Can You Go Down to The Dark Again?

Thanks to a link from another website, I noticed this morning that Germany's somewhat rash decision to shut down nuclear power stations is having a predictable, and predictably unanticipated, effect. The Germans, Austrians and Northern Europeans in general, like the Chinese, are having to depend more and more on coal-fired power stations.

At the same time, the coalition government in this country--led by a Cabinet of millionaires--has become somewhat sentimental. Just this week, they floated a scheme to create tax breaks for employers of domestic servants, and today are building on their plans by withdrawing tax credits for working families who can only find part-time jobs. It seems appropriate, somehow, that these proposals came in the week of Dickens' birthday.

It wasn't just Dicken's two hundredth birthday this past month, however; it was also the 101st anniversary of the death of Robert Tressel, whose Ragged Trousered Philanthropists fired many a heart and soul after its publication. What better way to point out that there are other things to learn from the past than Downton Abbey than by making Tressel's 101st the occasion to say what has been almost unsayable for a long time;

Her Majesty's Government, at some point, will have to reopen the mines.

There are, by conservative estimates, some 400 million tonnes of coal recoverable in the UK at short notice. An additional 1.4 billion tonnes may be accessible, but if we wanted it, we would have to start now, with a national effort. Private businesses will not step in, and if they do they will not be sensitive enough to local concerns, to raise the money, get the planning permission and build the mines until it's too late.

The best possible panacea for any social problem is jobs. Jobs reduce abortions, drug dependency, poverty, despair, stress and obesity. Good jobs recognise the dignity of working people and stop people from becoming slaves or creatures of the state. There are good jobs available which will strengthen society, rebuild shattered coal communities, and kick off a renaissance in this country, but in a supreme irony, they are dangerous, dirty and deeply unfashionable.

Still, we have to ask the questions; can the men of Doncaster, and Durham, and Nottingham, and Barnsley, and South Wales be the men their grandfathers were? Can we ask them to go back down into the dark, and bring back coal?


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