Cerberus: Virtue signalling comes at a cost. The closure of the steel industry

When I was at school in the 1960s, just about the worst thing you could be called by your classmates was a show-off. Boys who boasted of their achievements, real or imagined, on the sports field or exam room were widely ridiculed and avoided. As one wag put it: “I used to be conceited but now I'm perfect.”

Telling the world just how wonderful you were was just not done. That was for others to judge. And those who persisted in showing off could expect to be the butt of jokes and humiliating pranks. As a self-policing means of social control it worked pretty well. They were few show-offs in those days.

Not so today. Showing off has been commercialised and institutionalised. Much of the ghastly social media phenomenon exemplified by Twitter and Facebook is an exercise in non-stop showing off. It is particularly common on the progressive Left and among the so-called modernising Conservatives to be found at the court of King Cameron. It is all about me, and not very much about you, save to say you clearly are nowhere near as good as me. We have come to call it virtue signalling. It is really a particularly virulent form of showing off, bathed in oceans of piety and self regard. But virtue signalling gets the point across. And it is costing us dear.

So dear that the 40,000 jobs set to go at Tata Steel are, at least in part, the price we are paying for our elite’s addiction to virtue signalling, to seeking to demonstrate that they are guided by higher motives than the common herd and prepared to make sacrifices to build a better world. Actually, it is not they who make the sacrifices, but other less enlightened souls.

There are a lot of reasons behind the collapse of Britain’s steel industry. About 150 years ago, we produced almost 40 per cent of the world’s steel. Now, with Tata on the brink, we are down to less than one per cent and that will soon go. The country that gave the world the Industrial Revolution is about to bow out of just about its most fundamental activity.

The dumping of subsidised Chinese steel on world markets and the extraordinary indolence of ministers in the face of a clear and present danger to the industry’s survival are contributory factors in the almost certain demise of Port Talbot and other Tata plants.

But it is Britain’s virtue-signalling policy of advertising itself as a world leader in combating climate change and reducing greenhouse gases – by 80 per cent by 2050 – that lies behind the agony of the steel industry. The colossal blast furnace at Port Talbot soaks up masses of energy and the losses of £1 million a day are, in part, down to the fact that UK energy is so expensive – twice that of the EU average and four times that of shale-gas rich America.

In a nutshell, our steel industry is to be sacrificed on the altar of the virtue-signalling obsession with decarbonising our energy supplies. As Dominic Lawson points out in a splendid piece in The Sunday Times, the air in Britain will soon be a whole lot sweeter – but only because there won’t be any steel mills (or indeed power stations) belching out noxious gases in a few years time. Other countries, particularly those in the EU, are also caught up in this madness, though they seem to have the habit of paying lip service to pious carbon reduction schemes while quietly protecting their heavy industry.

But it doesn’t stop there. We are virtue-signalling at a global level with our obsession with meeting the UN’s target of devoting 0.7 per cent of our GDP to overseas aid. We are now handing over £12.2 billion a year to less fortunate lands – or at least the leaders, sometimes despots, of less fortunate lands. This is over £500 million more than in 2014 – quite enough to keep Port Talbot going for more than a year. We are the only major economy to be hitting the virtue-signallers’ mark of 0.7 per cent, apparently, according to The Mail on Sunday, because the PM did not want to upset the latter-day saint Sir Bob Geldof.

Then there is the money we pay for our membership of the EU – a snip at £300 million a week (including Margaret Thatcher’s rebate). That too could keep Port Talbot afloat for nearly a year or be diverted to far more deserving causes than propping up the pretensions of Brussels.

But none of this is about economics or prudent management of the nation’s cash-strapped finances, which are only kept afloat on a sea of borrowing from overseas investors. It is entirely about politics, in particular delivering David Cameron’s brand of right-on Conservatism. As Lawson points out in his article, one of Cameron’s first acts was to replace as his logo the gas guzzling blue Tory torch with an innocent child’s idea of a green tree. At the time, critics saw it as an empty gesture, designed simply to advance Tory rebranding as no more the “nasty party”. With steel heading for the scrapheap, it doesn’t look so empty now.


(Image: Ben Slater)


  • Earthenware

    There was never any pressure from Tory grassroots to adopt these loony eco-policies.

    Neither was there any pressure from the Labour grassroots – working class people are most affected by closure of industry and rising energy prices.

    Cameron is desperate to impress his Notting Hill dinner party friends. Corbyn wants to appear to be in favour of industrial jobs while at the same time wanting to shut industry down for green reasons.

    Then there’s the EU, with unaccountable commissioners making policy decisions under the influence of well-funded lobbyists from Big Green.

    The whole thing is a mess. Only once we are out of the EU and have Nigel Farage in Downing Street will we get some common sense policies.

    • Colkitto03

      Well put!

    • Shazza

      David Cameron is not a Conservative – during the early years of the Coalition, Cameron’s friend Helena Bonham Carter described him as a Social Democrat.

      Enough said.

