Tata Steel has announced that it will cut around 1,200 jobs in the U.K., mainly at its plants in Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire and Lanarkshire in Scotland. The company blamed inexpensive Chinese imports for the falling prices of steel. The steel industry in the U.K. is reportedly grappling with falling prices, high energy costs, inexpensive imports and the strength of the pound, which has led to exports becoming heavier on the pocket. Full story >>
The cartoon shows three men carrying a load of 'cheap Chinese mothballs' into a UK steelworks.
To understand this cartoon you need to know the meaning of the verb 'to mothball'. A mothball (noun) is 'a small pellet of a pungent substance, typically naphthalene, put among stored clothes to keep away moths'. A moth is a flying insect like a butterfly that flies mostly at night. The young form of some types of moth eat cloth and are known as clothes moths. So, 'to mothball' clothes means to store clothes among or in mothballs to stop clothes moths eating them. However, in the figurative sense, it 'to mothball' means 'to stop using a piece of equipment or a building but keep it in good condition so that it can readily be used again'. The joke in the cartoon is the fact that the steelworks is being mothballed using cheap mothballs from China, which is ironic since it's cheap Chinese steel which caused the closure in the first place.