THE steel industry in Wales – and in the UK as a whole – today stands on the brink of oblivion.

The giant Indian conglomerate Tata decided at a board meeting in Mumbai late on Tuesday night to ‘divest’ itself of its UK steel operations.

In other words, Britain’s steel industry is for sale to the highest bidder.

And Tata wants a quick sale, as the company made it clear it would not continue to ‘support’ its British plants indefinitely pending finding a buyer.

So it has come to this.

Britain is perhaps weeks away from having no steel industry and becoming entirely reliant on foreign imports.

It is a national industrial crisis.

Unsurprisingly, MPs and AMs of every political hue are rushing to the nearest microphone to call for immediate action. There are even Conservative MPs calling for the UK government to renationalise the Tata sites temporarily ahead of a potential management/staff buyout.

It would be funny if it were not so serious.

There is not a government in this country's history that has done anything to safeguard the steel industry until now, when we are almost at the point of no return.

They have watched steel stagger and stumble for decades.

And now they want to breathe life into its twitching corpse.

It is enough to make you want to vomit.

There will no doubt be politicians reading this who will point to various initiatives, or taskforces, or development agencies they will say helped the steel industry. But in reality the help given to the industry has almost always been when it is too late.

In this area of the world, help for steelworkers only came after they had lost their jobs at Llanwern and Ebbw Vale.

No government and no political party can take any pride in what has happened to the steel industry in this country.

In 1971 there were more than 322,000 steelworkers in the UK. Now there are fewer than 25,000.

The trade unions and successive governments fought themselves to a standstill in the 1970s.

The Thatcher government, operating on the economic dogma that the market was all, privatised British Steel in the 1980s.

The 1990s saw what was left of British Steel merge with a Dutch company to form Corus.

The Blair government stood by as thousands of people lost their jobs when steelmaking ended at Llanwern and the Ebbw Vale plant was closed in the early years of this century.

And then Tata took the reins of Corus less than a decade ago.

Pretty much the only constant throughout all of that time has been contraction, cost-cutting and job losses.

Steel is not alone in that. Many other industries have gone the same way, not least the newspaper industry, although not always for the same reasons.

But not having the capacity to make steel is economic suicide for an industrialised nation.

Something will be done this time, because there is no alternative.

We once had the odd sight of a Labour government bailing out the City during Gordon Brown’s tenure in Downing Street.

Now there is now a real likelihood that a Tory government will take a public stake in a heavy industry if only on a temporary basis.

We live in strange times indeed.

It is now vital for many, many families in Newport and Port Talbot and Rotherham and Corby and Shotton that everyone in decision-making positions does everything they can to secure the long-term future of steelmaking in Britain.

Party policies have to be set aside.

It appears clear the steel industry in Britain will not be allowed to die.

But who pays for the life support before buyers can be found, or before there is an upturn in what is a cyclical industry, remains to be seen.