      • John Steed

        Boris used to be a Social Democrat too as I recall, when the SDP was fashionable

      • Alan Llandrindod Wells

        Theatrical, MSM and Labour Luvvies are Cameron’s circle.
        He will soon be enriching himself by doing a Blair on the international cicuit.
        Stuff the British Plebs.

        • Shazza

          Nah, he doesn’t need the money. I think he has higher ambitions. Whereas Osborne thwarted Blair’s ambition to be President of the EU, Cameron will have his backing when he is ‘elected’ President of the newly created United States of Europe – POTUSE.

          Why else is he fighting so hard to keep us in this disastrous EU?

          • Alan Llandrindod Wells

            Because he is obstinate and has not had a new idea since he was 12.

      • Alan Llandrindod Wells

        After the London mayoral elections Sharia law will come in for London and Chipping Norton.
        That should please Cameron.

      • eat your greens

        Enough said indeed. What does it all mean Shazboter?

    • WuffoTheWonderDog

      When did the Tory party pay any attention to what the rank and file members of thee party thought? At least the party elite now appear to be honest and open about what they think of them when they close most of the local association branches. This will stop those damned members babbling about what is good for the party. Who do they think they are?

      Thus, clear blue water appears between the membership and the elite, who have all the money they need from big business. All the elite need from the members are their votes, and with postal voting, as demonstrated by Labour in Tower Hamlets, these days they don’t really need the members.

      If the party machine dared sail so close to the wind as it did in Thanet South, ballot boxes vanishing for six hours during a one-mile journey to the count and delivering suspiciously large numbers of votes for the Tory, voting papers shredded immediately afterwards, is it too much to believe they won’t do without their votes of the little people that pay taxes?

      • Alan Llandrindod Wells

        Stalin said it is who counts them that matters.
        We are now a cross between a Banana Republic and Kruschev’s Russia.
        We could not have done worse than Cameron.
        If he keeps this up he will be an advert for the weirdo Corbyn.

    • hereward

      Mark Reckless ( then a UKIP MP) was one of the few MP’s to speak against the nonsense of enshrining in Law the 0.7% of GDP for Foreign aid in the 2015 debate . A short while later he was booted out by the “sensible” voters of Rochester who had only just voted him in ,in a by-election !! You could not make it up . It is not just the MPs that are Bonkers ! FPTP will be the death of this country .

      • The voters of this country will be the death of it. Don’t blame the system.

        • hereward

          I do blame the system . FPTP perpetuates the kneejerk tribal voting and the allegiance to the red or blue rosette . Many people have had enough of that and do not even vote .

  • Nockian

    Depends what you call a virtue. I would say it is a result of an ongoing obsession with Nihlism. It looks for all the world like it’s meant to make things better, but is actually quite the opposite. It is the hatred of the good for being the good.

    It is a sign of what’s to come, with one group wishing to smash another, to destroy order and pursue destruction with single minded focus. The reason they pursue this course of actions is always justified by some noble aim, but that aim can be traced to a self destructive tendency.

    Of course this was the kind of thing some religious maniacs engaged in. They would drink laundry water, wear sackcloth and thrash themselves until they bled. Today we see Jihadhist practising ritual suicide. Further down the zealots hierarchy are those who would wish to see us returning to a time of grass huts and dirt. Then there are the drug/alcohol/transgender types who want oblivion from themselves.

    So, virtue signalling is probably a misnomer unless one adds sacrifice as one of the virtues.

  • noix

    I am sad to say that this is probably the truth of the matter. The mainstream politicians and media are conspicuous in their silence about the effect of the CCA. They do not wish the public to be aware of the price they pay for politicians grandstanding.

  • Claire B

    The sooner we get Brexit and a real Conservative leader the better!

  • fubar_saunders

    That seems like a fair summary.

  • realfish

    Not just steel. One day soon, we will come home and switch on the lights, for there to be no electricity.

    And as we continue the madness of accelerating the reduction in our generating capacity, Germany commissions around 11gw of new coal fired power stations.

    Madness, utter madness.

  • Bugle

    Dave is worried about his legacy. How about this? The most ineffectual and mendacious Prime Minister since Ted Heath.

    • Hairy Bob

      Absolutely right, apart from the words “since Ted Heath”.

  • Phil R

    If we followed the logic in 2008 we should have let the banks fail

    • Fed Up/No HS2

      and jailed a few thousand of the thieving scum….pour encouragez les autres

  • Fed Up/No HS2

    Spot on u have it well covered. All those Mellons should be hanging their heads in shame…..but shame is an alien concept in their rotten world .

    No-one should vote for any party/person that espouses Global Warming, as anyone who does espouse it, is either a moron, or a shyster.

    • Gordon Stewart

      or a Tory

  • Johnnymcevoy

    HS2 to use British Steel!
    An instant 30% cost hike. To be financed by subsidy, then tax hikes, then more job losses.
    Those PPE grads sure knew how to wreck the world’s 5th biggest whelk stall.
    Can their private assets not be bailed in? That would teach them a good lesson. Their actions are treasonous incompetence. Are you listening, Ruddy Amber, et al?

  • Gordon Stewart

    who would have thought that the Torys could be such destructive socialists

    • RobertRetyred

      I did, on the evening of December 6th, 2005.

