Keir Hardie, the Welsh Miners and my UKIP opponent

My UKIP opponent has asked whether I agree with places being blighted by wind farms and solar panels. This is, of course, a nonsense question. ALL forms of Energy bring with them blight: the question is what sort of blight and which communities get blighted. There’s no point in saying “yes of course we should have Electricity and Heat in our homes, just so long as some other unfortunate community gets to be blighted”. This question matters because when I lived in Cumbria, it was the poor communities who ended up getting blighted with wind farms as the wealthier communities had more influential people on their parish councils. This is where NIMBYism has a callous heart – and where as politicians, we need to show leadership.

But there are solutions. It is possible for a wind farm to be a community asset owned by the parish council for the benefit of local people – both in terms of profits and cheaper – or even free – electricity. Then, a wind farm becomes, not so much a blight on the landscape but a community asset that provides prosperity to local people.

I have also said before that the best way to tackle our Energy crisis is to improve our homes so we need less Energy. This can include solar panels on roofs, a wind turbine in the back garden or Geothermal under the floors as well as more conventional home improvements such as insulation. These don’t blight in the same way as an industrial scale wind farm but with the right technology we will eventually be able to build homes that don’t have Electricity bills at all. But to do that, we need political will – and the support of government. That is why a future Labour Government will have a “War on Cold Homes” to move millions of these homes in that direction.

BUT ALL OF THAT PALES INTO INSIGNIFICANCE AGAINST WHAT MY UKIP OPPONENT HAS JUST REVEALED ABOUT HIMSELF

Because some Energy sources bring with them other problems – such as coal is dangerous for coalminers and there has been a long history of mining fatalities throughout the centuries. That needs to be weighed up against the visible blight of wind farms and solar panels. I know this because my great uncle was killed in a mining accident leaving a wife and five children. (Another great uncle died of respiratory illnesses related to his work in the mines). When I mentioned this  to him, he completely ignored my point and kept pressing me to support wind farms. He continued to ignore even when pressed and encouraged to show some common decency.

His attitude has a long history in our country: of our establishment not really considering miners to be people but legitimate collateral damage in the industrialization of our nation. This, in many respects, was why the Labour Party was born and it was most graphically described in 1894 when Labour Party founder, Keir Hardie delivered a blistering speech in Parliament.

There had been a terrible disaster at the Albion Colliery, Cilfynydd, South Wales, when over 250 men were killed.  About the same time President Carnot, of France, was assassinated and the Duchess of York gave birth to a son, the present Prince of Wales. Parliament had refused to send condolences to the miners and instead spent their time offering gushing congratulations to the new prince.

Below is an article that Keri Hardie wrote afterwards:

‘The Welsh holocaust puts everything into the shade this week.  Two hundred and fifty human beings, full of strong life in the morning, reduced to charred and blackened heaps of clay in the evening.  The air rent with the wail of the childless mother, the widowed wife and the orphaned child.  Woe, woe unutterable everywhere, all through that fair Welsh valley.  Only those who have witnessed such scenes, as I have twice over, can realise what they mean.  Only those who know, as I know, that these things are preventable and solely due to man’s cupidity, can understand the bitterness of feeling which they awaken.  We are a nation of hypocrites.  We go wild with excitement and demand vengeance when some hungry half-mad victim of our industrial system seeks to wreak his vengeance on the society which is murdering him by inches; and we piously look heavenward and murmur about a visitation of providence when two hundred and fifty miners are blown to bits because society places more value on property than it does on human life.  Coal must be got cheap – even if 1200 sturdy miners are murdered yearly in the process – twelve hundred hearths made desolate.

Never, surely, did the innate snobbery of respectable British society show itself to worse advantage than on Monday of this week.  At a quarter to four on Saturday last 251 men and boys were killed by an explosion in the Albion colliery Cilfynydd, near Pontypridd, in the Taff Valley, Wales.  That same evening at ten the Duchess of York was delivered of a son at the White Lodge, Richmond.  On Sunday evening about half-past nine, President Carnot, on his way to the theatre, was stabbed by an assassin, and died shortly afterwards.  Monday’s papers were full of these things.  in every case the London morning press on its placards made announcement of the events, though in every case the murder of the French President took precedence.

The Daily Chronicle and the Daily Telegraph evidently consider the birth of a prince of more importance than the murder of 251 Welsh miners, as the items were disposed of in the following order -

ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT CARNOT
BIRTH OF A ROYAL PRINCE
COLLIERY DISASTER IN WALES

The evening papers were even worse. The Sun, Liberal (T P O’Connor’s paper), the Star, Liberal, the Echo, Liberal Unionist, the Evening News, Tory, all came out with placards on which there was not a reference to the Welsh disaster, the murder of Carnot alone being noticed. The Chronicle puts its account of the murder in a black border. No black border is given to the account of the murder of the Welsh miners. Three full columns are allotted to the former; only 2 and 1-5th to the latter. The Star leading article is headed ‘France – Our Sympathy’. Not a word about the Welsh miners. The Sun article is devoted in Tay Pay’s best style to Carnot and the royal baby, with two fugitive references to the Welsh disaster.
And these are the papers from which the working classes expect political light and guidance. Never in the history of British journalism was there anything more offensively snobbish than the display with which I am dealing. Everyone would mourn with Madame Carnot, and rejoice in a subdued kind of way with the Duke and Duchess of York in the birth of their child, but it is to the sore-stricken poor of that Welsh valley, that the true hearts of this great nation will turn with its overwhelming sympathy. For the lick-spittals of the press who have no ears for the cry of the poor widow and orphan, and who attempt to see in the birth of a child to the Duke and Duchess of York, an event of Divine significance to the nation, there can be nothing but contempt. The life of one Welsh miner is of greater commercial and moral value to the British nation than the whole royal crowd put together, from the royal Great Grand-mama down to this puling royal Great Grand-child.’