The recent announcements detailing the disastrous job losses in the Britsh steel industry have provoked outrage in political circles and despair in the towns affected by the collapsing steel price. You’d think the failure of another bastion of UK Plc’s diminishing manufacturing ability would have little bearing on our rural world..but it does.
We all love a bargain? ‘Sale’ is our favourite word. Most adverts and promotional sales activities rotate around the benefits of any product but crucially it’s the bargain, it’s the price we’re going to be drawn by. We are suckers for shops boasting (up to) 70% discount or ‘Final Clearance’ and despite the fact that we have the mental capacity to understand that these offers are basically manipulative marketing tools to get you into the shops, we still go along with the whole charade.
Supercheap clothes, food and electronics all have to be made somewhere and while we persist in turning a blind eye to the realities of commerce and cheap labour we all know that while we’re gloating over the lovely thing we’ve bought at a bargain price, somebody in this country could be facing redundancy to pay for your careless disregard of British manufacturing.
The 10,00 steel workers who are about to lose their jobs will have been as guilty as the rest of us when it comes to ignoring the consequences of choosing to buy imported goods. And although we’ll happily display our environmental credentials by plastering our roofs with Chinese-made photo-voltaic solar panels, we’ll overlook the massive environmental damage being wreaked on our planet by China and other burgeoning nations who exploit their massive pools of people desperate to improve their lives. For some things we need, there is no option but to buy foreign products, most electronic goods are only made in foreign countries and although once world leaders in this area, our markets and our ability to compete have diminished to a few specialist producers making stuff that only Premier League footballers can afford.
Everyone’s blaming China for allegedly ‘dumping’ their stocks of steel onto our shores as though this is something we have no control over. If you’re imagining ships laden to the gunnels with steel being sneaked up the Thames at the dead of night and popped onto shore while nobody was looking then you’re deluding yourself. This steel was openly imported by a mercenary bargain-hunter seeking an opportunity to make himself money for his business. Who can blame him? It’s all about freedom of choice and the tyranny of a free market system that we love to exploit when it suits us but complain bitterly when it doesn’t.
You have choices too! This weekend, when you’re in the shops perhaps you should take another minute to peer at the labels on the stuff you’re buying and if it’s got a UK manufactured label - take it! It might prevent someone in your household coming home with a P45 because ‘foreign dumping’ has stolen their job too!