  • Albiro

    Camaron is making a pigs ear out of his premiership. Fitting I would say.

  • Gimme Some Fightin’ Room

    Excellent article – completely agree with you.

  • Roger Turner

    It`s the notion of “self sacrifice”, unfortunately, it`s everybody else that gets sacrificed, rather than the lord/lady bountiful doing the donating on our behalf.
    I first became aware of this aberration when the policy of independent nuclear decommission was voiced. i.e. we would disarm unilaterally( leave ourselves naked) from possessing nuclear capability, in the expectation that the rest of the mob who held stocks, would be shamed by our example and do the deed themselves.
    What a self serving hopeless prospect.
    Was this an early example of “virtue signalling”?

  • John Smith

    Geldof is no saint,0 he is charging $100,00 for a Save the World talk somewhere nice

    He also said he would take three migrant families, to date he has taken none

  • grandpa1940


    That statistic, that insignificant percentage, is one which will become very, very important in all our lives this winter.

    Consider our island nation and its needs. We depend upon just one thing, one commodity, to survive, to live, to keep warm, to run our industries, to power the millions of computers which chart our lives, to cook our foods, to clean and distribute the very water without which we could not survive: we need Electricity. True, gas, oil, petrol, diesel, are all necessary for modern life, but without the ‘spark’ of electricity: nothing else will sustain our very civilisation. Without mains and Grid electricity, we couldn’t even charge the electric cars the ‘greenies’ are so fond of. Over the years, we have built a Grid, a distribution system which was second to none, and then the POLITICIANS began to bring it down. They believed THE GARBAGE which is the Carbon Threat and Climate Change, they brought in the Climate Change Act, which brings billions in extra costs onto the backs of consumers with absolutely no effect on the real atmosphere at all, they signed up without demur to the ludicrous European Union dictats on so-called damaging emissions; and what, we must ask ourselves, has been the result?

    Coal-fired power stations have been systematically starved of maintenance and money, and because they now cost a lot to refurbish, the shareholders don’t want to throw good money after bad, and they will be closing faster than the EU wishes. The Teeside Power Station, which my own daughter helped complete and commission less than twenty years ago was demolished a year ago by the French GDF Suez people on the grounds it could not compete. RUBBISH! I knew that station, it was bright and shiny and super efficient, but because it had been sold to a bunch of foreigners, they decided that a perfectly good station should be demolished! Due to the scheming and duplicitous behaviour of British politicians of all hues, we have not commenced the necessary build of ordinary thermal power stations, burning either gas or oil, never mind nuclear ones, instead going for the GREEN Garbage of so-called renewables, which: if wind turbine, can only generate when the wind is blowing, but not too strongly, otherwise they cut out or, if solar, only generate during daylight hours, or hydro; of which there are very few large plants anywhere, as we don’t have a huge supply of mountains and valleys with rivers running down which to dam for power.

    So, with a huge subsidy firmly in sight and on target, the so-called Green suppliers, the wind-farmers with their huge whining wind turbines, are fitting hundreds of small (2 MW Megawatt) diesel-powered generators, as Short Term Operating Reserve, and the National Grid is able to use these mini-power stations easily as they are able to switch on, commence running and contribute to the Grid reserve in minutes if required. I know how these things work, I have commissioned and run dozens of diesel generators over the years, they are tricky to build, but once commissioned and maintained correctly, will give good service for years. But the truly ludicrous thing about these STOR stations is that they completely go against the whole ethos of the allegedly ‘Renewables’ idea, in that the STOR generators burn lots of diesel, which produces lots of Carbon Dioxide, which is allegedly so very bad for the planet, but so very, very good for the shareholders of the huge companies installing them, because of the huge £400 millions subsidy FROM THE TAXPAYER to have these mini stations available, JUST IN CASE!

    But back, as we should go, to that 1.2% of actual spinning reserve. This is the smallest amount ever reported by the National Grid to be able to overcome extra demands, such as that made by a long cold winter. I and my wife are both pensioners, and as we like our home warmed; we know it is expensive, but that is what this Tory Government, along with the Labour bunch of thieving clowns have lumbered the taxpayer with, due to the Climate Change bills, the huge subsidies paid for wind turbines which do not generate any power, the solar panels which switch off as the sun goes down, and all the other ‘renewables’ rubbish which clogs the landscape. We do not have any reserves to speak of, and when the lights and heaters commence ‘black-out’, we all know who exactly to blame!

  • Andrew Morgan

    Whilst I agree that there are many regrettable ( and possibly reversible ) reasons why nobody wants British steel, the general trend is that modern developed countries depend more on intellectual wealth than the traditional heavy industries, and mining etc. There is also a degree of sentimentality here about Port Talbot workers, suddenly rediscovered by the labour party who left the concerns of working class white britons alone years ago. Consider this however- 70000 oil workers lost their jobs last year – the majority around Aberdeen, and the total job losses in the UK may be as high as 200000 ( Guardian Jan 16 quoting official stats). I don’t recall any fuss over this , and certainly none of the crocodile tears that we are seeing shed this week.