Home » Imagine the joy if clothes and food were ‘Made in Britain’ again

Imagine the joy if clothes and food were ‘Made in Britain’ again

My favourite tweet of the festive season came from a dear friend, with a little film of him harvesting veg, and the message: “One of the many reasons I love my allotment (in central London) is the joy of picking brussels sprouts you’ve grown yourself on Christmas Day.” 

No doubt thousands of other allotment holders and back-garden growers were also eating their own produce this Christmas, but we need a lot more vegetables, not to mention cereal crops, grown in this country than they can provide if we are to be more self-sufficient in foodstuffs than we are at the moment. Which is why I’m with the Countess of Carnarvon in her taking the politicians to task in these pages on Wednesday over their rewilding policies. 

Rewilding is, of course, all the rage – it has the imprimatur of The Archers, no less, with its continuing rewilding storyline, which began when matriarch Peggy Woolley handed over half a million pounds to several young people to take decent farming land back to its natural uncultivated state before pesky humans used it to feed themselves. 

As Lady Carnarvon points out, we can’t eat trees. And what good is it doing the planet if we transport food, including asparagus from Peru and dwarf beans from Kenya, halfway around the world, with all the pollution that entails? 

But producing more of our own food is just part of the problem this country needs to solve. Not only do we not grow enough of our own goods, but we don’t make enough either. Industry and manufacturing seem to have become dirty words. 

I object, not just on environmental grounds but on ethical ones too, to buying imported goods made in China. As we know from the Covid pandemic, it’s a secretive country, but enough information is out there for us to be aware of its human rights violations on freedom of assembly, expression and religion. Yet our shops’ shelves groan with goods from China, from mobile phones to mugs and cutlery and especially clothes. 

Boycotting China leaves me with little choice when it comes to fashion. There are some women’s stores where I can buy nothing. In some major stores, I have to opt instead for trousers, jumpers and dresses from Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Turkey – not that much better on ethical grounds. 

If I want to buy clothes made in Britain, it sometimes seems as if I have no choice but to dress permanently in Scottish cashmere knits and kilts. 

There are other British options, but many of them tend to be pricey, not least because a factory or workshop worker in Britain is paid much more than the cheap labour of the countries that dominate manufacturing. 

The trouble is that we Britons have developed a powerful desire to seek out bargains, so we’re drawn to what costs less. But cheapness has a price and we need to rethink how we spend our money – perhaps by spending the same but by buying much less. And we need to learn to eat seasonally again, to love home-grown winter veg, like sprouts, brassicas, parsnips, swedes and turnips, and enjoy strawberries and asparagus in the summer. 

More home-grown food and made in Britain clothes, kitchenware and furniture will help the planet far more than digging up fields. And imagine the economy if farming and manufacturing became bywords for Britain again. Days of growth would be back.