3 Jan 2014

Thatcher vs the miners: official papers confirm the strikers’ worst suspicions

Amid the cooled air of a vault at the National Archive I trace my finger across Maggie Thatcher’s handwriting, in the margin of a typewritten note marked Secret.

She’s scribbled: “13 RoRo, 1,000 tons a day, 50 lorries a day…”

If you think destroying some of Britain’s most cohesive communities was a great achievement, then these jottings are a token of genius. They reveal Mrs Thatcher engaged in battle micro-management worthy of a Monty or Wellington.

The documents show the Conservative government was, in the middle of the miners’ strike, facing defeat.

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Coal stocks were plummeting and – alongside the miners – the dockers had gone out on strike. So in July 1984, cabinet documents released today show, the government seriously considered calling in troops to move coal.

They thought, as Conservative policy chief John Redwood put it, the National Coal Board (NCB) was “crumbling”. In a powerfully worded, single-copy letter, Redwood warned Thatcher that the far left was engaged in a revolutionary strategy to “destroy” the government.

The cabinet had, the minutes show, from the very beginning, pressured police to get tough on the pickets, and complained that local courts were dragging their feet in the processing of those arrested.

So what’s new?

The miners strike is today depicted as one of those “inevitable” events that history is littered with: a doomed workforce staging a last ditch battle in the face of progress.

If you were there – I was – it was more complicated.

At the time the government depicted the conflict as one between miners and the National Coal Board, with the state neutral, simply enforcing the law.

“Violence will not succeed for the police and courts will not bow to it. They are the servants not of government but of the law itself,” Mrs Thatcher said in her Mansion House speech that year.

The documents reveal this was a fiction.

During the first few days of the strike, on 14 March 1984, ministers pressed Home Secretary Leon Brittan to get chief constables to adopt a “more vigorous interpretation of their duties”. A clampdown followed that prevented pickets reaching the working coalfields of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire in large numbers.

Miner's Strike

The miners at the time claimed the policing was politicised. The records show it was.

Arthur Scargill, the miners’ leader, was criticised afterwards for beginning a conflict he could never win. So the revelation that he was on the point of winning – or at least achieving a messy compromise – in July 1984 is an important addition to the record.

With the dockers on strike, and the NCB “crumbling”, it took Mr Redwood’s intervention to stiffen the cabinet’s position.

As Mr Redwood put it: you can’t offer a fudged ending by negotiations and at the same time pursue a strategy of defeating the miners through a “war of attrition”.

The Redwood memo frames the dispute in a whole new way: he says the extreme left is mounting an extra-parliamentary challenge, with a “revolutionary strategy”. I asked Mr Redwood whether this language was justified in secret, official advice from the Downing Street policy unit. He said:

“I think that language captured how the government felt about it at the time. It was certainly what the prime minister herself believed. And in some of the other documentation I demonstrated there were groups involved in the miners’ strike who had a wider political purpose.

“Of course quite a lot of them decent mineworkers very worried about their jobs, and I understand that but there was another element in this strike as well.”

Everybody knew the stakes were political — miners had effectively brought down Ted Heath’s government ten years before, and union militancy had crippled the Callaghan Labour government in its last months.

The use of troops to move essential goods was seriously considered, as was the declaration of a state of emergency – and changing the law to enable this. That would have seriously escalated the conflict.

As they mulled what to do the cabinet was shown an opinion poll, which had been done in secret. There is no evidence as to who had commissioned the poll.

It asked not whether troops should move “essential goods”, but whether they should be deployed “to see the coal moved” to steelworks and power stations. Though the poll showed majority support for the government’s line, it was strongly – 71% – against the use of troops.

Mr Redwood told me: “I was very much against using the army. I was trying to calm things down – I said it’s not that extreme.”

In the end, the dockers were persuaded to call off their strike. Mrs Thatcher’s annotation of the documents shows her considering a payment of £35,000 per man for those who would take redundancy. This is the point at which she is enumerating RoRo ferry and lorry numbers, and tonnages, scribbling the names of “moderates” in the transport union who would presumably be contacted to cool things down.

