Tata to all that
The job losses announced at Tata Steel in Port Talbot this week will be traumatic for all those losing livelihoods, from the steel workers themselves, to people employed in the supply chain and those who work in services patronised by those in the industry.
On a personal level, there will be people who won’t properly recover from it, marriages will be affected, people’s mental health will suffer.
We know this because we’ve been here before. The miners, car workers, and ship builders who were promised their skills would secure them for life will know. They’ll know the gnawing uncertainty before the axe finally falls. They’ll also know how far to trust government promises of retraining and new jobs.
They’ll have heard the braying lectures about how jobs for life don’t exist in the modern economy; the imperative to be ‘flexible’. They’ll have watched a bankrupt banking industry bailed out by the government to the tune of £137 billion. They’ll have seen the boarded-up shops, the broken windows. They’ll have attended the funerals.
Nobody’s interviewing those people though, they are yesterday’s news. Rishi Sunak, whose facial expression never seems to suit anything he talks about, was straight in front of the cameras to trumpet the £500m his government was bunging Tata to transition to electric production.
Without that, all 8000 jobs would have been lost, he crowed. The bit he couldn’t get to quick enough, however, was that,
‘The Welsh Government did not participate in that and that’s because we cared about those jobs, and the future of steelmaking in Wales.’
Got that, have you? It’s Rishi that cares about folk in Port Talbot. The government you voted for didn’t want to know, couldn’t care less. Rishi cares, he cares for you, whatever his shit-eating grin says.
Which isn’t to let Mark Drakeford off the hook. We’re told that Sunak wouldn’t take his call on the matter. Well, that’s just rude, isn’t it?
Is there a point, though, when a despairing shrug isn’t the strongest response that political Wales fires back at this sort of behaviour? Are we so used to watching our destiny play out in front of us that we’ve forgotten how to get angry?
It’s been 40 years since the Thatcher government decided that making and selling things was more trouble than its worth. In that time, the theories she relied upon have been internalised by politicians of all stripes, and much of the public, as if they were as immutable as the weather.
Wages must be low to attract investment.
Public enterprises are necessarily inefficient.
Bankers create wealth.
The wealthy will leave the country if they are taxed as they are in Europe.
You know the drill.
Within the span of the current Conservative stint, we remember promises that the UK was to ‘lead the world’ in green technology. When it comes to planning what could actually bring that about, however, we are reliant on the foreign companies to which the fundamentals of our economy have been flogged off.
The figures never include the increase in crime, the social services interventions, the declining health, the addictions that follow mass redundancies as surely as lawyers after an ambulance.
None of that was factored into the commissions and bonuses of the banks and brokerages that administered the sale of public assets. That’s for you and I to pay, you know, like ‘our king’, and inflated bills from private utilities companies. ‘Our NHS’ can have what’s left. For now.
The cognitive dissonance just gathers pace as everything falls apart. Here’s Carmarthen’s Allison Pearson, then of the Daily Mail, explaining her relationship with Margaret Thatcher in 2008.
‘David Cameron promised recently that Britain would return to ‘good housekeeping’ – a grateful nod to Grantham’s own Housewife Superstar, Margaret Hilda Thatcher.
Even Gordon Brown invited her back to her old house for tea, perhaps hoping the Iron Lady could put some lead in his own trembling pencil.
So why now? Why suddenly do we feel able to celebrate this woman who divided us so bitterly?
While her fanbase has always stayed fiercely loyal, today it seems Maggie’s appeal has spread well beyond party politics. Could it be that, at 82 and in failing health, Lady Thatcher is finally old enough and frail enough to be hailed as a National Treasure?
There is no longer any danger the blonde schoolmarm will come after us with a ruler for putting the future of Britain on the credit card these past ten years and finding – whoops! – we can’t afford the repayments.
I spent my 20s loathing Mrs Thatcher. To my young feminist heart, beating righteously under a chestful of Support The Miners badges, our first female prime minister seemed to be so harsh and insensitive she barely deserved to be called a woman.
Only now am I getting the point of her. If Mrs Thatcher was still prime minister, do you really suppose we would have needed that ridiculous report from Lord Goldsmith explaining we should try to ‘entrench the notion of Britishness in British society’?
Don’t be daft. Every day was Britishness Day for Margaret Thatcher. She never looked down on her country, nor did she look back on its history with apologetic scorn.
There is a touching scene in BBC4’s The Long Walk To Finchley, where the young Margaret Roberts says she simply refuses to believe Britain’s decline cannot be reversed. So she put her foot down.
The 17-year-old me, revising for English A-level by candlelight because of yet another power cut after yet another strike, didn’t appreciate that the lights were going out all over Britain. And it was Margaret Thatcher who would put them back on.’
And here she is this week puffing her Telegraph piece on the Port Talbot news.
Could anybody help Alison out here? Any wild stabs in the dark as to when we stopped ‘caring about our own people’?
Answers on a Post Office scandal, please.
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