And “The Parable of the Last Welsh Coalminer”by Rhodri Morgan / February 26, 2016 / Leave a comment
It’s actually only 150 miles or so from Islington to Cardiff Bay, but for the Labour party they are two different worlds. In Labour Wales, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, faces an uphill battle to retain his majority Government in May’s Assembly elections. For him, his message can be summed up as: “Jobs Jobs Jobs!” In Islington, and London generally, the problem is less about jobs and more to do with affordable housing. That’s why Carwyn and Corbyn are looking at the same political landscape in very different ways.
Here’s a true story. I could almost call it “The Parable of the Last Welsh Coalminer.” There is a group of about a dozen Welsh ex-coal-miners now working on the Crossrail project tunnels beneath London. I met one of them recently and asked about his experiences. He’d worked at Tower, the last deep mine in Wales. He and a dozen mates then accepted transfers up to Kellingley in Yorkshire, which closed a few months ago. That was the last deep mine in the whole of Britain.
He and his mates now work on Crossrail, still underground but civil engineers now, participants in Europe’s largest infrastructure project, worth £16bn. “How does it compare?’ I asked him. “First problem was the bureaucracy,” he said. “Me a coal-miner who’d worked on my side in two foot nine seams in my time. They still insisted I get a Certificate of Competence to work in Confined Spaces! The tunnels we’re boring under London are about as big as the average ballroom!”
He went on to explain that the single piece of paper took a month to process. But once he was clear to work, things started well. “Basically I’m doing half the work for three times the pay!” he said. And then he discovered the London problem: “Even with all that money coming in,” he asked me, “how in heaven’s name do you find somewhere affordable to live?” That sums it all up.
If you were on Crossrail money in South Wales, you could take your pick of places to rent. But those jobs don’t exist…