A letter to my MP on the UK Steel Industry

The recently announced job losses in the UK steel industry are a disgrace, While our chancellor is courting China, seeking investment in HS2 and encouraging their companies to bid for infrastructure contracts in the UK, the steel industry in this country is going to the wall. Cheap chinese steel is “dumped” in this country and thousands of jobs are being lost yet our government is turning a blind eye to it. What can we do? Like with the tax credits cuts I believe that one answer is to let your MP know how you feel. A ground swell of dissent might bring it home to MPs that many in this country are not happy and that THEIR JOBS might be at risk.

Here’s my letter to my MP, sent via writetothem.com

Please take a minute and do the same.

——

Dear Mel Stride,

a couple of weeks ago (30th September to be precise) I wrote to you regarding our government investing £3m into grassroots Chinese football and you kindly replied that you were making enquiries on my behalf with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

However since then there have been the announcements that several steel plants will be closed, downsized or mothballed with the loss of thousands of jobs, including at the Tata Scunthorpe works which is not too far from my place of birth Cleethorpes.

While my original letter outlined my worries for Torquay United and also other lower league teams, I also mentioned that I was concerned that we as a country were throwing contracts to Chinese firms rather than British or even European companies. As you know, our steel industry is suffering due to the strength of the pound and British based firms are undercut by Chinese and even German firms who can be more competitive due to support form their governments or in the case of the Chinese, lower labour costs and less restrictions on due to poorer workers’ rights.

I understand that we might need to court China as the world’s 2nd largest economy but I am struggling to understand the sense in offering them what would seem like sweeteners while our own industry needs support and we could be servicing our need for materials such as steel nearer to home. Should we be wining and dining the Chinese president right now or should we be looking to support our industry?

Right now the recently announced job losses account for approximately one sixth of the steel industry workforce but is this just the start?

I therefore ask you and your ministerial colleagues:

Is it out of the question to support the UK steel industry? Surely we will need steel for HS2, power stations and other projects as well as day-to-day construction.

Does the government perhaps have a plan to provide jobs for those workers informed this week that they are to be out of work? The affected areas do not seem to be particularly blessed in terms of alternative employment.

Given the recent cuts to tax credits and other benefits, how are the affected families expected to provide for themselves?

Does this situation not make a mockery of the much heralded ‘Northern Powerhouse’?

Yours sincerely,

Rich Mills

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Monopoly: the slightly retro, alternative Grimsby and Cleethorpes edition

Last year, while reading the news about the new Grimsby and Cleethorpes edition of the popular, capitalism themed board game Monopoly, I was delighted to see both Steels Cornerhouse, the Docktower and Grimsby Town in prime position on the game board but the I found myself wondering where was Boyes? What about Norman’s Toys?

I know that it’s an advertising opportunity and therefore I shouldn’t expect to see businesses that might not even exist any longer but it got me thinking about what I’d like to see on a Grimsby monopoly board. Which landmarks, past and present define Grimsby and Cleethorpes for me?

Here then is my first pass at a new, imaginary version of Monopoly for slightly sentimental 40-ish types; likely born in Croft Baker and quite possibly living in exile but still hopelessly in love with the place.

Starting at Go – and despite reimagining a board game which has remained more or less the same for 80 years I still am quite traditional in this respect – we arrive at the brown properties, traditionally the cheapest on the board:

Boyes – When I was at school, everybody went to Boyes to buy marbles. Despite moving a short distance down Freemo, Grimsby’s discount department store is still seems to be going strong and has even expanded – there’s one on Cleethorpes High Street where Woolworths used to be. This Monopoly property is the original one though.

The Nunsthorpe estate – If you believed everything you read about the Nunny or what you saw on ITV documentaries you would have a picture in your mind resembling a cross between the city in “I Am legend” and the Gaza Strip. Yes, the estate might have problems but is it that any different from other areas of Grimsby struggling with lack of investment and a government hammering the poor? Is it much different from estates in town across the country? I went to school there for a while and from what I remember you could get decent fish and chips there at lunch time. Tony Ford grew up there too so The Nunny is therefore on my Monopoly board.

The light blue properties never meant much to me and they are overdue being updated so I propose the following:

Norris the Rubberman – Long since closed down, this shop on Pasture Street will be fondly remembered by many. The area is run down now and was suffering before the Parkway hammered the final nails in its coffin but if you saw the advertisements at Blundell Park or ever bought a pair of jeans or trainers there, it will be a name which instantly transports you back home.

The Grimsby Docks – It has to be on any Grimsby related board;the town was built on the fishing industry and the fortunes of both are intertwined. There are more yachts and small day boats than trawlers these days and what was once one of the world’s busiest ports will never recover but while the geography of the towns changes as new estates spring up and rail lines are replaced with roads, the docks will always dominate any map as they do our history.

Freemo – Forget Top Town, Freeman Street is the Grimsby shopping area which I’m including. It’s but a shadow of its former self but walk down Freemo from Hainton to Riby Square and take in the view of the Dock Tower and then try and argue against its inclusion. The market is still there along with Boyes and a few pubs with ‘character’ but so many shops and businesses have long since disappeared: Steve’s Music Bar, Humber Records, Harry Wainman’s sports shop to name but a few. How many of us saw our first movies at the ABC cinema?

The Pink properties next and on the traditional Monopoly board these are a little better known. My choices maybe not so…

Gullivers Nite Club – ah, Gullies. Home of Goth Corner and either the best night out or the worst; there were never mediocre nights there. In the early 90s it seemed as though pretty much the whole town was a goth. Where have they gone? Do they still congregate there or have they moved to Whitby? The last few times I’ve been back to Grimsby, the sign above the door has been broken. Could somebody fix it, please?

