Having read articles on Hull, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and Middlesbrough, I think that it’s about time to redress the balance.
For the uninitiated, in 1979 a new Prime Minister was elected in the UK.
Immediately she set about doing what her party did best. And she was best at it out of all of them. Running down industries and getting rid of jobs.
But she did it viciously. She closed down the mines that so many people in Yorkshire worked on. She shut the steelworks and the shipbuilding works. When the people protested she tried to use the police as her enforcers. Heard of the Battle of Orgreave? It took place at a mine. The police came and broke up the largely peaceful protest by hitting people with their truncheons, by assaulting them. She used her friends in the media to make it look like the miners were in the wrong. But she still did it. She closed the mines and got rid of thousands and thousands of jobs. It is today the biggest amount of redundancies ever in the UK. And why? Nothing was done to create new jobs in the north.
Sheffield still hasn’t recovered. Walk the streets now and, though the place is trying to reinvent itself, you can still tell what has happened. Sheffield – and Yorkshire as a whole – had the guts knocked out of it by Maggie Thatcher. Most men were out of work. Starving, on the dole. And it was the same in many other places too.
Thatcher caused more suicides than any other Prime Minister. She laid waste to the North. She hated Sheffield…and Sheffield hates her,
But Sheffield has outlived old Maggie. Maggie is dead and Sheffield is still here. It’s testament to the resilience of us northerners.
After Maggie, there were still a few collieries left. But in 2010 the Tories were elected again. Our current Prime Minister is David Cameron. Everything is the same – lots of unnecessary redundancies, Media smears and dog-whistle tactics, trashing of communities and general apathy – or worse – hatred of the North, failure to look at renewables, under-investment in public transport, exactly how it was 30 years ago. Except this time, we’ve got fracking. And climate change. And more and more food banks. And Boris Johnson’s stupid face.
On 18 December 2015, miners at Kellingley Colliery came up the pit for the last time. They put down their pickaxes and wondered what was next. What had happened to those striking miners 30 years earlier had finally happened to them.
This was the end. Kellingley was the last deep coal mine left in the UK. And now the industry was dead – killed off…by a Tory government.
Some things never change. So don’t be too quick to write off these places. They may not be pretty in some areas – Leeds has some rather nice buildings – but the people there are among the best people you can meet.
Can Sheffield and the North survive this Tory government as well? Yorkshire endures…but so do the Tories. We need to reverse the austerity and we need to do it A.S.A.P.