Thirty years since the Miners Strike. Blimey.
I can remember watching the news every night with pre school Leo . To me it was a real live game between the good and the bad. I felt who ruled the UK was at stake, whether the elected government backed up its police force or the unelected union bosses backed up by their card carrying members. In recent memory the miners had bossed Ted Heath’s government into submission. Of course there were rules. No one used guns although there were casualties. Not least when miners dropped paving stones on scab lorries going down the motorway.
Because of the dangers of breaking through the picket lines there was a lot of money to be made in transporting coal from the pitheads to the power stations. A school friend(Nick Walters) of mine with a heavy weight haulage business prospered mightily.
I remember when the miners came to London to demonstrate. All of Fleet Street was boarded up and outside every newspaper office stood burly men whose arms easily filled their jackets and whose eyes because of the shades never saw the light of day. The Tory press was a Thatcher ally particularly scorned by Scargill and his friends.
Today Thatcher is dead and Scargill is a relatively wealthy recluse who fights interminable pension rights battles with what’s left of the NUM. It now has only 1800 members and complains that it spends as much time fighting off Scargill as it does looking after what is left of its membership.
However the romance of lost causes now hangs like morning mist over the Strike. As one miner said it was like a small boy who gets bullied. He can give in or he can fight. Even if he loses the fight he may land a few good punches and at least he has stood with honour. So the Yorkshire based Strike goes down with Oxford in the Civil War, the Highlands and Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Luddites , those who opposed Catholic Emancipation and the League of Empire Loyalists as a cause that was doomed before it started. There are few pits left in Western Europe and Thatcher only ruled in one country!
Now it just seems absurd that one of the claims the miners made was that they were fighting for was their way of life. A life which invariably ended with terrible diseases. And how some sections of the union ripped their members off in those disease pay outs. A primitive industrial society where men were men and women stood and waited. One of the more positive aspects of the strike was the empowerment of miners wives who don’t seem to have looked back.
Funnily enough the other thing I remember watching with Leo is American Football which obviously had some similarities with the nightly battles between police and miner’s pickets. Just to square the circle Leo is now talking to the producer of those American Football programmes about the possibility of going into business. And I have a statue of Scargill in my Museum. Made of pewter and it came with a similar one of Thatcher, both double up as pencil sharpeners.