Calling all British manufacturers – it’s time to be heard!


Alex Henderson MD of MSE with James

Do you own a British manufacturing company and want influence positive change in UK governmental policy affecting the sector?

As a small group of British manufacturers we invite interested and impassioned business leaders to join us for an informal roundtable discussion on the subject of how the UK manufacturing sector can influence positive government change.

Whatever your political opinions, we have a narrow window of opportunity to make our recommendations for the impending Brexit negotiations. We are sure that your hope, like ours, is that leaving the EU will ultimately positively benefit the long suffering UK manufacturing sector rather than continue to stifle it.

Our immediate ambition is to ensure that the manufacturing sectors’ voice is heard during these negotiations and then, beyond, we are well represented in future policy.

We feel that this can be achieved through the creation of a new independent lobbying body set up by industry to represent the voice of its members. On the evening of the meeting we hope to set, by mutual agreement, some positive plans for immediate action and appoint a board of directors.

Important Note: Only a small number of seats are available for this roundtable discussion. If you are not the owner or an officially recognised representative from a manufacturing organisation your application to attend will be refused. However, at a later date we will value passionate supporters and welcome you to register your interest to attend future events to

To register your interest to attend this event please visit:


Download our press release in WORD or PDF

Marmite -V- Tesco – the true cost of Brexit

marmiteMarmite, the salty yeast based breakfast staple, is at the centre of an on-going row between two consumer giants. Unilever are saying that Brexit is responsible for the massive price hike of it’s products and Tesco are saying that they should not foot the bill. Tesco has since gone on to embargo affected Unilever products meaning that stocks of the Marmite are no longer appearing on shelves. However, Marmite is actually made in the UK. So why is it’s price being effected by the falling pound?

Marmite has been exclusively produced in one factory in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire since 1902. While the exact recipe is a trade secret, its main ingredients include yeast extract, vegetables and spices and was originally produced in the town because of it’s rich brewing heritage. There were once 30 breweries in the surrounding area which supplied the waste yeast as a by-product of beer making to the Marmite factory but now the raw materials come from across the country.

The pound has fallen 17% since Britain voted to leave the EU. Some suggest that these are fantastic conditions for UK manufacturing to grow and thrive and, in any case, why should a UK produced product consisting of all UK produced ingredients suffer from such currency fluctuations. Well, the answer is simple – while the product itself is made in the UK the bottles aren’t. Like many similar products, the bottles are likely to constitute the majority of the value of the finished. Basically, the cost of the container is more expensive to produce than the content. After all, the main ingredient is slurried yeast!

Unilever are asking for 10% price increase in a number of their products and some are suggesting that the increased costs, in real terms, are unlikely to be that high. So are Unilever trying to take advantage of the current political situation? The answer has to be ‘quite possibly’. If successful are other food producers going to try something similar – almost certainly.

With the falling pound it is clear that imported goods will likely suffer a price hike but the majority of UK produced items should remain static. As consumers, in the short-term, we will certainly need to begin scrutinising the location of manufacture of goods far more rigorously in order to get the best deals. This is unless unscrupulous producers begin trying to pull a fast one.

UK manufacturing suffering but it’s too early for Remainers to gloat.

uk-manufacturing-outputs-slight-june-growthThe plunging pound is failing to boost demand for UK exports British factories suffered a worse-than-expected drop in activity after the Brexit vote.

Eagerly anticipated data released today by the Office of national Statistics (ONS) showed a sharp contraction in the manufacturing sector in July of 0.9%. This news comes despite hopes that the Brexit-hit pound might make British made good an attractive proposition for overseas buyers.

However, the figures appear to show a small 0.1% rise in overall industrial production for the same period which seems to somewhat contradict the doom and gloom.

Whatever you politics many sources are using this news as an ‘I told you so’ to underline their stance on the recent Brexit vote. However, if recent history has taught us anything it is that we should be careful not to talk ourselves into recession.

At worst todays news is a mixed message. I believe, that given the right governmental support the UK manufacturing sector could emerge from Brexit stronger than at any other point in it’s recent history, but it will be a long game. It is far too early for ‘I told you so’ and certainly far to early to worry about recession.

