Cutlers' Feast Comment - Manufacturers forced to hold on and hope for better times

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Doubtless in its 385 years the Cutlers Feast will have seen disappointments. But the Company of Cutlers’ recent form in attracting cabinet-level politicians has been patchy - through no fault of their own.

Minister for industry Lee Rowley MP gave a decent keynote speech and was sincerely and genuinely thanked for appearing.

He is, the Master Cutler had said earlier, little-known but still very relevant to the hundreds of listening manufacturers.

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But on the morning of the event his office said he needed to be away shortly after 9pm.

385th Cutlers' Feast.385th Cutlers' Feast.
385th Cutlers' Feast.

This resulted in timings having to be rearranged with hours to go. At that point no explanation was forthcoming other than ‘a busy schedule’.

It’s not a huge thing. But it comes after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng apparently contacted the Company last year and said he was up for appearing - before pulling out a few weeks back.

Last year, Liz Truss cancelled with just 24 hours to go, leaving organisers scrambling to find a replacement.

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She had just been reshuffled to foreign secretary but presumably had a still-relevant speech that was good to go.

Master Cutler James Tear.Master Cutler James Tear.
Master Cutler James Tear.

It’s not as if the Cutlers give politicians a hard time. One of the speeches traditionally includes a list of gripes and demands. But PMQs it ain't.

But it is also true that said list is the longest it's been for a good while and perhaps it’s all grown just a bit too uncomfortable to hear.

The other, and more alarming, conclusion is that this government is not that bothered about manufacturing.

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It has money for favoured sectors like hydrogen and nuclear. But the industrial strategy’s first report was its last.

And where is the help on spiralling energy prices? And although the war in Ukraine has inspired warm words about the importance of domestic manufacturing where is the action?

Brexit also weighs heavily. ‘A disaster’ one of Sheffield’s most senior manufacturers said recently.

The Cutlers, better than anyone, know that if you wait long enough things will one day get better. But how many will be left to see it?