Thursday, 2 July 2009

Johnnie Walker

Have you ever tasted Johnnie Walker whisky? I haven't and certainly won't now.

What do I have in common with the eponymous founder? John Walker died in Kilmarnock just months before one of my gggg grandfathers, William Cairns. They are buried in the same place, St Andrew's churchyard: John, as a successful grocer, in a more elaborate grave than my gggg grandfather's unmarked one. Still six feet under, and still just as dead, though.

I like to think that John Walker will be spinning in that grave, though. Forwhy? The despicable decision by the current owners, Diageo, to close the plant in Kilmarnock and throw nearly 900 people out of work. The Kilmarnock plant is just hundreds of yards from where Walker had his grocer's shop nearly 200 years ago, and Johnnie Walker has been by far the largest employer in the area for years. Kilmarnock was a massive success story of the industrial revolution: engineering, textiles, carpet manufacturing as well as whisky blending, employing many thousands of people and exporting across the world. Now that will shortly all have gone.

Now, Kilmarnock is finished. Huge unemployment, dependent on Government handouts. Predictably, Broon doesn't get it. Apparently, the Government is going to throw money at the problem, as per usual. Now, economics is not my strong point, but I can just about work out that:

Government spending has to be paid for, somewhere down the line, by private profit.
If you try to replace private sector jobs with public sector ones, you have to (a) forego the profit and tax that the private companies used to produce as well as (b) out of declining revenue, you have to find more money to pay for your subsidies. This means that you end up taxing more or you borrow more, which increases your debt, leading to, er, taxing more at some point in the future.

Socialism did not make Kilmarnock successful. It was not socialists who built the historic Kilmarnock to Troon railway line; BMK carpets; Johnnie Walker whisky; Glenfield Kennedy and dozens of other textile and engineering companies. Capitalism made Kilmarnock successful and it is ever since the town began electing socialist MPs (Labour since 1929) that the town has declined.


neil said...

Why don't we organize a Johnnie Walker boycott around the world, Scotch is nothing if not a traditional drink and when JW leaves Kilmarnock. a tradition dies. The only thing corporations understand is the bottom line. Let's diminish Diago's bottom line so much that they will relent and stay in Kilmarnock.

Didactophobe said...

Good point, Neil. The campaign to save the plant is active and ongoing: we can only hope that it is successful. The sum that Diageo claims to be trying to save (£20 million) is barely more than 1% of their last annual net profit, which I think puts it into perspective.

We have to accept that companies making a loss can mean that workers must be made redundant. However, I think people are entitled to protest if a hugely profitable company seeks to throw people on to the scrapheap in order to save a niggardly amount.