It’s beginning to look a lot like Thatcher….

February 20, 2010

When I was 18, I worked at Todmorden Jobcentre. When I moved to this area, that same year, there were about 10 major employers. Employers that employed, hundreds of people.

At the time, people thought this was fairly dire, and hoped that it would improve. In the decade that preceded my arrival, hundreds of employers in the local area, engineering firms, manufacturing firms, textile firms, dissapeared. Most had gone by the time I arrived, but in the two years that followed, one by one, the major employers that had existed, on my first day in the jobcentre, went too.

Manufacturing was in recession, long before the finance sector went boom.

Little has come to replace the industry that left. Those young enough, and able enough, have retrained, gone to university, gained new skills. Got new jobs.

The ones that couldn’t do this, came into sign on. I would ask their occupation for the jobseekers agreement= you invariably got the same answer. I ‘AM’ a weaver, I ‘AM’ a printer. Mainly men, who had been defined by one job, for up to 30 years- all of a sudden being told by me, an 18 year old- I could find them work in the manufacturing sector, but it was picking, and packing, for less than what is now minimum wage. I didn’t quite understand why they couldn’t just retrain, or do anything, but then, I was 18.

We still had building, and associated trades- but they are now in temporary limbo, given the state of the housing markets. The roofers were the last to find themselves out of work, after they mothballed building sites.

Many of those who retrained, went into the public sector-local hospitals, social services, care homes, schools-all provide jobs from cleaners, and auxhillaries, to teachers and social workers. I was heartened by the news this morning, that Gordon Brown was stating that spending cuts could hinder economic recovery. Then I added up the number of friends, who have had contracts ended, hours reduced, taken pay freezes, or are facing massively reduced budgets-and realised it was bollocks. The cuts started last year. Public sector cuts, mean the last provider of decent employment round here, letting people go.

We will be left with the service sector, that last bastion of well paid, secure employment, that isn’t totally dependant on levels of disposable income, in the local area…

I know I am rambling, and not making sense, but I just watched Question Time. The level of debate was pretty poor, mainly because it was in Middlesborough, and the politicians and pundits, who had come all the way from London, appeared to be one of the only opportunities the people of this town, had had to shout about the fact that one of their last remaining industries was being ‘mothballed’. Abstract discussion of political and economic principles by the panel, principles which blithely bargained the fate of an entire community, with the recovery of the country, appeared to elicit despair from the audience.

When those men signed on when I was 18, I didn’t understand that despair. I am a bit older now, and I fully understand. What has happened in my local area, over two decades, is  nothing, in comparison to what will happen, when this plant is ‘mothballed’.

Towns like Middlesborough, and areas like mine, will bear the brunt of this recession. Never mind. The unemployment  will help curb the inflation, we are told won’t happen, and quantitative easing doesn’t cause. Thats quite helpful.

The failure of a steel plant, will only really destroy that town, its  fair price to pay. It might upset the market if we were to do anything to assist. Maybe if mismanagement of a steel plant had brought the country to its knees, we would be giving them an unconditional chequebook.

Shame it took BBC Question Time to get any politicians to the area, to give these people a platform.



  1. I do like your implication that the debate on Question Time was poor due to it being in Middlesborough. The people of the North East are obviously too stupid to to have reasoned debate on such a program. If only they’d had Jordan in the panel, then we could have understood what was going on. How very, very patronising.

    You’re right when you say towns like Middlesborough will bear the brunt of the recession, and there is a single reason for it, their instisence on voting for a Labour party that has betrayed the working classes over, and over again over the past 13 years, but the very people who have been most betrayed will go out at the election this year and vote Labour. Why? Not because they believe in the rhetoric spouted by Brown and his cronies, but because they always have, and their parents always have. Labour know this, and have no incentive at all to do anything when the North East is screwed again, because everyone will vote Labour anyway.

    Still, now Corus at Redcar is closing, it gets all of the people working in skilled manufacturing into minimum wage jobs with a complete loss of the ability to self-determine their destiny, unable to afford to feed their families without Gordon’s generous tax credits further enslaving them to the state, and you know what, a hell of a lot of them will be grateful for that, and think Labour are looking after them, forgetting they’re the reason they’re in that position in the first place.

