I’ve been on holiday with my wife and our friends and took two books. One was Tess of the Durbervilles by Thomas Hardy – a gloomy story if superbly written.
The other, which I am halfway through is Tragedy & Challenge by another Thomas, Tom Brown, and it too is readable and important but gloomy.
Tom Brown left Oxford for a job in GKN in 1970. I left Cambridge and joined GEC Marconi in 1974. I recognise the accountant-driven, under-invested, short termist union-dominated world that he entered.
Brown spent time running a business in Italy and makes the following devastating comparison about the UKs progress since the days of Margaret Thatcher, and that of Italy.
‘But Italy’s difficulties we’re even worse and while it still has many economic and political problems, … it performs in much the same league as the UK on most metrics and better on some, and it has staged its recovery with a new government almost annually and no outstanding leaders at all!
‘Italy has succeeded in reforming in a way which has been much less bruising and destructive… manufacturing has been largely retained…its manufacturing as a percentage of GDP is better than UK, USA or France, …and the resulting society is much more caring than the Me first, Grab What You Can culture that now prevails in Britain’
I shall keep reading but I fear this book may depress me even more than Tess!