Jeremy Corbyn pledges to go to Beijing to stop China dumping steel

Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour leader who spoke to The Guardian accused the government of being in thrall to “the idea of a global market economy” and called on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to intervene after he toured the Tata steelworks on Thursday.

“Steel is the basis of all manufacturing industries. It’s the basis of everything that we make in this country,” Corbyn said.

He also attacked the government’s economic approach: “They have a philosophy which says basically that anybody can produce anything, anywhere and send it anywhere around the world. So we have dumped Chinese steel being sold under the price of production, which is of course ruinous to our industries. It requires intervention from the government and political pressure on the Chinese. It also requires the WTO to do something about it. Otherwise we all lose.”

Corbyn said the steel crisis undermined the personal mission of the chancellor, George Osborne to rebalance England’s economy away from London and the south-east. “The whole northern powerhouse idea, as I understood it, was that there would be economic generation across the north of England, the creation of a powerhouse that would be a combination of local government, economic industry and training. And if you destroy a crucial part of that three-legged stool, namely the manufacturing industry, then you don’t have a northern powerhouse,” he said.

Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary, accompanied Corbyn on his visit. She said the northern powerhouse would be “very floppy” without British steel, and that Conservatives did not care about steel because so few of their MPs represent industrial areas.

“If there were steel works in Witney then David Cameron would have acted by now,” Eagle said, referring to the prime minister’s Oxfordshire constituency.

She said ministers were too ashamed of their inaction to come to Scunthorpe and meet the workers at risk of redundancy. “I just think they don’t want to look the people in the eye whose jobs their neglect is putting at risk,” she said, accusing her government counterpart, Sajid Javid, of being philosophically opposed to the government intervening in anything.


In his speech to the Conservative party conference in October, Osborne announced the creation of an infrastructure commission to invest in large building projects of national importance, headed by the former Labour peer Lord Adonis.

Eagle said the steelworks at Scunthorpe and Redcar, where 2,200 jobs will go when the plant closes, were strategic national assets and should be protected.

“If we are to believe the government, we are just at the beginning of a huge investment into our infrastructure. If you think about it, why on earth can’t we ensure that we keep these strategic assets in our country until this difficult time has passed, so that we can bring them back into use? It makes no sense,” she said.

It would cost at least £600m for another operator to reopen the coke ovens at Scunthorpe once they are allowed to go cold, she added.