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How Labour lost the Welsh Valleys The party's homeland has been left to decay

Unburying Aberfan (Carl Bruin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Unburying Aberfan (Carl Bruin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)


January 23, 2024   6 mins

Last year, I found myself back in the Rhondda valley and the village where I spent most of my childhood. As I walked through its typically inclement grey terraced streets, I came upon the boarded-up premises of the Ton and Pentre Labour and Progressive Club. Dereliction and a sense of decaying nobility are common features of the streets here, with clubs, institutes, chapels and all other sites of congregation looking the same. This vacant building that held many notable trade union meetings was one of the longest-running working men’s establishments in the Rhondda. Now it stands as a monument to failure. What can be said about such a relic, whose name alone testifies to everything this valley once stood for?

Because these former mining valleys in the wilds of Glamorgan were the cradle of working-class politics in Britain. Revolutionary socialism is almost as old as the mining communities in these hills: the red flag of socialism was flown for the very first time in anger over the skies of Merthyr Tydfil in 1831. And, in time, this people and landscape gave rise to the British labour movement and the party that bears its name, a party that knew who it represented and what it wanted to change.

Keir Hardie, Labour’s founding father, was elected MP for the Merthyr and Aberdare constituency only a few years before he would oversee the transition from the Independent Labour Party to the more familiar abbreviated title in 1906. A former miner who first entered the darkness of the pits at just 10-years old, he knew first-hand the toils and struggles faced by these hardened communities, and never forgot them in Parliament, wearing a deerstalker and tweed jacket in place of the expected top hat and tails. But Hardie himself never lived to see the party he conceived in power. An idealist and a pacifist, he died a broken man in 1915, as his contentious objections to the First World War (on the basis of the working-class dead and war profiteering) went unheeded.

Just nine years later though, and 100 years ago this week, the Labour Party did form its first government. It was led, though, by a Scot, Ramsay Macdonald, later expelled as a traitor and a turncoat for his collaboration with the Conservatives. Throughout this fractious period, as the Labour Party split and reformed, mutated and reorganised, South Wales remained its natural home. It was here that institutions later synonymous with the party, such as the National Union of Miners, were first established. And the area produced the radical autodidactic streak that gave Labour’s second prime minister, Clement Atlee, his greatest lieutenant: Nye Bevan gained his education in the libraries and reading rooms of Tredegar’s Miners’ institutes, arguably the most impressive educational bodies promoting the socialist cause anywhere in Europe.

Nationwide, the party’s electoral fortunes waxed and waned after the war and into the Sixties. But, like working-class industrial regions across the United Kingdom, the party’s grip in South Wales was as firm as the iron smelted in the furnace-town of Hardie’s coronation. But now this relationship has been lost. A proud heritage has withered, and Labour means as little to these parts as “politics” itself. Understanding how such a bond could be neglected and dismantled is essential to understanding the story of Labour over the past century, and its origin can be traced to a single moment: the tragedy that stopped a school clock dead at 9.13am one Friday morning that became the moment of reckoning.

Some places are so synonymous with a tragedy that their very name becomes a byword for unimaginable suffering. Today, our own most baleful metonym is probably “Grenfell”, immediately evoking corruption, betrayal and the dereliction of state duty. But in the valleys of South Wales, a different tragedy bears a single name: Aberfan. That was the village where, on the morning of 21 October 1966, approximately 105,000 cubic metres of discarded coal waste slid into the community and engulfed the Pant Glas school and houses below. Half the town’s children were wiped out by the black avalanche that sped down the slopes, along with 28 adults.

Aberfan had already been foretold through numerous warnings, and in previous slippages in both the village itself and nearby. But even as the slurry settled and the spoil began to be cleared, the story was only just beginning. Much as at Grenfell, those who should have been held responsible, the people this community had most faith in, were absolved of any responsibility. John Collins, whose entire family was taken by the black mountain, later said: “I was tormented by the fact that the people I was seeking justice from were my people — a Labour government, a Labour council, a Labour nationalised coal board.” This Establishment cover-up was fatal. As veteran BBC broadcaster Vincent Kane later added: “Half a dozen or so organisations or individuals should have brought help to those stricken people, but instead they betrayed them.”

The central figure in this episode was Lord Robens who, as Chairman of the National Coal Board, continually presented himself as a defender of coal, while overseeing widespread pit closures. His arrogance was matched only by the lack of compassion he showed towards the families of the bereaved. Insult piled upon injury as the official tribunal into the cause of the disaster was marred by misinformation, delays and attempts to obstruct the truth. And the victims could see it — as a father of one of the bereaved children cried out when giving evidence: “Buried alive by the National Coal Board. That is what I want to see on record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate”.

