Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Election and The Steel Industry

So we now have the ConDem coalition with Labour moving to the opposition benches.
The three main Steel producing areas saw a drop in the Labour vote with Scunthorpe and Aberavon returning Labour MPs. The story was very different in Redcar however.
Scunthorpe saw the Labour majority reduced from 8,963 in 2005 down to 2,549. The main reason given for this drop and a swing to Conservatives of 9.2% was the expenses scandal which saw the previous Labour MP at the forefront.
What cannot have been missed by the electorate was the lack of support given to the Steel Industry during the economic crisis as will be seen later when we look at the result at Redcar.
Steelworkers had witnessed their industry collapsing around them and were forced to take cuts in hours and become engaged in a cost saving initiative to secure the survival of the largest employer in the area.
In Aberavon where the Steel Industry had benefited from the car scrappage scheme Labour's result was a decent one and they managed to poll almost 52% of the vote.
The result at Redcar was a disaster for Labour.
The local Steelworks and the Chemical works had seen threat of closure with little apparent support from the government at trying to save the main industries.
Labour's vote was reduced from slightly under 20,000 in 2005 to 13,741 with a swing to the Lib Dems of 21.8%.
This should serve as a warning to Labour. Abandon the core vote and allow a whole community and you get what you deserve.
The result is probably a harsh one for Vera Baird the Labour MP returned in 2005.
I was at the Save Our Steel March at Redcar last July and I witnessed the heckling of Vera as she attempted to speak to the marchers.
Afterwards I was informed that she had been doing sterling work on behalf of the Steelworkers but unfortunately it hadn't been portrayed to the public.

So what now for the Steel Industry. 
It certainly cannot afford any further plant closures and needs to be placed at the centre of any survival plan for UK manufacturing.
Labour needs to learn the lesson of leaving the working class at the mercy of the market and re-engage with its core support.