Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Ernie Bevin and a Leek Roundabout


On 4th June 1944 Churchill asked the Minister of Labour Ernie Bevin to say farewell to the troops who were setting off to take part in the Normandy landings. One of the soldiers called out " When we do this job for you Ernie are we going back on the dole". Both Churchill and Bevin replied " No you are not"
Unemployment in the country reached a high of 2.5 million in the 1930s. In 1932 20% of the work force in Leek were without work. Townspeople pulled together to fund a centre in Shoobridge St for the unemployed many veterans of the First War

Unemployment dogged North Staffordshire right up to the outbreak of the Second World War. The soldiers who embarked for Europe, my father amongst them, had reason to fear the poverty of the 1930s and wanted to ensure that there families never had to endure it again. That postwar consensus has been betrayed by politicians.

September 2011 and unemployment is again at 2.5 million. This figure overlooks those who want to work, which pushes the figure up to 4.5 million. Locally 1200 people are workless. There are about 450,000 vacancies nationally. In other words 10 jobless people chasing every job. The number of young people without work is around 1 million. We see evidence of the desperate search for work in Leek when 200 people apply for 2 vacancies in Argos or over 700 for work at Pointons.

In short the world that the Normandy veterans fought to escape from has returned and is now handicapping the lives of many in the town.

I have been following the argument that has raged in the Post and Times about the roundabout. I was struck by one comment that the removal of a piece of traffic management would be an insult to the war dead. In my opinion this is wrong. The greater insult is to see a return to the world of poverty and unemployment they expended their blood and sweat to escape. Cllr Hart poised the question whether it was to be jobs or roundabout. The veterans of both world wars given their experiences would not hesitate to give an answer.