    • THe implication was not that the debate was poor, due to it being held in Middlesborough. THe implication was that the debate was poor, because it was overshadowed by a scenario which threatened to cripple their town.
      I am no fan of Labour- but I would like to know what it is the Tories would have done to help Middlesborough. The decline of towns like mine, and like Middlesborough were started not by Brown- but by Thatcher. The nails in the coffin may have been hammered in by Labour- but they are nails which were fixed in place by Thatcher. By the time I started work in Todmorden Jobcentre, Labour had been in power for a matter of weeks.
      Please do enlighten me by telling me which of the policies of deregulation continued by labour, were opposed by the conservative party? Especially given that the actions which led to this, were generally perceived by the Conservatives as sound-even when opposed by Labour grassroots. I love that in your view, it is the refusal of people in Middlesborough, to think that somehow the conservatives would save them. Yup. That’s almost perverse in its distortion.

      As for the tax credits that enslave them- are you suggesting that somehow people who have had their main industry removed, should be left to starve?

      Maybe the Tories could use that as a campaign platform. Tell the British Families who have rely on tax credits, and public services, during a recession created by deregulation of private industry, and a greed that made towns like their irrelevant, the people who are already paying for this recession with their jobs, with bail outs, and with more and more subsidy for the rich- that they are being enslaved by being able to eat, and survive, while the country recovers from the situation they were not part of causing.

      That just about sums up the current Conservative position. Let the british people pay the debts of big companies(in fact why don’t we sell off the debt cheap-for the profit of the private sector), let the remaining business in the town die as you slash public sector jobs, and remove the liquidity in the local economy, by making sure they are not enslaved by being able to survive, while this mess clears up…..

      Ignore the economic reality, that a slashing of public services, and tax credits, far from liberating anyone- would actually have consequences which could plunge Britain back into recession, as it did when Geoffrey Howe adopted this approach- when Thatcher first got in. Still, we can’t have economic reality get in the way-when we are talking about liberating people from the enslavement of being able to feed their families can we? Never mind, once the community dies, and starts to show the natural consequences of poverty, you can blame them again can’t you? You could come up with a slogan like er…’Broken Britain’ and package it as ‘compassion’ for those who you are kicking the boot into.

      Who is it Osborne says we need to suppport again- the wealthmakers? Making wealth for who?

      • The Tories wouldn’t have done anything to help Labour, neither would anyone else. The problem is Labour know they’re always going to win in Middlesborough, and therefore don’t care what happens. Equally, the tories know they’re never going to win in Middlesborough and so equally don’t care what happens. The real perversion is that the only way the people of Middlesborough could get the incumbent government to take any interest in them, and start to throw regeneration cash at them is to get a complete bunch of nutters like the BNP to finish a close second in the next by-election. I guess thats part of the problem with the party political system, and our first past the post system.

        I’m not by any stretch of the imagination trying to suggest the Tories have anything to offer, most of my views are very much Libertarian. Although in their defence I’ve never understood this countries obsession that rather than take any personal responsibility for anything they do, blame Thatcher, did Thatcher really destroy the mining industry, or was it more caused by the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, which nationalised the industry and massively reduced it’s productivity, which took 20years to recover by which time foreign companies had gained an upper hand. The same is true for the computer industry, the motor industry, and the aircraft industry in this country. It seems that the alternative to blaming Thatcher is blaming the bankers, but I don’t remember anyone ever forcing anyone to get a 125% mortgage at gunpoint (but it’s much easier to blame the banks that for anyone to take any personal responsibility), but I digress.

        I’m not suggesting people should be left to starve when they lose their job, but the state should be a safety net, not a life choice as it has become. I would much prefer to remove x amount from tax credits and instead allow people to earn the same amount by changes to the tax code (or re-introducing the 10% rate of tax).

        I’ve never subscribed to the Keynesian view or economics (Gordon Brown’s favoured theory, widely discredited in the 70s), and really don’t understand how cutting public services could send the country back into a recession. Public sector staff essentially contribute nothing to the economy at large, private sector employees net contribute to the state by paying tax, public sector staff are a drain on the economy as 100% of their wages come from the state, they don’t contribute anything. Falsely creating public sector jobs is in essence no different to bailing out the banks, but on a microeconomic scale.

        In a true laissez-faire society (with limited state intervention, as in the 19th century), Middlesborough would survive, unemployment would rise short term (and the curve smoothed by the state safety net), wages would fall temporarily and businesses would move into the area to take advantage of the cheap skilled labour and wages would soon rise again. Interventionist policies from the government will probably prevent this from happening, and instead some of the newly unemployed will realise that they can get more cash handed to them by doing nothing, or refuse to work more than 16hours a week as there’s no benefit to working more than that. Socialism is a nice idea in theory, but will always be abused in the long run. I suspect it may just be an Urban Legend but there is a very nice story at http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=43499 that pretty much sums Socialism up.

      • Gordon Browns approach to the bail outs, was not Keynesian. THere was no investment in public services, to stimulate economic growth-no nationalisation. It was a cash gift to banks.

