Nevertheless let's try and be positive because we do really need a strategy for the very rapid changes that are taking place in our economy and for our regions. An announcement from government that it intends to put £4.7 billion into research and development is pretty good news, even if only £2billion of the announced money is new and the money is stretched out over many years. It is even better that there appears to be a commitment to put substantial amounts of this investment funding into clean energy. Unfortunately it is always necessary to read such statements with extreme care. For clean energy read nuclear energy for most of the investment - and that has never yet proved to be very clean. Nevertheless it is possible to find some very helpful ideas in the strategy document about investing in electricity storage technology, electric vehicle infrastructure and smart energy systems. Overall this bit of her strategy isn't actually too bad and comes out in my book around a 6 or even a 7 out of 10.
Then I moved on to reading the section on skills for the future. Rarely have I read a more rambling incoherent set of ideas. The government is going to set up 10 bold new routes to technical qualifications in order to raise the status of these qualifications in the UK. Unfortunately one of the prime reasons why these qualifications have lost status in the UK is successive governments of all persuasions have constantly reformed them. This means that young people are reluctant to study for a technical qualification in case they spend years acquiring a qualification that no one has heard of. The last time this was tried was by Labour and the parents who let their kids study General National Vocational Qualifications much now be wondering what the value was. To add to the misery people are going to be encouraged to take the latest wonderful new cure all qualifications by being offered .... wait for it .... student loans. It seems that these are being put forward as the way to get students in Technical Colleges to study for more hours. Provided, that is, that the local Technical College doesn't go to the wall from lack of funding. Whilst the government proudly invests £170 million of capital in the creation of New Institutes of Technology. Which will of course be funded when they are up and running by taking income away from existing Technical Colleges. Instead of building on what already exists and strengthening it, the government has chosen to further weaken our existing system of technical education in order to announce something that sounds new and exciting. Soundbite politics at its absolute worst. I find it hard to give this bit of the strategy more than 1 out of 10. Even that feels generous.
Not to worry, I thought, perhaps the section on infrastructure would cheer me up - especially as this is something I'd been campaigning on for ages. Then I read it and was almost as badly disappointed. The investment envisaged includes the second runway at Heathrow and the over-priced foreign run folly of Hinkley Point. When it comes to Housing there is not a word about a major programme of local authority house building or of investment in renovating existing homes. Instead there is simply a proposal to give hidden subsidies to building developers by encouraging local authorities to put in new drainage systems and infrastructure to help developers build more of the wrong things in the wrong places. Similarly, £2.6 bn is to be invested in transport. The vast majority of it on new road schemes. £450 million will go on rail investment. A sum wholly inadequate to the task when you consider that just one of the London Crossrail projects came in at over £17bn and there is the whole of the rest of the country to consider. The government's strategy team seem to think that the solution for the northern rail system is a bit of smart ticketing so that you can buy one ticket to cover both your infrequent bus service and your desperately slow and rickety train ride. Upgrades are promised to regional rail connections - but the sum of money involved is completely unspecified. Something that usually means it is too small for the government to dare to announce it. The only positive things I could find in this part of the strategy was more money for electric and smart vehicle technology and some ideas about digital connectivity. So for this part of the policy my personal score crept up to 3 out of 10.
I then turned my attention to the policy on business support and regional growth. The section on why banks had failed to lend to small and medium business despite receiving £375 billion of quantitative easing money along with extensive government bail outs seemed to have been missed out. Instead there were some disjointed comical rambling and ideas that were risibly weak. So I turned to the section on regional policy. Apparently the reason the north lags behind London is because we haven't had another local government re-organisation and all we really need is the leadership of several new Mayors. Equally it appears that the government thinks the way to reverse decades of imbalance of investment per head is to put a further £1.8 billion into Local Enterprise Partnerships covering the entire country. Any understanding of the scale of the challenge or the need to work out how best to replace EU regional development schemes was utterly lacking. Perhaps a 2 out of 10 is appropriate for actually realising that there might be a problem - even if the solutions put forward are entirely inadequate to address it.
Then we come to the what seems to have been the entire driving force of the decision that some kind of strategy would actually be helpful. Brexit. We are told in the strategy that there are encouraging signs that we may be able to strike trade deals with Canada, China, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea. Good luck with that. Even better luck with doing so without establishing unelected international courts to determine whether the rules have been broken. You know the kind of thing. It is what that pesky elected European Parliament was established to provide democratic scrutiny over. It got denounced as unacceptable bureaucracy when it came from Europe yet now multinational corporations will be able to sue governments and force them to make decisions regardless of electors' wishes. But don't worry.
Or rather do worry. Worry a great deal. The UK's industrial strategy is to accept tariff barriers between the UK and our biggest market whilst letting China, India, Mexico and South Korea dump their cheap industrial products onto our markets.
It is just possible that this may not be an entirely successful way for the UK to remain the 5th biggest economy in the world!