British workers out in the cold

Alongside all the images of people playing in the snow, are scenes of the protestors at Lindsey in North Lincs continuing their picketing.

Feelings about the loss of local jobs are heated enough to keep them standing in the cold.

These aren’t people unwilling or unable to ‘get on their bike’ when the local plant closes; the jobs are there in their town. And these aren’t people who are unwilling to take the jobs; the jobs were never offered.

The block letting of a contract to an overseas contractor who brings in their own workforce may be legal: but don’t expect the locals to be happy about it.

It’s wrong to dismiss this as a racist campaign. The global market in labour works for some but not for all, and the losers are entitled to protest – especially when their own government has let them down.

What’s made it worse is the crass response of Labour leaders. First Gordon Brown promises ‘British jobs for British workers’. It sounded like reassurance in a threatening world. It was anything but. The PM knew, even if his audience did not, that this was an empty pledge, designed to sugar-coat welfare reforms.

Then Lord Mandelson adds insult to injury by blithely telling people that they can go and get jobs in Europe. After all, he did. Not so much on yer bike as I’m Mandy, fly me.

Access to jobs in Europe is great if you’re in business class; and a lifesaver for the poorest with nothing to lose. But for ordinary workers with kids in school and mortgages or rent to pay, being told you can go abroad to work is about as helpful as being told there are jobs on the moon.

Lord Mandelson was supposed to be the master of spin. But now he seems arrogant and out of touch. And that’s exactly the situation than could cause extremist views to flourish.

I’m in favour of Britain’s EU membership. I think we are stronger and safer in than out. As Chris Davis points out, over a million Brits are working elsewhere in Europe. And many of the jobs at home depend on our position as an English-speaking EU member.

But I also think our government has a duty to work with its citizens to find ways they can get the jobs they need – like proper skills training, investment in green infrastructure projects, lobbying big contractors to subcontract locally – instead of leaving British workers out in the cold.

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