  • James

After nearly a century MG cars are no longer made in Britain

1280px-mg_tf_blue_frontThe last MG branded car to be built in the UK has already rolled off the production line. After 90 years of production the Chinese owners of the MG marque have decided to more production… yes, you guessed it – to China.

Shanghai-based SAIC Motor acquired Chinese automaker Nanjing Automobile in 2006 following their purchase of the MG marque and the Longbridge facility (for £53 million) just 12 month earlier.

The British-badged carmaker, first established in 1920, sold 2,300 vehicles in the UK last year. However, SAIC suggest that the move will only cost 25 jobs in the UK.

The low redundancy figure can be attributed to the fact that much of the actual manufacturing was off-shored soon after the initial 2006 deal. The production line in Longbridge, as I understand it, was mainly for screwing on the bumpers and other last fix assembly.

So, the reality is that, if you have bought a new MG in the last 10 years. Its claim to be ‘Made in Britain’ might be considered to be illegitimate.

Ultimately, the latest news is the final nail in the coffin for the manufacture of these iconic British sports cars in the UK.

Evans Lichfield Cushion

20160927_085150We have been lucky enough to have recently been sent a beautiful British made cushion from Evans Lichfield. Utilising the the work of a talented stable of British artists, Lichfield Evans specialise in fabric cushions that would feature wonderfully in any country house.

The company currently employ 50+ people in their West Midlands factory and create a product of outstanding quality (especially considering the price). Their cushions seem to me to be within a pretty reasonable price bracket – between £10 – £20.

The sample we were sent is made from 60% cotton and 40% linen and comes filled with a fibre-filled inner. It is a perfect sofa-size measuring in at 40cmX60cm and features large pink, purple and blue flowers printed to one side. Rather spookily they decided to send us a cushion that seems to fit our home decor pretty well. However, I am unable to find the same design on their website so am unable to tell you the artist.

While on the subject of their website, Lichfield Evans suffer from one of our pet hates – a great British made product underpinned by a poor online offering. Thier own website does not allow you to buy online but after some further investigation I was able to find an Amazon account for them which appears to stock much of their range (click here).

While there range might not suit all tastes, if you are going for a classic British country house look their cushions could be just the thing to finish off your living room.

  • Emily
Editor's Rating
Value for Money
Total British Family Rating60/100

A fully British watch movement is ‘weeks away’

I just had a quick email from Robert Loomes who informed me that his ultimate ambition of creating an entirely British made watch movement is close to fruition. This is certainly exiting news for anyone with a serious passion for watchmaking.

More details will be unveiled soon. But in the meantime here is a fabulous video about Robert and his passion for British made watches.





A Comprehensive Islay Distilleries Review

Late last month a friend and I set off on a 1500 mile pilgrimage, in a Reliant Robin, to the home of Scottish whisky – Islay. Having managed to visit all 8 distilleries on the island, here is a brief account of our adventures plus a personal reflection on the best Islay has to offer.

Your first question might be… why a Reliant Robin. M20160823_152655y response would be ‘why not’. If your travelling the length of Britain on a road trip then why not choose a classic icon of British motoring.

Tony and I had (somehow) negotiated a week away from the wives and children to fulfil a real bucket-list ambition. We set off on the Friday evening with the plan of wild camping the whole week (wild camping being in a tent without organised campsites and other such luxuries).

We gave ourselves plenty of time, in case the 30 year old car struggled with the mileage, as our ferry left from the port of Kennacraig at 6pm on the Saturday. We made great progress, slept briefly in some guys field and were awoken to the sound of shotgun fire at around 6am. Not wishing to pick buckshot from Tony’s behind for the remainder of our journey we decided to scratch our camp in a hurry and scarper. Luckily, when on the island, people were far happier for us to camp wherever we wanted.20160821_115743

The second leg of our route saw us pass Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne both of which feature some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever witnessed.

We made the ferry in excellent time and took the two and a half hour crossing in comfort. I have to say that the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries are rather nice and the customer service is exceptional. Being from the South East of England I am always taken aback, when venturing beyond the Watford Gap, by how pleasant people can be.

