Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t JoNova – People who lived through the blackouts and economic chaos of the 1970s must be experiencing a strong sense of deja-vu, with Boris Johnson starring as the spiritual successor of the weak, ineffectual Conservative leader Edward Heath.
UK industry could face shutdowns as wholesale gas price hits record high
Steel, chemicals and fertiliser industries warn of difficult winter unless government takes emergency action
Wholesale gas prices hit new all-time highs on Wednesday, prompting warnings that factories could be forced to shut down over winter or switch to more polluting fuels just as the UK hosts the Cop26 climate conference next month.
The crisis has already forced a wave of collapses among energy suppliers that has led to warnings of “desperate choices” for households likely to face higher bills as a result.
As power-hungry sectors such as steel, glass and chemicals fight their own battle with soaring gas and electricity costs, they warned of further shocks to both industry and consumers, including higher prices of goods and factories being forced to temporarily close.
Why do I think Heath is comparable to Boris Johnson? Because just like Heath, Boris Johnson’s ineptitude could be about to plunge Britain into a new era of darkness, rolling power cuts and industrial stoppages.
When the lights DID go out: Meals by candlelight and lamp-lit shopping… how miners strikes and sky-high inflation saw 1970s Britain plunged into darkness with a three-day working week
- From 1972, Prime Minister Edward Heath was locked in political battle with National Union of Mineworkers
- A six-week strike that year led to mass blackouts around the country and thousands of lay-offs
- Heath then imposed a three-day week in 1973 as continued coal shortages threatened electricity supply
- TV companies including the BBC and ITV had to stop broadcasting at 10.30pm each night
- Ordinary Britons were ordered to limit heating to one room and to keep non-essential lights switched off
- Do YOU remember the crisis? Send recollections and pictures to [email protected]
PUBLISHED: 21:21 AEDT, 21 September 2021 | UPDATED: 23:55 AEDT, 21 September 2021
As Britain grapples with soaring gas and electricity prices and an energy supply crisis, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has been forced to say there is ‘no question of the lights going out’.
But, when the country was gripped by strikes by coal workers in the 1970s, the lights really did go out.
From 1972, the then Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath became locked in political battle with the immensely powerful and militant National Union of Mineworkers.
Unlike today, most of Britain’s electricity came from coal, and so crisis struck when miners voted to strike over wages for six weeks between January and February 1972.
Miners picketed power stations in an effort to restrict coal supply, leading to mass blackouts around the country and businesses being forced to close.
Whilst that strike came to an end with the Government’s capitulation and a pay rise for miners, the following year saw further unrest when ministers capped public sector wages amid an inflation crisis – as the NUM demanded a further pay hike of 35 per cent.
Although another strike was initially avoided, miners did vote to ban overtime, leading to the halving of coal production and the imposition by Heath of a three-day week in December 1973, with the aim of conserving coal stocks and keeping all essential lights on.
Nearly all businesses had to limit their electricity use to three days a week and were banned from operating for long hours on those days.
The British government claims there is no question of the lights going out – but I’m not sure I believe them. In any case, the crazy price spikes on offer could achieve the same effect as an actual shutdown, by making power utterly unaffordable.
At least Heath had the excuse of not being the primary cause of his disaster. Heath’s weakness might have made his administration the plaything of militant unions, but he didn’t personally order power generators to be shut down.
Boris Johnson, by contrast, in my opinion is entirely responsible for Britain’s current energy market chaos. Boris could have shored up Britain’s energy security, and removed obstacles to shale, to eliminate dependence on Russian gas and French electricity, he could have re-opened coal mines or secured sufficient supplies to buffer Britain against supply shocks. All this could have happened right from the start of his administration.
But in his arrogance, in my opinion BoJo did the opposite – he ignored warnings, and powered full steam ahead with his disastrous green energy plan, deliberately killing off investment in coal and other reliable forms of energy, and creating the conditions which led to Britain’s current calamitous shortages and energy market instability. Just when Britain was finally showing signs of pulling out of BoJo’s Covid lockdown recession.
In the 1970s legendary Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher challenged and defeated Heath as leader of the Conservatives, soared to victory, and instituted economic reforms which revived Britain’s moribund economy. But Thatcher was already a prominent member of Heath’s cabinet. Of course, no leader is perfect, even good leaders. Margaret Thatcher promoted global warming alarm to publicly justify her campaign to crush militant coal unions, and restore stability to Britain’s energy supplies.
Perhaps there is a new Thatcher in waiting, hiding their talent behind a convincing facade of mediocrity and incompetence. But if there is, I don’t know them.