
    • MG – a British SEAT but with added cheap roadsters: maximum fun for a minimum price. All based on old MINI running gear but with more contemporary styling, rather like SEATs are based on old Audis.
    • MINI – as it is today but a wider range and majoring as much on technical innovation as it does on style. Cars that would have pleased Issigonis and Moulton as much as Twiggy.
    • Aston Martin – The British Ferrari. Range split into two – the front/mid engine GTs and the mid engine supercars (the V cars).
    • Lagonda – an alternative, super high tech to Bentley.
    • Daimler – a proper British (!) alternative to Rolls Royce
    Mind you, I do wonder if such a combination would cannibalise itself. The overlap here between MG, MINI and Triumph (as they’re traditionally thought of) might also be a concern. Another concern is how far Rover could be resurrected but if SAIC were so interested in the brand, then memories of the Phoenix Four in what is a relatively small market like the UK are pretty irrelevant; it’s a valuable resource for the company to expand so make use of it!!
    Oh well, one can dream.

  43. Is the Government not a nationalised industry? Is it not run by another nationalised industry in the shape of the Civil Service? Did MP’s not just get a double digit pay rise? Is the NHS not a nationalised industry?
    All utilities, rail,buses,roads and affordable housing should be Government run for the good of the country’s infra-structure. BT and the post office should also be re-nationalised.
    All the above that have gone into private hands are either heavily subsidised by the taxpayer or criticised for price fixing in one way or another.
    Banks! do I need to say more.
    All the national assets that the Government has sold in the last 30 years has merely ended up making the lucky few rich at the expense of the rest of us.
    There are some areas of life that should not be run for profit and all the above are prime examples.
    I for one hope that Corbyn gets elected, at least we will have a choice of Government instead of the various shades of blue we have now.
    I don’t want a massive leap to the left but I don’t want to see a million people relying on food banks in 21st century Britain, or the gap between rich and poor getting ever larger like it is now.
    A nationalised car industry will never work unless its market is protected so BL was always destined to fail.
    And Unionism was not a BL problem, it was a national problem whichever industry you worked in.

  44. Not a fan of Corbyn, as for a revived British Leyland not quite sure how it would work as in many respects the brands would have been better off split between two companies (with some government intervention here and there) instead of being brought under one umbrella.

    For marques that have remained dormant, it would be more realistic to attempt to acquire the rights of Triumph from BMW and later Innocenti and Alvis Cars towards a revived BL (given that the other marques are either owned by BMW, SAIC and Tata).

  45. Nationlised car industry. No. However a car company set up using a Government loan payable back over say 20 yrs with part government ownership. Is that not a feasible possibility?

    • No

      Unless the Loan is at commercial rates it would be challenged by both industry and the EU commission.

      You would have absolutely no chance of getting passed them, as its direct competition with an already well established European Industry.

      Not only that but it would come under wider international pressure, see the long running argument between Airbus / Boeing and the EU / US over state aide for aircraft development.

  46. Corbyn was invited by UNITE to speak in Coventry on the 2nd August.

    Interesting that he tells that in the early 70’s he was working for the Engineering Union and he claims he helped them prepare their input for the Ryder Plan.

    He seemed to think that it was highly successful exercise and hopes one day soon he will able as PM to do more of the same. (He did also mention that he does not read the papers as well so maybe that’s why he missed what actually happened).

    So we could say that “He is up for it”

  47. Has Corbyn actually done any real work except union organising, a failed spell as a student where he didn’t complete his course( probably on too many demos), and political activism? He strikes me as some kind of professional politician with no concept of life outside of politics. Also for all he plays down his roots, attending an independent grammar school and having a father who was an engineer and a mother who was a teacher wouldn’t suggest some proletarian upbringing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.