The island itself is just 25 miles long by 15 miles wide and so it is somewhat interesting to think of there being no less than 8 whisky producers in such close proximity to each other. We arrived on the island at around 8pm. It was still light and so we set off to find our first camp. Having no local knowledge we naively scanned a map on the ferry and decided that we would head to a large stretch of wilderness called The Oa. This whole area turned out to be a bog requiring the Robin to undertake some serious off-roading. We headed back to civilisation.  Darkness quickly engulfed us and we drove around aimlessly for 2 hours before, more by luck than judgement, we stumbled across a place at which a number of caravans had pulled up. That was good enough for us. We pitched our tents in the dark, set a quick fire, wolfed down down some barely cooked burgers and slept like babies.

20160822_121830When morning came I peered out of my tent to see that we had stopped by a small stony beach with a red sun rising over the water. What a wonderful way to wake up. Over the coming days we got to grips with the terrain on the island and set to camping close to a number distilleries and then walking to them. We quickly got into a rhythm of seeking a new camp in the morning and visiting distilleries in the afternoon before cooking on an open fire and watching the stars in the evening.

Here is my personal view of the distilleries and their general hospitality. I have tried to put them in order from my favourite to my least favourite…because in reality I enjoyed them all.

1. Laphroaig

We took the basic tour at Laphroaig which, like all of the distilleries, this consisted of a walk around the facilities, looking at the stills and a talk about their history. The basic cost at Laphroaig was £6. We arrived at around 12pm, the tour was 45 minutes and we left just after 4pm. Needless to say while the lady behind the bar was plying us with free samples we were going nowhere. I contest that that day I spent the best £6 of my life. However, when we were given a bottle of water each and told to come back tomorrow we felt our welcome had been worn out.

For me, Laphroaig make the best whisky and strangely, having sampled the whole range,  their standard 10 year old is still my favourate.

2. Bruichladdich

Again, we did the tour at a cost of £5 and spend the whole afternoon there. There visitors centre is extremely comfortable and informal and has by far the nicest atmosphere. Again, after ‘sampling’ their whole range a couple of times we were politely told ‘gentlemen, this is not a pub’ and so we took our leave.

A real highlight of of this distillery, and possibly the whole trip, were their range of super peaty whiskies called Oxtomore. At nearly 64% it is a fiery tipple but absolutely fantastic. In my weakened state I very nearly parted with the hefty £300 for a bottle but thankfully Tony pulled me away before I could get my credit card out.

3. Kilchoman

If there is one distillery that you are likely to miss it would be Kilchoman. It is a bit off the beaten track but to my mind, it is the most honest. It is not as glitzy and not as well set up for visitors as some of the others but still well worth a visit. It is the only distillery on the island still owned by islanders and not a big corporation. In fact, we happened to bump into one of the of sons of the owners who was kind enough to give us a personal tour.

4. Ardbeg

Ardbeg is located on a massive site and very accommodating. However, they seem to have put their focus into creating a restaurant feel, which is a little off-putting. However, their whiskies are fantastic and they remain well worth a visit.

5. Bowmore

Located in the small town of Bowmore the visitor centre is very slick. A modern white-walled and glass affair with a modernist water feature in the entrance. It was a little too polished for me but the staff were wonderful.

20160824_1623286. Caol Ila

Caol Ila has a tiny visitor centre which is distinctly uncomfortable. Situated in an 1970’s monstrosity of the building the tour shows an operation more industrial in nature that the rest. However, if you look beyond the building, it is set (like a bond villains layer) in a stunning cove on a beach overlooking a wonderful view.

Surprisingly I found the whisky to be a tad disappointing but then I suppose we had been spoilt over the preceding few days.

7. Bunnahabhain

This distillery is a real trek and when you arrive is very different from the others. It feels like a Victorian prison/workhouse with it’s imposing grey buildings encircling a large courtyard. It felt like the visitor experience was very much an afterthought and the whiskey was, to my taste, pretty awful.

