Dear Gordon Brown, I’ve voted Labour all my life. Never again.

The Cleveland hills which surround my home town of Stockton on Tees, in the North East of England, are rich in Iron Ore. For the past 170 years the hard working men of Teesside have extracted that raw material and turned into Steel which shipped around the world. Teesside steel almost singlehandedly built the industrial revolution. Wherever you are in the world, reading this, there is a very good chance the road bridges and train lines you take to work in the morning, or the skyscraper you work in or the car you drive, is made from Steel products made in the North East of England. Today the last remaining smelt in Teesside closed with the loss of 1600 jobs. It was the largest in Europe.

The closure of the Corus Steel plant in Redcar today will reverberate around the economy for decades to come. With the lack of orders being sent out around the world the Middlesbrough ship yards are probably next to go, followed by what remains of the chemical plants which also line the coast, which once formed part of one of the largest industrial complexes in the world.

The UK government has had months to negotiate with the Corus parent company Tata to keep the plant open. Raw materials being the biggest cost in making Steel made the Teesside plant’s close proximity to the Cleveland Hills one of the most competitive in the world. But a 10 year contract to supply Steel was cancelled when the global economy went into nose dive. Instead of seeking recompense for this in the courts, which might have forced some of the customers who originally cancelled those orders to reconsider, Peter Mandleson and the 5 constituency MP’s who represent workers from the plant, sat around doing precisely nothing.

As recently as the day before closure, the entire cabinet were in Durham. None of them had the decency to attend the recording of BBC Question Time which was presented from Middlesbrough town hall and attended by the men whose jobs are affected by their lack of ability to govern the UK properly. None of them could face the people of this part of the world who put the Labour government in power, to answer the basic question of how they can justify pouring literally billions of pounds into the pockets of their banker friends in the City of London, while a tiny fraction of the cost of bailing out Lloyds, RBS and Northern Rock would have kept open one of the few remaining businesses in the whole of the UK that still actually makes something to be proud of.

I am 37 years old. The first time I was old enough to vote in a general election, the Labour Party leader was Neil Kinnock. The day of the 1992 General Election, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun news paper ran a front page headline saying, “If Kinnock wins today would the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”. John Major won the election and continued a campaign of closures—affecting the mining and industrial manufacturing industry all around the UK—which were begun in the late 1970s by his predecessor Margaret Thatcher.

One of the hardest hit regions in this series of closures was the North East of England. But the Steel works remain unaffected, such was the quality of the product they produced at the competitive rate at which they produced it—but it was no easy survival and closure always loomed on the horizon and when the state of the UK economy under Gordon Brown began to make it increasingly cheeper for customers to source Steel in China and India the writing was on the wall.

In 1997, when Tony Blair’s New Labour Party broke the Tory’s winning streak, almost everyone believed that Labour would put in place a long term strategy for rejuvenating the parts of the economy which 18 years of Conservative mismanagement had destroyed. Britain had gone from being one of the largest manufacturing economies in the world to a bankrupt and dejected mess. Both Blair and his successor Gordon Brown failed to do that—in fact they made it 10 times worse.

At some point in the next few weeks the British people will find out the date of the next General Election. I sincerely hope that when the results of that poll are known, not a single MP from this region is returned to the House of Commons. They all deserve to lose their jobs just as the men and women of Teesside, who have traditionally supported the Labour movement, no matter how it is rebranded and spun, have lost their belief in on-the-take bastard politicians.

Unfortunately the nature of democracy means that someone has to win in place of these Labour candidates and for the most part this is almost certainly bound to be MPs from the very same Conservative Party who presided over the slow decline in UK manufacturing in the first place. But we have to remain optimistic that the man who would be our next Prime Minister, David Cameron, despite his rich boy background and his private school boy chums in the city, isn’t entirely cold hearted.

