Political Promise

Was the Sheffield Forgemaster loan a Labour trap?

In Newswire on June 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

By Aaron Newell

After the most recent budgetary cuts, Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield said: “The Lib Dem and Tory government has cost Sheffield new jobs and growth, and people will remember this for a long time”, echoing the resentment the North has traditionally held for the Tories after Thatcher’s monetary policy caused mass unemployment in the North.
Blomfield’s rancour is not, however, without justification. In the Coalition’s most recent budgetary announcement, plans to redevelop land into an industrial estate, plans for a new retail quarter and, more notably, plans for a £80 million loan to Sheffield Forgemasters to develop forgings for the next generation of nuclear technology were cancelled.

Fellow Sheffield MP Nick Clegg claimed the plans–signed off earlier this year, in April and in March respectively–were attempts to gain pre-election support in Sheffield. Yet they could equally be attempts to remove the support the Tories have so needed in the North by linking the Coalition’s budgetary cuts to the North’s memory of Thatcher.

Indeed, Labour MPs have already started claiming the North is shouldering the burden of debt.

To claim Sheffield was the location of a trap, of course, relies on Labour being sure of defeat and devising ways of shaming the new government during the cuts. Yet the news Civil Servants often took the ‘nuclear option’ of asking their orders to be put in writing suggests these plans were not put in place by an economically prudent Labour government.

Regardless of the truth of the matter, which with all politically popular arguments is nearly impossible to prove either way, both sides are now sure to increase their rhetoric. The Coalition must continue to claim the cuts are due to Labour’s profligacy and Labour must equally claim the Coalition is cutting off future growth–something the Forgemaster’s loan is ideally suited to–and following old Tory economic policy.

Whatever the electorate gets sick of hearing first is anyone’s guess.

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