8. Lagavaulin

Along with Laphroaig and Ardbeg, Lagavaulin are on a recently constructed distillery walking route. This makes access to and from the sites extremely easy. The whole route is about a 5 mile round trip with the final mile feeling like reaching the summit of Everest. However, Lagavaulin provided a very disappointing visitor experience. While their visitor centre is decorated in a charming colonial style, the staff seem tainted by disillusionment.  Without exception, all of the other distillery staff had been welcoming and extremely passionate about the product but here it felt the fire had long been exhausted. While Lagavaulin might be one of the best known brands, their whiskey was also not up to the standard of the others. We arrived in their 200 anniversary year expecting a jubilant atmosphere and were sorely disappointed.  We were also given a sample of their special anniversary bottling… which was awful.

So, after 5 days, 8 distilleries and countless drams it was time to leave the island. We were welcome, we saw some of the most stunning views possible anywhere in the world and were truly spent. Our journey back in our trusty Reliant was less eventful that our arrival, our mission to simply eat up the miles. We pushed the Robin to it’s limits and made home in less than 9 hours of almost solid driving.

We had a absolutely wonderful time but the real star of the show was the trusty Robin Reliant who defied it’s doubters to make the whole journey without missing a beat. Everywhere we went the plucky little car was met with smiles and waves. We attained, by virtue of the car, celebrity status on the island and I am sure that contributed to peoples pleasantness to us.  It is however telling that, as soon as we reached Essex we were immediately met by, on more than one occasion, a number of white van men hanging out of their windows imitating the milking of cows and calling us bankers (or something to that effect). Welcome home, I though to myself.

  • James



Is the reputation of British business being sullied by a greedy few?


The bogeyman of British business?

It is clear that Britain currently holds a special place in the international consumer market. By many countries we are seen as the gold standard in quality and business leadership. However, it has been a challenging time for British business in recent months and it makes me wonder if the actions of a greedy few might be tarnishing the once sparking gilt of Brand Britannia?

Two of the nation’s most prominent retail bosses, in a relatively short space of time, have been the subject of a very public flogging by Select Committees for their mis-conducts, putting the spotlight firmly on business standards in Britain.

Firstly, Sports Direct’s boss Mike Ashley (a seeming unlikable character) was hauled before the Business Innovation and Skills Committee under accusations of abusive practices in their Derby Warehouse. With their treatment of staff being described as ‘Dickensian’ by some, the standards Sports Direct seemly employ clearly fall short of what British business is known for. Much is made of the abhorrent working standards commonly seen in the Far East and this is often cited as a reason to ‘Buy British’. However, when we uncover these similar practices on our own shores by well-known businesses, then one cannot help but feel damaged by it.

Then we have Sir Philip Green, who has been roasted by both the Work and Pensions and BIS Select Committees for his shameful mismanagement of, long-standing High Street stalwart, BHS. Once hailed as the ‘King of Retail’, Green’s fall from grace could not have been further. You cannot help but to consider how much thought the billionaire is genuinely giving to the 11,000 workers whose livelihoods are at risk and the 22,000 more pensioners whose future is up in the air. It perhaps seems now inevitable that Phillip Green will be judged by history alongside the likes of Robert Maxwell.

Both of Ashley and Green represent the unacceptable face of capitalism but worse –  they also represent Britain in an international business market. Brand Britain must be seen as one of our most valuable commodities and everyone that does business from the UK has a responsibly to uphold the standards we have become renowned for. Failure to do so further chips away at the brand of every British business.

The British Family have a British made classic car… sort of.

So we have recently invested in a British made car and I suspect you will be surprised by our choice. If I say that it is a much loved British classic, an undeniable an icon of UK motoring and regularly featured in TV and film your thoughts might immediately got to a Aston Martin DB8, a Jaguar E-Type or perhaps even a Lotus Elise.  However, our sights were set somewhat lower.

Yes – I am now the very proud owner of a MII Reliant Robin.

At this point, dear reader, you might be thinking that I have lost my mind. This is indeed a view shared by Mrs B (who has adamantly said that she will not be seen dead in it) but there is method to the apparent madness.

