One GMB delegate asked the Labour candidates how they would defend the Redcar Corus steel workers’ jobs.The plant was “mothballed” earlier this year, putting hundreds out of work in Teesside.The answers the candidates gave show up the divisions and arguments about where Labour should be going.Labour lost a 12,000 majority in Redcar to the Liberal Democrats at the last election, specifically on the issue of the Corus jobs.
David Miliband said the government will have to decide whether to continue Labour’s industrial investment—and that the problem was the loss of customers for Corus’ steel.Andy Burnham said he was really worried about the future of the plant.He pointed out that the Tories “damage people’s hope, people’s future”.
“A Tory government has damaged these communities in the past—we won’t let it happen again,” he said.
Ed Miliband said he will oppose the government “tooth and nail”, and that Labour must not allow the Tories to “sacrifice the economy on the altar of cuts”.
Diane Abbott added, “Multinationals have been allowed to act like bandits in this country.”
All of which was nice, but didn’t say much about saving jobs at the plant—and ignored the point that Labour was in charge when it closed.John McDonnell said, “We’re in a recession, but we’ve got to increase demand and investment to get out of recession.”And he argued not just for investment in manufacturing, but for the plant to be taken into public ownership to save the jobs.Simple, really—and the audience response showed they understood.