Imagine this: it is the early 1980s and a major UK industry on which large parts of the economy rests needs to shed thousands of jobs. Its well-entrenched union resists the redundancies and closures and strikes. No, it’s not the miner’s strike but the strikes of the Post Office Engineers Union (POEU) against British Telecom. The outcome was different from the miner’s strike: the POEU union survived, there were only voluntary redundancies, and the vital telecoms network continued to run. Part of the senior management then was Lord Vallance who was successively chief executive, CEO and chairman, then chairman from 1986 to 2001. Lord Vallance has now made his contribution to the archives reflecting on his work in the GPO then BT, and, among other things, why Germany has so many successful engineering companies and the UK so few.