First things first, the Robin is not our main family car. The ‘plastic pig’ is admittedly not an ideal family run-around and it’s zero N-cap rating suggest that transporting a new baby might not be a wise move. But, it really is a lot of fun… and that’s the point.

I have wanted one for years and recall a time when you could pick them up in good nick for around £300. Those days are long gone. Good/rare examples are now changing hands for as much as £8,000. Years of trike conversions and banger racing has meant that they are very much an appreciating classic.

You might be glad to know that my example is neither in the extremely rare nor very good condition category and set me back a little over £1000. So, as a folly is it not a massive investment.

So, why did I buy it? Well, being a biker with only a motorcycle licence it is the only car I can drive without going for a full driving licence- which, even to me, seems like a crazy loophole. I also wanted something that myself and Lucan can go on fun outing in and on this score the Robin is already paying dividends.

$_12Anyway, I thought it might be fun to do a quick review of the much maligned Robin:

My particular Mk2 Reliant Robin as built in Tamworth in 1994 featuring the second of 3 body shapes to over it’s over 30 year production run. It is the SLX model which was the higher spec-ed of the range when it was released. It has a 850cc engine, 4 seats and 3 doors under a completely fibreglass body shell.

The ride:

The engine is actually pretty pokey. Weighing less than 500kg it pulls away from the lights faster than most modern cars. The 4 speed gearbox is clean and precise but you need to be careful to change down on hills or you will eventually start rolling backwards. On one of the rare motorway jaunts in the car all I can say is that it got to 70MPH and (everso slightly) beyond with not struggle at all. It also felt very planted.

The main question I have been asked about owning a Robin is “will it flip over”. The short answer is – no. The slightly longer answer is – if there are a unique set of circumstances where you are doing 50MPH around a hairpin bend on a 10% camber then possibly. Otherwise, it feels really stable.

The trim and accessories:

The SLX comes with cassette radio, heated rear windscreen and internal heater (powered by the heat of the engine). I might change the radio but I must say that it does the basics pretty well. The interior trim and overall quality of the plastics inside are pretty appalling. The wafer thin dash and door cards and dash are all let the experience down.

The seats are tiny. In fact the whole drivers space is tiny. It requires you to put the key in the ignition and  wind the window down before you get in as both of these tasks are difficult one in the drivers seat. Also, the pedals are really close together, which means that if you wear big boots you can be stepping on 2 peddles at the same time. It really is quite tight in there. Saying that though, the boot space (especially when the 2 back seats are down) is massive. I could get 2 full size bikes in there if pushed and still have space for the picnic basket.

Fun factor:

There is something about this car that perhaps no other car has, and that is a specific place in the British psyche. The Robin makes people smile, wave, run along side.

The downside:

People, after a few drinks, find it amusing to lift it up and put it on it’s roof. This has already happened to my Robin under my brief ownership.


So, where next for the trusty Reliant? Well, me and a friend of mine are planning to drive the trusty Robin the length of Britain in August on a pilgrimage to the distilleries of Islay. The plan will be to video our adventures along the way and the results will be presented on this very site shortly after.


Do UK manufacturers want Brexit?

brexit-trade-605917With the clock ticking down towards the EU referendum, a recent survey seems to suggest that UK manufacturers anre leaning toward escaping Europe.

Leeds-based Manufacturing Futures have recently conducted a poll of business leaders from across the full spectrum of UK manufacturing companies and asked if they felt they would be better served by the UK remaining in the European Union.

The results are quite interesting – of the 900 businesses surveyed around 55% believe that they would be better off outside of the EU. That being said, 14% suggested that they could still be persuaded to change their minds either way.

Arguably, these results seem to reflect the general populations current feelings on the subject.

The UK is now the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world and there has been much debate, from both sides, as to what leaving the EU might do to our manufacturing sector. The argument from the Remain campaign that Brixit will ultimately stifle free trade with Europe and so hinder our already fragile manufacturing output does not, it appears, seem to be concerning the sector too much at this point.

However, with just one week to go it is clear that many in manufacturing, like the rest of the population, can still be pushed either way.

Share your views on this debate in our comments section.

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