The Jarrow march has come to symbolise all that is wrong with inequality in this country. The Tory government of the day was quite happy to put the profits of its wealthy backers before all else and did not give a hoot for the misery and suffering that was left in the wake of their policies. That Conservative government under Stanley Baldwin was quite prepared to leave towns and cities in the north destitute and starving and did nothing to help.
The desperation in Jarrow was the direct result of government policy. The closure of Palmer’s Shipyard threw 10,000 men out of work with all the knock-on effect that had on the area. They was no welfare and families were starving.
On the 5th of October 1936 a desperate group of 200 men, backed by the Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson, set off to march 280 miles from Jarrow to London in order to hand a petition in to the Houses of Parliament.
The column of thin, hungry men, wearing flat-caps and capes to ward off the rain, played mouth-organs as they defiantly walked through towns on the way to London. They were the symbol of everything that was wrong. Poor families were starving while the rich, with their monopolies and behind the back deals, became wealthier by the minute. All over the country there were hunger marches and demonstrations. The Jarrow Crusade was one of many.
They were not marching in demand of hand-outs; they wanted work. They were not adverse to working for twelve hours a day for poor pay. They merely wanted to work and earn enough to feed their families.
The Tory government had colluded with the Bank of England to block a loan that would have brought a major Steel Works to Jarrow and alleviated the suffering.
Ellen Wilkinson, with tears in her eyes, handed in the petition and pleaded on behalf of the people of Jarrow.
The Tory government callously rejected the appeal and did nothing.
Today – as Theresa May stands up and promises to deal with inequality forgive me if I take it with a pinch of salt. We’ve heard it all before with the likes of Thatcher and Cameron. They speak the words to fool the people while still playing the same tune. They cut the money to the poor and disabled while giving to the rich. (Tax cuts for the rich – pay cuts for the poor).
Nothing has changed and never will. The Tory party was formed by the rich to look after the rich.
Actions speak louder than words. They’ll offer us sops and crow about it.
Today I’ll remember those defiant heroes of Jarrow and say a curse for Stanley Baldwin and the selfish, greedy people he represents.