The Barge – just a short stagger from Gullies, The Barge is a local landmark as well as a decent boozer. Many a Newcastle Brown Ale has been drunk on the beer “garden” tables outside and in poor weather how many unsuspecting (or slightly worse for wear) punters have tumbled down the wet stairs into the bar? Health & Safety nightmare but back in the day offset by a jukebox sent from heaven. PiL’s “Rise” and Wire’s “I Am The Fly” stick in my mind and I hope they’re still being played.

The Flamingo – okay, this one is probably controversial. I was going to choose The Spider’s Web but for no better reason than the old turnip used to make the body of the spider on the sign but that’s not a good enough reason so I’m going for The Flam on North Sea Lane. Now replaced by The Trawlerman, The Flam was home on a Friday to a heavy metal night which I loved going to. Maybe it was the ritual pub run that made it so good: The Notts, Smugglers, King’s Royal, Lifeboat (now flats) and then The Pavilion by The Boating Lake, also sadly gone. Whatever it was, the Flam makes my game board.

I’m back on the straight and narrow with my choices for the orange properties, there will be no arguments about these. Probably. Check them out:

Humberston Fitties – The Fitties is a wonderful place to visit if you’re a local. When I was younger my school took us on residential weeks to the YMCA camp just down the road and we used to wander to the Fitties to buy sweets from the holiday camp shop. The name itself is from a local word for ‘salt marsh’ apparently and the beach here is a lot different from the main stretch in cleethorpes. A lovely, peaceful place which means a lot to our family and somewhere I’d love to go to walk my dog every day if I still lived in Cleethorpes. Or owned a dog.

The Pier – Did you know it’s 20 years since Blur played a gig on the pier? The pier has been been run down for years and I don’t think Damon Albarn and co are totally to blame for that; nightclubs across the country have suffered as punters have  discovered internet dating as an alternative to the ritual of getting hideously drunk in a dark, damp hell-hole. Pier 39 had been a bit of a mess for years so it’s great to see that it’s been done up and looks like something the town can be proud of again. While it’s up for sale again but at leaast it’s not falling down. Every seaside town needs a pier and that’s why ours is on my Monopoly board.

Wonderland – How do you describe Wonderland, that rag-tag jumble of market hall, amusement arcades and rides which would make even the hardiest of travelling fairground types shudder in fear. The Sunday Market is gone, replaced with indoor carting and airsoft but Wonderland is still there and although a little less wondrous it takes a place on my board, if only so that I can use this rather brilliant picture which The Grimsby Telegraph included in one of their Bygones features.

wonderland

The red properties on the standard Monopoly board are quite well known, even to non-Londerners and my choices for a Grimsby & Cleethorpes board are similarly well known:

Steel’s Cornerhouse – After a nuclear war cockroaches will need somewhere to eat and that place will be Steel’s Cornerhouse. An institution untouched and unchanged by time and fashions, Steel’s has stood in Cleethorpes marketplace for almost 70 years and its reputation is far-reaching: everybody knows about Steel’s fish and chips and folk travel from far and wide for their mainstay – haddock, chips and mushy peas, served with bread and butter and a pot of tea. I remember when I was younger, being egged on to try the jumbo haddock by my uncle and staring open-mouthed as said fish arrived with the tail on a side plate as it was too vast to fit on the plate. First name on many a (metaphor-mixing) team sheet.

Victoria Mill – along with the Dock Tower, the Victoria Mill dominates the Grimsby skyline; another memory of the town’s industrial past. Of course it has been some time since any flour was milled there and these days it is a complex of flats but this is a building that must surely be preserved for future generations. A reminder of our past and also a striking and beautiful building.

Humber Forts – okay, so the two sand forts, Haile and Bull might not even fall with the administration of NE Lincs Council but I’m claiming both for the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Monopoly board. Nearly one hundred years old, the forts could accomodate 200 servicemen and although they were completed too late for WW1, they saw service in WW2 with a net between them protecting the Humber and its ports from U-Boat attack. I remember them being sold off and there being talk of them being converted into hotels with access by boat or helicopterbut eventually a charity took them on with the intention of Bull becoming a drug rehabilitation facility.

My yellow properties are as follows:

Winter Gardens – Cleethorpes Winter Gardens was demolished a few years ago and I think for many exiled Grimbarians and Meggies returning to the town this was a greater shock to the system than the old railway line becoming a road. The Winter Gardens sat at the end of the Kingsway for decades and was famous as a gig venue, hosting tours by Queen, The Sex Pistols and many more but perhaps the thing that we will all remember it for is of course The Bags’ Ball on a Wednesday night. Melody Night? Ha!

Cleethorpes Zoo – yes youngsters, we had a zoo, where Pleasure Island theme park now stands. I can just about remember going there with my mum and dad but it closed in the 70s. Photos now look like how we might imagine an Eastern European zoo to be now with poor conditions for animals but truth be told, most zoos were like that. I remember seals, penguins, an elephant, bear and more and a lot of concrete enclosures. I’ve just found footage and photos of a killer whale in 1970 and a few years ago when I wanted to send a couple of postcards I popped into one of the giftshops opposite the slipway. The owner nipped out back and brought me a box of older postcards including a dolphin at the zoo. A dolphin. Unbelievable.

Welholme Galleries – I reckon pretty much every Grimsby schoolkid of a certain age will remember trips to Welholme Galleries. This former church was run as a museum and my younger self was fascinated by the local history on display, especially the model boats

The green properties are as follows and

Blundell Park

Weelsby Woods

Cleethorpes Beach

The Blues

Minster

PEoples PArk

stations are

utilities are Dock Tower and chapman’s pond

Phew.

So, there you go. What do you think? Did I pick the right places? Write a comment and let me know.