UK manufacturing jobs will never return to past highs, says Corbyn

Manufacturing jobs in the UK will never resurge to their historical highs, according to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

File photo dated 21/03/22 of Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a protest
File photo dated 21/03/22 of Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a protest

Mr Corbyn said he was “keen on us retaining and developing manufacturing industry in Britain” but warned that many roles would not come back.

The now-independent MP for Islington North spoke to The Yorkshire Post ahead of an appearance at the Sheffield Festival of Debate next week, and described the Steel City as a “centre of excellence” that will “always be there”, no matter how the trade may change.

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Asked about the impact that the downsizing of the steel industry has had in communities like Sheffield, Mr Corbyn told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s never going to come back in the same numbers as in the past.”

“I’m keen on us retaining and developing manufacturing industry in Britain, but the numbers of jobs in frontline manufacturing are never going to be anything like those (previously).

“The levels of technology involved are phenomenal.”

Reflecting on a recent visit to a steelworks in South Wales, Mr Corbyn said: “I saw the steelworks and then the place where the rolling mills took place, and the numbers of

people actually working there was tiny.

“It was all done on computer screen, stuff that used to be done with very heavy, quite dangerous work in the steelworks itself, so Sheffield, as the centre of excellence, will always be there.

“The quality of the steel produced in Sheffield is absolutely huge.

“Will it bring the same numbers back as in the past? No.”

Mr Corbyn, 72, was Labour leader between 2015 and 2020.

But he had the whip removed later that year following a investigation into anti-Semitism in the party.

He suggested that steel production would need to be “more environmentally sustainable” and “reusing scrap more and more”.

“The days of coal fired blast furnaces, I think are numbered,” he added.

“And we’re looking much more at electric arc and reusing of scrap which is developing more and more.

“But Sheffield’s speciality, of course, is at the very high end of steelmaking.”

Sheffield Festival of Debate got underway yesterday with its first events, and has a programme that runs through until late June.

Speakers include satirist Armando Iannucci and Jackie Weaver, who shot to viral internet fame last year after a meeting of Handforth Parish Council in Cheshire held on Zoom descended into chaos and rows between the councillors in attendance.

Mr Corbyn said he was “looking forward to” speaking and had been “intrigued by the title and the inspiration behind” the event.