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Opinion

Tata to all that

21 Jan 2024 6 minute read
Tata to all that

Ben Wildsmith

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.

Yesterday’s news

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?

Thatcher government

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.

Cognitive dissonance

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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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Pearson? That vacuous turnip, reason no 76 not to read the torygraph or listen to her mumblings on how to infect people with covid.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

The date…just before the 1979 election. The place…The Vaults, Welshpool…Max was holding court between the two bars, he was warning all present that a certain Mrs Thatcher would be the nemesis of the United Kingdom. We, of course, weren’t listening…shut up Max we are here for a good time. I’ve thought about Max quite a bit since then…and here we are with No 10 and 11 full of criminal asset strippers of the worst kind…you get the government you let creep up on you…closed lists Mr D and Mr ap Iorwerth no thanks and shame on you both…

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago

People like that are so far down the rabbit hole they’ve lost all touch with the lived reality of ordinary people. Sadly, what they’re succeeding in doing is dragging people in with them. Ben put his finger on it when he pointed out the multi-billion bail out of a broken banking sector. That is the great cash cow of the UK crach and they’re desperate to keep it alive. It is the political centre of gravity of the UK, hidden in plain sight. It is also the cause of monumental inequality and poverty. These idiot apologists for this economic ideology… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Annibendod
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Annibendod

I wonder if certain people aren’t actively trying to destroy this country, methinks that the citizens of nowhere who are running this country actually despise it, maybe for historical reasons of which there are many, or purely good old fashioned daylight robbery, 37 billion for test and trace, did we ever see a breakdown of those figures? To put all our eggs in other countries baskets is hardly a sensible or patriotic thing to do…someone should call MI5, where’s that Russia Report…

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
30 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I am also inclined to think this way! That and being Governed by Millionaires who have about as much contact with the lives of most people in the UK as my cat! Something must change and fast, How do we stop the Lemmings constantly voting for Parties that could not give a damn about the welfare of the many?

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
30 days ago

Marks the beginning of the end of new steel making in the UK. No blast furnaces no new steel. The change to electric renders new steel making dead.

Lord Custard
Lord Custard
30 days ago

Once again we’re not reducing CO2 but simply out sourcing jobs to China and India. In fact when we end up importing steel and goods manufactured abroad we’ll be increasing CO2 by using shipping for something that could be done locally. We are the only G20 member that won’t be able to make steel from raw materials. That tells you a lot about the short term stupidity of the Tories! If we ever end up in a prolonged war, we’ll be forced to look down the back of the sofa for bits of tin foil!

Karl
Karl
29 days ago
Reply to  Lord Custard

Thats what leave voters endorsed across the board. No protection for Welsh steel against cheap Cinese that Cameron started the ball rolling with. Now no EU to protect from that devistation of jobs and communities.And certainly no cheaper prices in the final product, more greed.

TomTom82
TomTom82
29 days ago
Reply to  Karl

There is no protection in a free market. The consumer decides what is most suitable for them. Chinese steel is cheaper. It’s also flimsy. The EU can’t do anything about the manufacturing costs. The EU itself makes government subsidies and bailouts ilegal, so much for the glorious EUs help.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
28 days ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Governments can and do intervene in manufacturing costs through subsidies and bailouts as they did and have continued to do for banksters to the tune of £trillions. Nothing is too expensive for the financial sector and, of course, wars throughout the world but manufacturing? Forget it

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
28 days ago
Reply to  TomTom82

UK Government can protect against the ‘free market’ through subsidies and bailouts as they did and still do for the banksters and to the tune of £trillions. Ok for the banks but not for manufacturing. Such double standards

Gareth
Gareth
28 days ago
Reply to  TomTom82
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
28 days ago

So Tata had their fingers crossed behind their backs !

A new blast furnace in India

I bet that £500 million bung from Rishi Ji paid for it…

He works for them…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
28 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Who remembers my Downing Street Indian Summer Party speech post a while back.

Rishi and Hunt Asset Strippers UK Unlimited @ Slash, Burn and Pillage…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
28 days ago

Fat Shanks’ KGB mate in the House of Lords trumped by Modi head boy Sunak in No 10.

Totally screwed…

Tories make Peaky Blinders look like kids stuff…

John doh
John doh
28 days ago

Shame they couldn’t flatten the entire place and stop the constant environmental destruction.

The union should of made a deal 10+ years ago to retrain people in other sectors. But instead they winged and got what they wanted, that was a company losing half a million a day, overstaffed and overpaid.

Then how in this day in age can you have a city living under dust with some of the highest cancer rates, the highest obesity rates and many many more.
The biggest contribution to C02 in the UK, for what in return? Overpriced steel from overpaid workers.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
28 days ago
Reply to  John doh

So Tata steel are going to stop the environmental destruction by announcing that they are going to build the largest blast furnace in the world.Which will be in India powered by the same method currently used in Port Talbot.

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