Editor's comment: Friggatriskaidekaphobia – is there an end in sight?...

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

04 December 2019

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

As I write this month's comment, the UK’s 3rd general election campaign in 5 years is underway – and if not dominated by Brexit, then certainly the B-word looms large over it again. While many of us may have suspected over the past few months that an imminent general election was inevitable, I’m not sure we would have wished for one so close to Christmas.

This editorial was originally featured in the December 2019 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Depending on when you pick up and read your issue, you might be into the last week or so of the campaign, preparing to cast your vote – or maybe you’re waking up to the result on Friday 13th. I hope that this won’t be cause for friggatriskaidekaphobia – fear of Friday the thirteenth...

The past 3½ years in the UK, since it voted (by 52% to 48%) to leave in a referendum on its membership of the European Union, have been a difficult and divisive time politically, socially and economically. With such an emotive topic, long and strongly held, entrenched views – on both sides – were not soothed by negative campaigning – on both sides – and a close result. And things have arguably got worse since then.

The topic of Brexit has dominated the political and media landscape ever since, ultimately resulting in two new Prime Ministers, following two resignations and two Conservative leadership contests. Business, Europe and much of the rest of the world has looked on aghast as a split (and then hung) parliament – and country – has wrestled with what to do next, and how to satisfy seemingly diametrically opposed factions and objectives. And so now, in an effort to break the deadlock, we face the first December election in almost a century – with the result set to be called in the early hours of Friday 13th.

Virtually every business organisation – from “manufacturers’ organisation”, Make UK to “the voice of business”, the CBI – has called for an end to the gridlock and uncertainty of Brexit – which they say has been so damaging for business. But with many commentators predicting another hung parliament, even that is not certain – although others believe that the volatile nature of the political climate make it virtually impossible to call the outcome, as result after result over the past few years has defied the polls.

Those in the STEM and manufacturing communities most likely reflect the diversity in the general population in terms of political inclination and voting intention (though sadly, according to Nesta data, only 9% of contenders in 2017’s general election held a STEM degree – despite the fact that 41% of 2016 graduates completed a STEM degree). But many will also realise that the nature of any Brexit deal we strike will have a significant impact on their work environment. Many large scale STEM projects rely heavily on European co-operation and funding – not to mention skilled teams made up of diverse nationalities. And lots of manufacturing operations, particularly those in automotive, rely heavily on just-in-time supply chains and free and frictionless trade across Europe.

While Brexit will of course be a central issue in this election, hopefully voters will also look beyond it at the whole package being offered by the parties jostling for their vote – from traditional priorities like the economy and taxation, health and education, to more ‘modern’ issues, such as austerity and equality, housing and climate change. If you still can, take time to look at the manifestos on offer – some of the policies being advocated promise focus and investment in STEM and manufacturing, which will benefit not just our industry, but society as a whole.

Hopefully, this December election will bring (some of) us what we want for Christmas!...

EPDT December’s issue contains features on Component technologies & Industrial applications. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month...

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