chapter  9
18 Pages


Speaking at Greenock in October 1903 Joseph Chamberlain presented his audience with a depressing list of ailing British industries-‘sugar has gone’, he declared, ‘silk has gone; iron is threatened; wool is threatened; cotton will go’.1 Chamberlain was not the first person to play Cassandra over British industrynor was he to be the last. Throughout the twentieth century, concern over Britain’s apparent economic decline, and the problems of the manufacturing sector in particular, has been arguably the central theme of British political debate. But although it drew upon arguments from the economic debates of the 1880s and 1890s it was the tariff campaign which first brought the question of industrial decline to the heart of British politics.