As yet another report reveals the extent to which our coalfield communities have been decimated by the mining industry’s terminal decline, David Cameron is not the first Prime Minister to be accused of complacency on this issue.
Margaret Thatcher, so fixated by her ideological battle with Arthur Scargill, did not appreciate that such areas would require massive state intervention to generate new jobs.
The same with her successor John Major – he, too, was content to leave ex-miners, and their families, to the mercy of market forces.
And Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were just as culpable – let it not be forgotten that they had 13 years to rectify past wrongs and, in hindsight, Labour only began to accept that its government did not do enough to counter the North-South divide, and decline of traditional manufacturing industries, once Mr Cameron had become safely ensconced in Downing Street.
Yet, three months after the poignancy when miners emerged from deep underground at the end of their final shift at Kellingley Colliery, Britain’s last remaining deep coal mine, the Government – and the country – still has a political, economic and social obligation to help such communities reinvent themselves. After all, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust notes that there are only 50 job for every 100 adults of working age in Britain’s coalfields.
With Chancellor George Osborne scrabbling around for eyecatching measures to announce in Wednesday’s Budget, he could – and should – pledge to support such areas and commit himself to, for example, halving the unemployment rate in coalfield areas by the end of this Parliament.