Paul Rhoades, is a comrade whom I have never had, well the pleasure of ever meeting despite the fact that we both have lived in the same time (Paul is younger than me I think), and in the same Town. We I suspect may even share the same politics, probably with some minor differences as you do.
The Town that I refer to has annoyingly been the brunt in the past of many a stand-up comedian, and I am reminded of the saying: "A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny," but when it comes to my home town the place where I grew-up, got my first job and cut my political milk-teeth; then this lovely Lincolnshire Steel Town is no joking matter or the materiel ever used for jokesters that worked the working men’s clubs of old.
I suppose you could say that Scunthorpe folk are very thick-skinned and over a retro period of time they have learnt to be tolerant, they have put up with much when I think about it. There is the Steel Works, forget about whatever you have heard about Sheffield, It's actually better than Sheffield in terms of the scale of industry. Driving past the plant use to take about 5 or ten minutes. There's been a steelworks in the town since the 1860s, and iron ore mines since before then. Although since the early 1980s iron ore has been imported from abroad, having higher iron content than the native stuff.
Scunthorpe Steel built Britain, it fed, nourished and sustained industry, built ships, and sad to say its furnaces produced the steel that made the bombs that won two world wars; some years ago now I was working as a building labourer at the Fulham Football Club based in Fulham, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Founded in 1879 it was in need of a bit of tender loving care and renovation when I landed a job as a labourer on site thanks to Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed (not that I knew him personally thank god) who bought the freehold of the club for £6.25 million in summer 1997, just to say that Fulham Football Club is London's oldest professional football club, some useful information or not, well to cut this story short I was astonished to discover that one of the stands which was very old had been made with steel from the furnaces of the world famous Appleby-Frodingham Steel Company, in fact the name Appleby-Frodingham indented and sunken into the great steel girders, beams and lintels that held up the whole stand, can you imagine just how proud I felt just to see that, the contribution that my home town of Scunthorpe has made to football is second to none.
Steel made in Scunthorpe and at Appleby-Frodingham supports the finest buildings in the world, even today with a much smaller work force than when I worked there some 20 years ago, but it’s still making a contribution to sport with its steel used in the construction of the Olympic Stadium and Park just a stone’s throw away from where I now live in Canning Town. I do apologise for the length of this introduction, but the more I think about it the more you the readers need to know about this very special and unique town in order to understand the political story that comrade Paul Rhoades brings to light or should I say throws more light upon, these very equally important morsels the mainstream media and press left out.
I could not progress any further without mentioning a tragedy that happened on the steelworks 36 years ago. The Queen Victoria Blast Furnace Disaster killed 11 men when an explosion occurred in the early hours of a particular day in 1975. Just to explain the Blast Furnaces at Scunthorpe are known as The Four Queens, to be exact Mary, Bess, Anne and Vicky. And of course it was on Vicky that the disaster transpired. Molten Iron poured into torpedoes ready to be transported via rail to other sections of the Steelworks; at the time these torpedoes were a relatively new piece of technical equipment, in the past open top ladles had been used. The problem that occurred was with cooling water leaks, water that had entered the torpedo on the top and subsequently steam built up along with pressure that would prove to be tragic for 23 men in the direct locality when the explosion occurred. Four men died instantly and seven others were to die later in hospital. The disaster occurred just over a year after the Nypro explosion at Flixborough, which is seven miles from the town. This explosion killed 28 men and flattened surrounding houses. My own uncle who was not at work at the time was a security officer on site, and one of the victims’ lived down my street, I remember him and his family well, he was a chemist, a part-time bus driver for Hornsby Coaches. As I remember a really lovely man with a wife and two very young daughters.
If truth be told the people of Scunthorpe have had to learn to tolerate so much as indeed all working people do, which is indisputably and undeniably taken for granted including the very high price the loss of life that has been paid in the steelmaking industry of this country by working men, women and their families.
I have only skimmed over a little history here, and I am sure readers will appreciate there is as always much more to a story, but in order to give some background to the rise and fall of disgraced former Scunthorpe and Labour MP Elliot Morley some detail is required which I hope helps readers to understand how far Labour has gone off the tracks; and what will follow in my next post is a review of Paul Rhoades and Jake London's excellent E-Book ‘From Aigburth to Belmarsh’ – ‘The career of Elliot Morley MP as seen by two of his constituents’.