A lament for a once great Britain – II

Tuesday, May 11 2010

Yorkshire Chemicals factory in Leeds being demolished in March 2008.
Photo Phill Davison.

(Click on image to go to Phill Davison’s The Rise and Fall of Yorkshire Chemicals – 100 Years of Plundered History photo album.)

What is so dreadfully depressing about the current political stalemate in the UK is how little difference it will make actually which political party Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats will finally cuddle up to. Britain will continue to import products from countries were children work in factories and workers are denied elementary human rights. Britain will continue to send it armed forces to far away countries to teach democracy. Britain will continue to invest in Trident. Britain’s deficit will grow and be funded by more borrowing from the hyper-bankers who bankroll its media and mainstream political parties. Sterling will fall. Pension savings will wither. Taxes will increase. Government spending on real things like schools, railways and hospitals will decline. People will get angrier. The police will get tougher…

‘M’ shed. Yorkshire Chemicals went into liquidation in January 2006.
Photo Phill Davison

Ian Parker-Joseph (re-published on Old Holborn) writes that Britain is dying:

When I first came here to Blaenavon there was a butcher, a baker, a shop that sold all manner of things including the candlesticks, a number of florists, newsagents, hairdressers, greengrocers selling fresh fruit & veg, a plethora of book shops, cafés ranging from a greasy Joes to a bohemian meeting place. There was a manned Police Station, a Fire Station, 3 petrol stations, 20 public houses, 2 Post Offices, a swimming and sports complex and a population of around 6,500 who had painfully recovered economically from the closure of the mining industry a decade earlier.

In its day it was much larger, with a peak in population in 1921 of 12,500 supporting the string of mines that were present on both sides of the valley, the finest steel works in Britain and an Iron works that today stands in ruins and is supported by Heritage funds as a museum. The largest of the mines, Big Pit, still remains, although unproductive as it is now open to the public as a living museum.

Today however, after 12 years of Labour interference and mis-management in the Economy and the daily lives of everyone who lives here, the town is dying. The Butcher sold up, the baker has gone, the shop that sells everything now sells very little, the book shops are all gone, so are the cafés. The Police station is closed after an experiment to only have it open 2 hours a day, the Fire Station is part time, only 1 petrol station remains, 11 of the 20 pubs are gone, 1 of the post offices has been up for sale for over a year, the Swimming pool originally built with miners funds has been torn down, sold to developers (who intend to build a new police station?) and an increasingly confused population wondering where their next job and income is going to come from.

Eloquently as Ian Parker-Joseph writes, he is wrong in exclusively blaming the Labour Party. Both Labour and the Tories have fed the ‘free market’ dragon that consumed Britain’s manufacturing industry. Margaret Thatcher maintained sterling artificially high (and killed British manufacturing jobs) in order to support ‘The City of London’. Labour only continued what the Tories had started, and squandered North Sea oil revenues to create paper pushing jobs in government rather than supporting real jobs for people who actually made things.

The Yorkshire Dyeworks & Chemical Company was founded in 1900 with a merger of eleven smaller companies and enjoyed a century of unrivalled success. In later years they were unable to compete with the Asian market. Yorkshire Chemicals fell on hard times and went into liquidation in January 2006. Here in the offices we found company records that had been meticulously kept over the years, patents and historical photographs destined for the land fill site.

Photo and caption Phill Davison.



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