Worse was to follow: it was at the behest of the Labour Minister for Wales — the valleys-born George Thomas, later Lord Tonypandy — that the villagers themselves were required pay to remove remaining slag heaps still towering over their homes from the disaster relief fund. But this tragedy was to become the epicentre of a far greater conjuncture, where Wales began to reckon with all the false promises of industrialisation and unionism. If there is no history of South Wales without Aberfan, there is no complete history of the Labour Party which does not chapter the devastation and fury it sowed in this heartland. And, while the latter part of the Sixties was marked by the beginnings of a turn away from Labour, the following decade saw nothing arrive to replace it. Voter turnout in elections started to decline, while industrial action by the miners threw the country into darkness, a faction of the working class seemingly at war with the country — and, after the 1974 election, at war with a Labour government too.

Labour’s hold here wasn’t immediately severed. A son of the valleys, the Tredegar-born Neil Kinnock, would later assume the helm as Margaret Thatcher instigated a very different kind of revolution. An impressive intellect and pragmatist, Kinnock’s accent and bearing connected the party back to its past. He could speak with genuine feeling of the strength of those communities, “who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football”. But that would in part be his undoing: a conservative national press constantly mocked his “boyo” persona. And while he could give voice to South Wales through his own, it ultimately became the voice of political defeat, as the pits central to valley-life were shut and sealed, something the Labour Party proved powerless to stop.

The coming to power of Tony Blair offered a symbolic rupture from a party once grounded in working-class, Celtic regions. But he too had his ways of disrupting community life, for instance with his insistence that more children from deprived areas should be given the option to attend university. While many rightly welcomed the chance to escape, the continued lack of sustained investment in the South Wales valleys simply meant they had no reason to return. And, as Blair opened more of the country to the punishing writ of the free market, the last vestiges of industry petered out. The last of the pits closed, and some of the most prominent local employers such as Hoover in Merthyr and the Polikoff’s and Burberry factories in the Rhondda, dramatically cut their workforce, until their inevitable closure a decade or so later.

With the National Assembly for Wales established in 1997 following devolution in the Principality, the strength of support for Plaid Cymru, which had been gathering momentum since Aberfan, was now evident in the valley heartlands. By 1999 they would even manage to win seats in the once unimaginable ward of the Rhondda, where the old joke ran that even a Smurf would win should they be dressed in red. Blair’s appeal to Middle England was traded in Wales, and the party barely scrapes ahead of the Conservatives nationally now.

Kinnock was probably the last leader of the Labour Party as it was originally conceived. But he was ultimately given the impossible task of trying to lead a party born in another age, a product of the dire need to have political representation to counter the exploitative nature of industrial capitalism. Now, it has lost its identity, just as much as the people it represented were losing theirs. As Thatcher transformed Britain and placed it at the forefront of the post-industrial neoliberal revolution, without the constancy of a manufacturing and industrial base, was there even any meaning to the term “labour”?

Today, as the party seeks to commemorate 100 years of its electable “progress”, it should turn is attention the places which gave the party its name and yet where poverty and abandonment persist. While you can be sure that disdain for the Conservative Party is still strongly felt, the Labour Party is regarded with something equally dangerous: an apathetic rolling of the eyes by a people whose rolling hills speaks to the layered memories of resigned weathering. Even as another Keir looks set to return the Labour Party to power, Ton and Pentre Labour and Progressive Club won’t suddenly reopen. Suspended in neglect, its rooms will remain empty as another electoral season passes. And all the while, what passes for progress will continue arriving at these towns from elsewhere, just explanations that try and fail to make sense of the greatest dereliction — the dereliction of the mind and soul of a people.


Professor Brad Evans holds a Chair in Political Violence & Aesthetics at the University of Bath. His book, How Black Was My Valley: Poverty and Abandonment in a Post-Industrial Heartland, is out in April.


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Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
5 months ago

Wow, Evans the Prof is head of the department of “Political Violence & Aesthetics.” I didn’t know it was a Thing.
But, Herr Professor, ich habe ein paar Fragen.
Are labor unions a good idea?
Is the welfare state a good idea?
Is nationalization of coal-mining a good idea?
Is nationalization of anything a good idea?
Is a university department of Political Violence & Aesthetics a good idea?
And whatabout the workers?

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

Good point.
He’s certainly got an “angle”:
“Today, our own most baleful metonym is probably “Grenfell”, immediately evoking corruption, betrayal and the dereliction of state duty”.
That’s a bit of a stretch in rewriting history isn’t it ?
I thought that the cladding issue was primarily a failure of building regulations. That’s fairly low-level government and the sort of thing that can sadly happen. The bigger the state, the greater the probability (since no one ever seems to get fired from a state job for incompetence).
But no, we’re wrong. The answer to state failure is always “more state” …

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

“Evans the Prof is head of the department of “Political Violence & Aesthetics.” I didn’t know it was a Thing”.

That just shows you how debased our academia has become! Hundreds of ridiculous courses staffed by utterly parasitic academics.

There must be a cull of so called ‘humanities’ nonsense asap, we simply can no longer afford such arrant nonsense.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago

Yes, unions are a good idea. They’re often the only protection some workers have against poor pay and working conditions, although they need reining in occasionally when they overstep the mark.
Yes the welfare state is a good idea. Helping the sick and needy is what any decent society should be doing, even if some people do exploit it.
Norways publicly oil and gas industries have given the country a $1 trillion dollar rainy day fund, and the privatisation of Britains utilities has led to underinvestment and sewage being regularly dumped into the sea. Nationalisation works for areas where natural monopolies occur such as utilities and public transport, but it’s obviously not a good idea through the wider economy.
The workers have done incredibly badly through 40 years of neoliberalism, with the ratio of wages paid to company profits reducing massively and home ownership rates falling to new lows.
The University Department sounds rather too niche to be a proper course

Muiris de Bhulbh
Muiris de Bhulbh
5 months ago

I worked as a junior doctor in’Prince Charles Hospital’ in Merthyr Tydfil in 1988. My psychiatric colleagues were still dealing with fallout from the Aberfan disaster.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
5 months ago

I grew up south of the valleys, near Bridgend. And much of this picture is familiar, especially Bridgend which is a grim shadow of its former self.

There are lots of stories that describe this fall, the legacy of Thatcherism, the inability of Welsh politicians to find solutions rather than grievances.

I have lived away for so long (40 years) that I can’t suggest anything but Professor Evans paints a reliable picture.

At some point it will improve, perhaps even within the next five or ten years but the renewal of the fortunes of South Wales will be nothing to do with the Left who have had power for decades and achieved nothing.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
5 months ago

Anyone who reads the history of South Wales will know that the 19th century was a boom time. Britain led the world and South Wales donated a lot of the power, in the form of coal, to facilitate the extension of British power.
The history of the Labour Party comes from the history of the unfair treatment of the miners and that cannot be denied. But it should be remembered that before the coal there were few people living in the Valleys. The coal boom brought an influx of thousands and they stayed. Even as recently as the 1960s miners were still coming in from struggling mines in the NE of England. The miners moved to the work.
So, after the boom came the bust – whoever you blame. But the ex-miners did not move to work elsewhere because they had formed communities and these communities had become home. They (we) expected the government to step in and do something but here is the problem. South Wales is a Labour area and Labour does not like business. Deals with business leaders are taboo. So, Labour stands for the ex-miners who vote in the same way every time but they don’t actually do anything to attract alternatives to the area. To make things worse there are no other feasible votes because all of the other parties don’t really stand for anything at all. In the next election Labour will win again but then they won’t actually do anything – except blame England, of course.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
5 months ago

But the ex-miners did not move to work elsewhere because they had formed communities and these communities had become home. 

When you take all the emotion out of it, this is Wales’s underlying problem: Too much of its population live in areas where there is no longer sufficient demand for their labour.
Now of course I accept what you say about communities having formed and I in no way want to denigrate the understandable attachment people have to place. But that doesn’t stop it being a longstanding problem which has essentially been managed by the state and third sector by throwing money at support services.
Organic demographic change is taking a long time. Older people die, young people who can move away and don’t come back. Cardiff, Swansea and Newport are sucking in population while at the same time spreading north and slowly turning the lower valleys into commuter towns. There is some time to go yet before the valleys leave their post-industrial period and a very real risk that many towns and communities will be effectively left to rot as islands of deprivation hidden away in what is, now the landscape is recovering from mining, some of the most beautiful natural areas in the UK.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
5 months ago

Yes, you are correct. But here is my problem. You live in a beautiful area but you don’t want anyone else to see it – you don’t build facilities to encourage tourism. So poverty follows.
My neighbour and I were talking about this one day and he (jokingly) said that Mid-Wales was just an empty space. He suggested building the biggest casino in the world right in the middle of Wales, surrounding it by hotels, an airport and with multi-lane highways leading to it. People would move there like they moved to the coalmines. Hidden in this is a point – if you don’t at least try to do something you get poverty.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

The same narrative applies to much of Northern England and Scotland.
How many Northern cities have suffered almost terminal stagnation and decline while still continuing to return Labour MPs.
You could almost suspect it was deliberate, just in case the populations prospered and stopped voting Labour.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
5 months ago

I used to live in an engineering town in northern England – Labour through and through. The engineering stopped and the town now looks as if it has been carpet bombed. Still Labour through and through.
Six miles away was a smaller town which had no engineering but plenty of small businesses – one man bands if you like. Tory through and through. Today that town looks great, local businesses have been encouraged – still Tory through and through.
Labour breeds dependence on handouts and positively discourages business. QED.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

I am from Stoke-on-Tent but moved away many years ago.
About 3 months ago I took my sons for a walk round my home town of Longton. They were really shocked, almost angry, at the level of degradation

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago

That’s an overly simplistic analysis that I think. Towns with heavy industry also had stronger union movements, which meant most of the population tended to vote Labour as they tended to be more sympathetic to their interests. Likewise towns with no heavy industry had no unions to speak of, and tended to lean more towards the Tories as a result.
The changing economic landscape obviously hit the towns reliant on factories and mining much harder than it did those that never had it in the first place, but this has happened regardless of whichever the parties enjoyed more support in the area. If all those old northern industrial towns turned Tory and the others flipped to Labour, both would still be facing the same economic challenges they did before, switching parties they’ve historically backed would make no difference to their day to day lives.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago

Erm, I’m not a fan of the modern Labour Party, but we have had Conservative government for two thirds of the time since WW2!. England (and prior to devolution, Great Britain as a whole) is a very centralised country, with few real powers and independent tax base at lower levels of government.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago

Is it actually true that the Labour Assembly and local authorities “does not like business”? The real problem with ex-industrial areas based on the geography of minerals that there is no particular reason for modern businesses to go there, and rather a lot of negative factors. For example, how many office workers would actually welcome bring displace from Bristol or Cardiff to the Rhondda?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
5 months ago

This year I will have lived in Wales for exactly half my life. In that time I’ve worked for or with almost every major public sector institution from Ynys Mon Council in the farthest north-west to Gwent Police in the south-east. I’ve spent professional time in pretty much every major deprived community in the country.
The one thing that has always struck me is how badly the political and activist classes, especially at national level, understand the people they claim to speak for. Or perhaps they do understand them but are so invested in a particular vision of them (and themselves) that they can’t acknowledge what they see.
This is why the Brexit vote in Wales came as such a body-blow to the political and activist classes. It forced them confront their own cognitive dissonance.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

Looking from outside Wales, I have the distinct impression that the political and activist classes have *not* confronted their cognitive dissonance. They continue to gloss over the fact that Wales – albeit narrowly – voted to leave the EU in 2016. I suggest they are still in denial. Which is another reason little will change.
Just wondering out loud – I have too little knowledge here – could it be that Wales is just less entrepreneurial than some parts of England ? Expecting the state to step in and sort it isn’t always the answer – or always the best answer.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

could it be that Wales is just less entrepreneurial than some parts of England ?

Its true that Wales is more reliant on public sector employment and, because it has an older, poorer and sicker population, state intervention.
But I guess it depends which bits you are comparing. Cardiff is pretty similar to other comparable cities I’ve lived or worked in. Deprived areas of the Valleys are essentially the same as any other post-industrial areas, e.g. parts of the North-East.
One thing which I think unquestionably hurts Wales is accessibility. The A470 is the main north-south route but is barely a legitimate B road for much of its length. The 3 biggest urban areas (plus the Valleys) are all located along the M4 corridor behind the permanent traffic jam which is the Brynglas Tunnel at Newport. In fact, I read once that if the M4 in Wales were to be built today it would not be classified as a motorway at all because there are various points which don’t meet the criteria.

Fred D. Fulton
Fred D. Fulton
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

“Expecting the state to step in” for your benefit is NEVER the best answer, because it assumes that taxpayers from another part of the state will have to pay for your state-delivered benefits and social programs.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

No, it is not. The workforce in much of the Valleys comprises of SMEs and a lot of one-man bands. Get on the A470 at half 6 in the morning and you’ll see them heading to work.

Greg Morrison
Greg Morrison
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Great comment

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Thanks. Glad to hear that. I’d be thrilled to hear about more small/medium tech type businesses setting up there. Actually, I had dealt with one SME in the area who do safety clothing – PK Safety – and they are really excellent. And their customer service people are all local – such a welcome change from most of England.

P N
P N
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

It is seldom if ever the answer.

Greg Morrison
Greg Morrison
5 months ago

Great comment

David Giles
David Giles
5 months ago

I spent 7 years in the ’90s living in Bridgend, post-industrial Bridgend, but when I return even I can see the picture Jonathan Andrews’ painted so well.
It’s sad, but the decline of the valleys was to a degree inevitable once King Coal left Wales. It didn’t have to be so very absolute though and I do agree with Caradog Williams. Labour dislikes business (not that the Tories seem to like it very much at the moment) and has no plan and frankly no interest in South Wales. The Welsh were vote-fodder and George Thomas sums up the disregard Labour felt and feels for the Welsh. If Plaid Cymru cares about Wales and doesn’t see it simply as a test tube for woke social experiments, then all power to it.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
5 months ago
Reply to  David Giles

Agreed. I am a member of Plaid but they don’t actually do anything at all. Like a Rodney to the Dell-boy of Labour. Better a crafty sidekick like Ryan Davies than a Rodney.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

It is mathematical impossible to take control of the Senedd without winning in the Valleys (no doubt Labour knew that when they designed the devolved settlement). Plaid was doing good work in the generational task of winning voters over when it decided to commit electoral suicide by deposing the leader and installing in her place man who did nothing but talk a good fight.

Stephen Morris
Stephen Morris
5 months ago

Look up Gwlad – a very different sort of nationalist party which is much more pro-business and focused on economic growth. Still in its early stages, but an antidote to the managed decline that is all Labour and Plaid Cymru have to offer.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
5 months ago
Reply to  David Giles

Yes the death of King Coal could only bring bad times to the Valleys. What was not inevitable was the rank wholesale betrayal of these working men and women by the Labour Party. First via accession to the EU Empire and the destruction of the national Labour market Now the alien eco and identitarian zealotry. They are not just ignored. As white Somewhere industrial men, they are held in contempt by the multicultural metro urban progressive bigots who now run both the souless Labour Party and have a permanent death grip on our broken State. We are all going down the valleys now.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
5 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Wonderful phrase...held in contempt by the multicultural metro urban progressive bigots who now run both the souless Labour Party and have a permanent death grip on our broken State. We are all going down the valleys now.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
5 months ago

If you mention the ‘Thatcher transformation of Britain’ or even, God help us ‘,the post industrial neoliberal revolution’ in the valleys, there’s a good chance people will laugh in your face. The valleys still haven’t recovered from the last neoliberal revolution, the closing of the pits. We’re about to lose the last of our UK steel industry, based in south Wales, meaning that we will no longer be able to make steel from iron ore. People know who caused the dereliction and its not the Labour party.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

These things would have happened regardless of the party in charge. In fact, they did.
I’m sure you’re aware that the Wilson government closed more coal mines than Thatcher’s. Eventually you run out of money to subsidise uncompetitive industries.
Labour are even more anti-coal than the Conservatives. That means closing coal-powered blast furnaces.
Note also that up to 2017, there was a clear correlation between ex-mining areas in England and Labour MPs. That only changed in 2019 when many of the “Red Wall” seats [temporarily] flipped Conservative (which some of them were many decades earlier pre-WWII). It’s just a question of time and a younger generation growing up.
None of this is to deny that the South Wales valleys really do need help.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I appreciate your concern for the valleys but a few things I disagree with. The closing of the pits would have happened anyway but did it have to be so quick and brutal, especially given the almost total dependence of some of the valleys on coal. Did we really have to ship coal in from Australia while throwing our own miners out of work? Even if we see the problem as a purely economic one, what is the financial cost of the pauperisation of large parts of the UK? Its interesting to speculate why the switch from Labour to Conservatives in the ex mining areas of England, but I think that was more to do with brexit than anything else, and I predict they will revert to Labour this year. As regards blast furnaces, we need to invest in modern non coal technology just as most of western Europe has.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

“but did it have to be so quick and brutal, ”

There is a German proverb. Better an end with horror than a horror without out end. Unfortunately, on South Wales there seems to be both.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
5 months ago

Or to put it another way, planning a horrific ending doesn’t necessarily produce an ending, the horror can go on, so why inflict it on communities in the first place?

