by John Ward
The nine lives of British Steel throw an important light on not just how to vote this Thursday, but why the British People need to dump ideological dogma in favour of cultural justice and citizen fulfilment.
Having hoovered up over £120m of taxpayers’ money in the last three months, British Steel is now obviously doomed. Its collapse is going to cost over 4,000 jobs in Scunthorpe alone, and threaten a further 20,000 supply-chain jobs elsewhere.
A spin-lackey at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said yesterday, “As the business department, we are in regular conversation with a wide range of companies.” Last week both British Steel and the DBEIS were “confident” of survival. Aptly perhaps, BS also stands for British Steel.
The history of British Steel is just about the best business distillation of why pragmatic empiricism – and Ministers with the required expertise – will always be more effective for citizens than dithering ideologues who resort to quick fixes under pressure.
Describing the tragic decline of this outfit does not lend itself to political bias: rather, it is one in which I, as a disenfrachised political neutral, can offer an excoriating critique of cancerous Left-Right ideology and amateur bureaucracy.
For a decade after its formation by the Wilson government, British Steel was hampered by interfering Whitehall tick-boxers, deeply mediocre management, strategic muddle and the endless throwing of vote-centric money at an organisation whose flaws were barely understood by anyone in Government.
But then, after 1980, increased workforce productivity, cost advantages versus EU competition and better marketing turned the company round. This (as always) caught the eye of the City Slickers…and the Conservatives lined it up for plc status.
It was Mrs Thatcher’s privatisation swansong, but when the Group was was privatised in 1988 its recovery from billion-lossmaker to Golden Egg was already complete. Following the shares issue (backed by millions spent on braindead advertising, at our expense) British Steel shot into the FTSE 100.
It is important to remember that a few paper-trailers in the City made tens of millions of Pounds from the acceptance and ingenuity of a workforce that had more than increased productivity by a staggering 150% in six years. The workers got nothing – save for a long-running dispute about how and why their pensions were embezzled. But just to rub in the scale of injustice, senior post-plc directors earned vast salary and pension packages.
Management laurel-resting did not play out well. So merchant bankers from the M&A sector moved in, and in 1999, Corus was formed through the merger of British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens. After huge fees had been earned (and the shareholders mugged comprehensively) the engineless Jumbo was sold to Tata in Europe. The business was bought by investment house Greybull in 2016 for just £1.
Why did it slide into such an obscene valuation? Well, a major factor was that our lovely partners in the EU gave China carte blanche to dump cheap steel into the European market….an act that neither British MEPs nor UK diplomacy ever effectively opposed.
It began to declare profits – albeit briefly – again after 2016.
But then it fell foul of….the European Union’s carbon tax. A tax on something of near-zero relevance to Climate change, and the immediate cause of BS requiring a £100 million emergency loan from the government just one month ago to pay the tax – and thus avoid a further fine from Brussels.
Would, we ask ourselves, a company called Acier Français or Deutsche Stahl have been shafted in this fashion? Do we think either Merkel or Hollande would have just stood by and watched in distinguished silence?
“That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is entirely a matter for you”.
But there was an almost uninterrupted history of waste, incompetence, elective lies, exploitation, financialised profiteering and Whiteminster ignorance that came long before the European Commission’s ruthless matadors delivered the coup de grace.
And this is what makes British Steel the perfect example of how we have all been varietally pauperised over the last half century.
Observe that history in a nutshell: productivity diluted and good money murdered thanks to trade unions and civil servants >>> better management and flexible workers exploited and shafted by financialisers >>> shareholder values decimated by bankers >>> careless offloading of a bunion by New Labour >>> trading conditions inverted by Brussels >>> cash flow finally destroyed by EU green tax virtue signalling >>> £120m more of taxpayers money down the drain in just four week >>> THE END.
In the light of that sorry stream of ignorant stupidity,greed and cost, here are three questions we should all ask ourselves in the 48 hours before this Thursday’s euroelections farce:
- Would you vote Labour or LibDem in the knowledge that both these Parties think more EU brainless corruption is just what we need?
- Would you vote for a Conservative Party that thinks more incompetent Whitehall technocracy is what we need, with the added bonus of becoming a vassal of that same, undemocratic EU?
- Would you vote for a Green Party prepared to cripple business on the basis of bad CO2 science and muddled perspectives about relative causes of pollution by nation and region?
Call me wacky here, but I would suggest that – faced with a thick front door to the Castle of the Deaf – the only effective battering ram we have is Nigel Farage and The Brexit Party.
But then I would ask you all to remember one further thing: electing a Eurosceptic EU Parliament might send shock-waves under the feet of Raubritters in Brussels, but there is no way it will make them, or Theresa May, or Olly Robbins or Uncle Tom Watson change their closed minds.
In a General Election, therefore, I would submit that you would self-pose five questions:
- Should I put my faith in a Labour Party now dedicated to a repeat of the 1960s/70s chaos that created the failing British Steel, but now with an even more literal socialist agenda?
- Should I vote to keep in power a Conservative Party that has put itself before the good of Britain, perverted the Constitution on several levels, and been central to the profiteering, dysfunctional financialisation that crippled the reborn British Steel.
- Should I support a “Liberal Democratic” Party that – more overtly than any other – spits upon direct democracy, and is liberal in pretty much the same way that Hillary Clinton is?
- Should I support a Green Party that eschews climate science in favour of ignorant dogma, and whose stronghold is Brighton?
- Should I put all my chips on the BP and Nigel Farage to break up the current cosily dangerous club in Westminster, and then reform Britain to make it a more legally, electorally, socially and economically just culture?
- (As there is no question that The Change Party will be history by that time, they are not included here. Nor is the Scottish National Party, which is irrelevant as long as it cannot see that Brussels would be even worse than Whiteminster.)
I call this ‘Four Nobrainers & a Bunfight’. More precisely, we should use both volume and tactical voting under the FPTP system to create a sizeable People’s Wedge in the Commons.
As to the reform thing, the kindest thing I can say about Mr Farage is ‘Give Nige a chance’ – cue music courtesy of the Plastic Ono Band. My own hunch is that he will form a Coalition, and it could only be with one Party: the Tories.
The changes we need to make Britain a solvent and nice place to live once more go way, way beyond the issue of sovereign independence from the European Union. The Brexit Party is a good start, but no more than that.
For my money, the search goes on for a Movement of some kind that can bypass the Top by starting changes from the Ground Up. I have posted at length about such an approach both here and elsewhere at The Slog. For further elucidation, new readers might want to give this one a go too: