Thursday, 5 October 2006

Jarrow post

Today is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Jarrow March, when 200 unemployed workers left their homes on the Tyne to walk to London. Their goal was to make the government aware of the desperation and poverty created in the North East—an area hit much harder by the Depression than others. The industries that supported them were rotting, bringing massive unemployment to the area. Jarrow suffered with the closure of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, which employed about 80% of the men in town.

Relying on the goodwill of people along their route, they marched the 450 km in 26 days. When they arrived at the Houses of Parliament, organiser and Jarrow MP Ellen Wilkinson presented a petition of 12,000 signatures. But Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin refused to see them. The marchers returned home disheartened.

It took another three years before the North East crawled out of the Depression, when the outbreak of World War II revitalised its major industries.

Despite its lack of success at the time, the Jarrow March is remembered as a significant moment in the labour movement. On the hand, history does not regard Baldwin with a similar fondness. Winston Churchill said of him: 'I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill but it would have been much better if he had never lived.'

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Baldwin is an unfairly maligned figure, largely because after WW 2 he was accused of pacifism in the face of Hitler. He was in the political mainstream in this, and it is never mentioned that he began the strengthening of the RAF which did much to save Britain. As for Churchill, he was no doubt secretly ashamed of having gone to such great lengths to convince Baldwin that 'war with Japan is not a possibity which any reasonable government need take into acount'. (Useless information:Baldwin and Rudyard Kipling were cousins.)

Snail said...

Useless information is rarely truly useless!

There's also a thread of irony stitching together Baldwin's alleged pacifism, his refusal to see the Jarrow marchers and the subsequent rejuvenation of the shipbuilding industry as a consequence of WW2. Were my brain functioning more effectively, I'd unpick the stitches. But you can see what I'm getting at ...