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

We’re not really disagreeing.
Yes, the change wasn’t well managed. And there’s very little left to keep young people in those areas now.
Yes, those Red Wall seats won’t stay Conservative this time.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Nicely put. A gracious reply

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

“The valleys still haven’t recovered from the last neoliberal revolution, the closing of the pits.”

Harold Wilson closed more pits than Thatcher. A fact so frequently forgotten in the rush to blame everything on Thatcher.

Coal had been subsidised for most of the 20th century. Which made some strategic sense back in the day but by the 1960s was increasingly a case of throwing good money after bad.

That’s why both Labour and Conservative governments tried to break the power of the NUM. It was necessary because the union wouldn’t compromise on a single tonne of coal.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
5 months ago

All pits have a lifespan and all pits inevitably closed. What Thatcher did was kill off UK deep mined coal, and import coal from the other side of the world. The tragedy for the NUM is that it was led by the incendiary Scargill, who walked into the trap set up for him in broad daylight. The oil industry is subsidised now, should we stop using oil and go green?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Ah of course. When Labour did it those were the good mine closures. When Thatcher did it those were the bad mine closures.

Such a shame the NUM weren’t so clear on the difference back in the 1970s. We could have avoided a couple of strikes.

Energy almost always needs subsidising. Like trains and roads. I have no particular problem with it in principle.

But maintaining an expensive industry like coal mining in aspic because its workforce demand it isn’t the same thing.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
5 months ago

Thatcher closed all the mines [bar a couple of small ones, I think], they didn’t all run out of coal at the same time. Then she imported coal that would have provided employment at home for Australian coal. In the context of the times, keeping some of the pits open would have been a sensible energy subsidy.

James Wyburd
James Wyburd
5 months ago

The inevitable truth of life is missing from this article, which is that individually and collectively we have to sort ourselves out. We can’t rely on a sense of grievance and expect others to do it for us. A righteous farmer cannot stand on the edge of a field and order his crops to grow.

The essence of Thatcherism was to recognise unavoidable realities and to give people the tools to overcome adversity and make a success of their lives. Instead Wales chose self pity, resentment and inward looking delusion. Even now, all these years later, driving from Chester into North Wales feels like going back into the 1950s.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  James Wyburd

This is a nonsense stereotype. Wales is full of tiny businesses that work long hours and don’t give a stuff about the Senedd and politics. Get yourself here early in the morning and you’ll get a sense of what long hours many people work.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  James Wyburd

What tools did Thatcher give to those towns decimated by the closure of the pits and demise of manufacturing to help the transition away from those industries? If there had been jobs to replace them the closures wouldn’t have been an issue but there wasn’t, and in a lot of cases still isn’t

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Absolutely spot on. What people in the Valleys are doing, every day, is what Norman Tebbit told them to do. They get in their vans and head down the A470, to jobs in Cardiff, Bristol and further afield. I have mates who work away all week.
Worth adding that the Welsh Government has done little to improve life in the Valleys, with the money mostly spent on supplementing public sector salaries. That will happen when you don’t focus on outcomes.

Andrew R
Andrew R
5 months ago

In Bridgend County, the independents are slowly gaining ground and holding Welsh Labour to account.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
5 months ago

It seems to me that, notwithstanding the likely outcome of our next election, Labour has a fixed mindset that it is a party of opposition. Hence it suits the party to keep its natural supporters in a state of semi-poverty, blaming the (customarily) incumbent “wicked Tories” and, hence, voting Labour.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
5 months ago

The last thing the working class people of Wales, or northern England or Scotland for that matter, need is the bl**dy Labour Party. We need Christianity and a libertarianism for households and families rather than individuals. Deregulated garden-gate family and cooperative capitalism; greater fiscal/regulatory costs for big corporations. Less state, less global markets, more family enterprise. And that goes for schools also

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago

The more one observes, the more one realises that becoming part of an ‘aggrieved group’ is a road to unhappiness and disaster for the group. Reparations are not the answer; It may be easy to say but the only way out is to leave.

Jon Owens
Jon Owens
5 months ago

Strange article entirely at odds with reality. Labour controls councils in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerffili, RCT and Torfaen (and also Cardiff, Swansea and Newport). It holds every valley constituency at Westminster and in the Senedd. If this is what losing looks like I’d hate to see them win!

ian Jeffcott
ian Jeffcott
5 months ago

The valley dwellers will unthinkingly still vote for Starmer and for Drakeford’s successor. Sometimes you do get the politicians you deserve

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
5 months ago

When the coal was gone, or no longer wanted, what was the purpose in staying in the area?