        Keynesian theories were not discredited in the 70’s. The world economy was following free market principles, and the british economy could not survive using Keynesian principles in isolation. In addition to which, the rise of neo liberalist values-meant that people were more concerned about the individual-than the state. This is not the same as an economic theory being discredited.

        As for tax credits being a lifestyle choice. They are only paid when you work. Which means they bring peoples income, from industries which have been deregulated to the point where rates are fairly low, contracts not as cushy as they once were, as employment rights are eroded- to a level which enables them to exists, and to be keep money moving roundthe economy. We kind of need people doing that right now….. The only thing tax credits subsidise are the pitifully low salaries offered, which allow companies to make profits. Large profits. Interestingly, tax credits have had to bridge the pitifully poor salaries, and a liveable wage.

        And given the fact that the local industry just died, and that will severely restrict the ‘choice’ of people to work- then we are left with looking at the actual benefit system. Which does not offer ‘choices’. Just traps people at subsistence level, and removes them from teh society that they can no longer afford to be part of.

        Is it Dan, or Naz today? I see your economics is er….as ‘informed’, as your other areas of interest. By the way= the ideas you are espousing, are basic neo liberal ideas, which fundamentally inform the ideaology of the conservative party, and the economic policies followed by Brown, to tackle the mess caused by ….oh yeah…policies of neo liberalism, there is no society, blah blah blah.

        If you dont understand how slashing public services,too ruthlessly, would push an economy back into recession- go read a book, and find out. Might stop you trolling this blog, and posting bizarre verbose illogical responses, for the sake of doing so.

  2. The approach to the bailouts may not be Keynesian (it could also be, I’m not 100% sure to be honest), but the rationale behind the bailouts was most definitely Keynesian. The justification for the bailout was that bank assets were being underpriced due to lack of liquidity in the markets, the governments interfered in the markets to increase liquidity, most definitely Keynesian reasoning.

    I would have to disagree that Keynesian theories weren’t discredited in the 1970s. During the 1970s stagflation unemployment and inflation started to rise at the same time, this shouldn’t have been possible using the Philips curve. Keynesianism is also often blamed Japan’s lost 10 years. Their lack of faith in Keynes’ theories is also the main reason Germany exited form recession much sooner than the UK.

    The rise of neoliberalism in the early 80s was associated with the move to the Austrian school of economics, massively reducing inflation from the highs of the 1970s. The move from big-statism towards individualism is an side effect of moving to the Austrian model, but was a separate tenet of Thatcherism that developed along side the economic shift.

    • What is absolutely clear is that while some keynesian rhetoric may have been used to justify the bail outs, there was nothing Keynesian in the rational of deciding they were appropriate. In fact, it would appear that there was very little rational behind that decision, apart from the 2 hours before the cash machines stopped working(2 hours notification was what the treasury was given).
      As for your disagreement about whether Keynesianism was discredited, am probably best having that discussion who knows what the principles of Keynesian economics are.

      • Ah yes, those two hours, about as credible as the timings given in the Iraq dossiers.

        I’m guessing “am probably best having that discussion who knows what the principles of Keynesian economics are.” essentially means you’ve come to the end of the Daily Mirror beginners guide to economics, so you’re right. Probably a good place to end.

      • If you could explain to me= how giving an £850billion to banks, while taking no control, while offering no stimulation to trigger demand in the economy through public investment, while simultaneously making plans to cut public spending to make up the deficit was a Keynesian approach- I would be very pleased to hear it.
        I am afraid that I cannot see how that works to be honest. It is very obvious to anyone else, with or without their mirror guide to economics.
        (Will let my old lecturer know that you think his teachings are media=worthy- he will be pleased).

        As for the two hours- as that has been the line of treasury officials, the bank themselves, the Chancellor of the Exchequer-and that is as much time as any of the other banks that have folded in this crisis, have given- yeah- I kind of think, that for me to say that isn’t true- would make me look like a crank.
        Seriously- I would email you and ask you to stop trolling Dan/Naz- whatever your name is, but you give fake emails.
        You offer the same half thought out arguments with soundbites you have heard,offer no coherence, no cogent argument, yet make your posts so long, and so meandering- that it takes about 5 minutes to make head nor tail, of the guff you spout. Am sorry- but from now on, I will be deleting your rather weird posts, as I don’t argue with cranks. So take your accidental rape, porn is a healthy attitude to sex, tax credits enslave people, and giving £850billion to banks is Keynesian- ‘opinions’ and troll someone else. I am flattered, but bored, so will be deleting messages which bear your hallmarks in future. My first committed troll. Yay me.

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