Jon Moulton, managing partner of Alchemy Partners, has confirmed what I always suspected.

A significant reason for the decline of manufacturing over the last 40 years or so has been bad management.

Not then just the efforts of Baroness Thatcher, the self-destruct of the then trade union leadership or indeed global competition.

The West Midlands, he noted on a visit to Birmingham last week, was not the birthplace of buyouts for nothing.

And recalling how appalled he had been on visits to some factories, he complained that the sector had largely been run by "crummy managers" who looked like coronary cases.

Indeed, if we go back 15-20 years or so, to what he described as the era of "terrible Midlands conglomerates" - there were indeed quite a lot around at that time - he complained that they were "diabolically" run.

Have we improved any today?

I think we have, albeit MG Rover was probably a pretty good example of modern "crummy" management.

As was the demise of Marconi.

And poor management decision making is partly to blame for the terrible troubles of Jaguar.

So still plenty of room for improvement and lots of scope for the likes of Warwick University and the Institute of Directors in their efforts to do something about it.

Mind you, Mr Moulton, who hails from Stoke-on-Trent, also admitted his private equity sector had its issues.

He described the typical private equity executive as aged 34, American, with an MBA, who had never worked in industry.

Such people were "paid a fortune" yet were "extremely distant" from the companies they actually ran.

Could do better must still be the appraisal of our current executive breed.


One in four Britons is failing to save any money into a pension.

Around 26 per cent of people are not making any provisions for their retirement, up from 20 per cent last year, according to financial services firm Alliance Trust.

The figure rises to 55 per cent among those aged between 18 to 29.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We are concerned that seven million people aren't saving enough for retirement. That's why the Government has proposed reforms which will make it easier for people to save through automatic enrolment into personal accounts, or a qualifying workplace scheme.

"Our own research shows young people in particular have a 'live for today' approach - they risk having a much lower income in retirement than they expect."

Yet I would claim it is a situation mostly created by the Government, started by Gordon Brown and his early tax hit on what was then the best pension system in the world.

That completely destabilised things and set in process the current decline.

If you are loaded with debt from university, and you are struggling to get on to the housing ladder, you hear horror stories about pension fund collapses, so why bother?

Might as well live for today and, if the worst comes to the worst, hope the state will bail you out.