We have to hope that he saw the faces of the people who lined the streets of Redcar today, to pipe the last post for the men ending the last ever shift at the Corus Steel Plant. Their tireless, but ultimately doomed attempts to save not just their jobs but the legacy of this region was a heartbreaking site to see and they have no-one to blame but the Labour government.


5 comments on “Dear Gordon Brown, I’ve voted Labour all my life. Never again.

  1. Thatcher was bad for the economy?

    If you want to work in a steel mill, go to India where you’ll get paid £5 a day instead of £10 an hour.

    Its not profitable to pay british people £5-10 an hour when you can pay.

    And why do British people now get paid £5-10? Because our highly developed economy has lead to increasingly skilled work force that can command a higher price point. .

    What the fuck is the point in having the government subsidize a business that loses more money that it makes?

    You could put all the workers on welfare and it would be more profitable.

    Do we have unlimited money now? No. So why spend more money soothing the ego of the steel workers when it means less people can be helped?

    India and China have come out of deep poverty and have now begun an industrialization similar to what Britain has done. India and China based companies can now make steel cheaper than Corus can make it for.

    Therefore its impossible for them to make any money.

    You can get the government to pump money into Corus, it will never make it more profitable to pay a british person £10 an hour for what an Indian or Chinese will willing do for £5 a day.

    Steel mills don’t deserve a bail out any more than banks.

  2. Rod I like what you have to say here but tecnically it isn’t true that it would be impossible to keep corus going. Nationalism could provide a solution to these types of closures. Whether that would be preferable to the current situation however is another story. Personally I think it wouldn’t.

    Eventually the workers in these developing economies will be able to gain better conditions and wages so given enough time these discrepencies will even out.

    I also disagree that bail outs should not be given to banks. Given the fact that the government guarantee savings up to 50000 per person per institution, they would still have had a huge mess to clean up regardless. Funny how the old maxim ‘too big to fail’ turned out to be true, just not for the reason everyone thought!

    The big bonuses might piss people off, but haven’t most of these banks paid the bailouts back? Plus some banks, like Barclays didn’t even take any to start with. As long as these execs pay the tax on it I don’t see what the big problem is.

    We ought to be more concerned about the large number of people in this country who do nothing to contribute whatsoever, and get by gaming the benefits system at the expense of those of who actually do try to earn their way.

    Not to mention the Hayekesque transformation the country is currently going through as a result of it.

  3. Rod. You are wrong. Corus Redcar is not just another Steel Mill, it was the biggest in Europe. Its survival would have meant inward investment in the whole of the UK manufacturing economy for decades to come. It did not fail because it couldn’t make steel cheaper than India or China, it failed because its owners want out of the North East and out of the UK altogether because they’re being hamstrung by bureaucracy and an almost complete lack of joined-up thinking from the government.

    Those jobs were lost unnecessarily. Your banking sector analogy is false. Corus’ Teesside products were made to a very high standard and were competitively priced. The financial services which contributed to the world economic collapse were built on unsustainable business models which concealed their true worth until it was too late. Every government in the world believed the hype about the housing market and credit growth—so when it all turned out to be based on greed and lies, they had no choice but to keep on following the yellow brick road as if nothing had happened.

    They did this at the cost of what was left of our manufacturing industry and the jobs of the hard working men and women of this country who still actually make something, as opposed to sell something that doesn’t really exist. We are going to be paying for the criminal negligence of our overlords for the rest of our lives and our children beyond that. If you think that isn’t something to stand up and do something about then I suggest you keep your thoughts to yourself, because—to my mind—there have been people’s revolutions built upon less solid justification than this. What they’re doing to our country is sick and I’ll never vote for any of the mainstream political parties ever again.

  4. The closing paragraph tells it all in my opinion. I must say that I agree with it, and probably the most great factor about it is that you simply left it open ended…this reveals that you are ready to attract in new and completely different opinions and that you’re ultimately very interested to see folks getting concerned within the subject. So, any different opinions?

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