Former Chancellor who oversaw pit closures admits on Question Time that North East suffered as a result

A film director, and South Shields Question Time panellist, said the closing of the North East’s mines was the ‘destruction of communities’ and was one of the ‘most cynical, most disgusting, most political acts in our lifetime’.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 12:39 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th October 2019, 9:59 am
Ken Loach shared his views on the closure of the North East's mines

The BBC’s flagship political debate show was filmed at the Custom’s House in South Shields on Thursday, October 24.

Chaired by Fiona Bruce, the episode’s panellists included conservative Norman Lamont, Lord Lamont of Lerwick; leader of the Scottish Labour Party Richard Leonard MSP; Lib Dem MEP for South West and Gibraltar Caroline Voaden; Kate Andrews, an associate director for the Institute of Economic Affairs and British film director Ken Loach, who has just released Sorry We Missed You, a follow up to I, Daniel Blake.

During the show, one woman, whose son works for Nissan, also told of how a no-deal Brexit, could be a “repeat" of the decimation caused by the closure of the collieries in the region during Margaret Thatcher’s time in office.

Question Time was filmed in South Shields on Thursday, October 24. Photographer: Richard Lewisohn

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Former MP Norman Lamon, who was chancellor of the exchequer between 1990 and 1993, said he had to make some ‘difficult decisions’ relating to industries such as shipbuilding and steel.

While Mr Loach said: “The destruction of these communities was one of the most cynical, most disgusting, most political acts certainly in our lifetime.

“It was a conscious decision to destroy the mine workers because they were cross.

“The consequence of the destruction of the mine workers was to weaken the trade unions and that’s why now we have the precarious jobs of people working 12 hours in vans driving around, barely able to see their kids to get the beginnings of the living wage.”

Westoe pit was the last remaining mine in South Shields and closed in May 1993.

Just over a year ago, Sir John Major – the man who was leading the country when the gates of the mine closed – admitted in retrospect 'he would have done things differently.'

Sir John Major spoke out on what was a dark time for the Conservatives as the country turned against them during his visit to the town at last year’s South Shields Lecture, which is organised annually by the town’s ex-MP David Miliband.

When asked by Fiona Bruce whether in hindsight he had made the right choices, Lord Lamont said: “I had to make – this is perhaps not the wisest thing to say to the audience, but I must be honest about it – some difficult decisions relating to industries such as shipbuilding and steel.

“I take in entirely the point that Ken made, that areas like this have suffered, that areas like this need help, that areas like this need support for their industry.”