None of those I’ve spoken to who were involved in the strike are surprised at the revelations. It is what they suspected, in the face of denials at the time.

Mike Simons, a film-maker working on an oral history of the strike, entitled (Still) The Enemy Within, says:

“None of it surprises me. Anyone in the government’s position would do exactly the same. What surprises me is that they wrote it down so clearly and I think future governments probably won’t write down what they’re doing in such a clear manner.”

Paul Symonds, a miner at Frickley Colliery during the strike, says:

“One lesson is this: they were much better organised than we were. Don’t trust them is the lesson. Don’t trust anything that they say.”

It’s an attitude towards government that is common now, but was not common then.

The strike was a turning point in post-war British politics. It divided not only the labour movement and the mining communities, but the Conservative party as well.

Much of the story has come out in memoirs. But the truth on paper still has the power to shock.

The sight of a British prime minister calculating ferry numbers, lorry numbers and tonnages to defeat a strike will certainly surprise anybody who took at face value her claim to be simply a bystander.

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103 reader comments

  1. Charles MacNeill says:

    30 years on you still have no clue! 30 years on you have still not bothered to do any basic research.

    Ever since WW2 mines had been closing and miners laid off. The Clean Air Act, nuclear power, north sea gas and oil at $15 a barrel had all impacted UK coal. As did the fact that you could buy it abroad for half the price.

    At its peak in 1948 the coal industry employed 720,000 and produced 210 Million tons of coal.
    In 1960 198Mt and 607,000 employees
    In 1970 147Mt and 290,000 employees
    In 1980 112Mt and 237,000 employees

    By 1983 the UK demand for coal had fallen again, the power stations had been paid to take extra but were running out of room, we could only sell it abroad at a massive loss. The only real option was to cut production. This caused major problems for the NUM, Because few mines had been shut since the Heath strike there were a lot of mines producing very little and which should have been shut years before. The 15-20% cut in output required would result in 50% of miners being sacked. This was made worse by the upcoming commissioning of the Selby pit complex which would require 2000 miners to produce 12Mt.

    To Scargill it looked as if 60-70% of miners were out of a job. This, obviously, wasn’t acceptable to him or the NUM. The strike really was the only option to him. However, given that we could buy coal abroad for half the price, there was only going to be one result.

    In the end in 1983 there were 148,000 miners producing 119Mt, in 1989 there were 56,000 producing 100Mt. That’s a massive productivity increase.

    In 1983 the NCB was selling coal to the power stations at £40/ton, 30 years later the current world price is about $70/ton or £53/ton. Anyone who thinks that any of our mines could compete with that is clueless.


    1. Terry says:

      It seems to me Charles you are just telling everyone why the pits had to close, that’s not the debate, the debate is the manner in which it was completed. MP’s exist because we allow them, not so that they can use the Police and Armed Forces against us. This is a deeper betrayal than merely pointing out that coal production in this country was dying out. This is why we are in the position we are in now with never ending wars against unknown faceless enemies, because the insignificant grains of sand who believe they should be remembered by history are trying to outsmart each other on this little ball that floats around in this vast Universe. Laughable. We go around one time each of us, just once, for me Thatcher will be remembered as a cold, loveless cowardly woman who used the men of this country to fight each other in pursuit of her own agendas.

      1. Liz Kirwan says:

        Couldn’t have put it more succinctly, well said.

      2. nanparkinson says:

        Terry – you are spot on, there.

      3. Charles MacNeill says:

        how can it not be the point? The whole point of the strike was that the NUM refused to let pits close except in the case of exhaustion. Whereas the reason they were being closed was no one wanted the coal (or at least not at the price being charged). For decades this has been portrayed as a political act on the part of Thatcher when in reality it was simple economics.

        The only reason that the police were involved was that the miners were using mass picketing/intimidation to prevent others getting to their own jobs. A well as destroying their own jobs ( a third of coal faces had been lost by the end of the strike) they were trying to destroy other peoples.

        While there was a lot of sympathy to miners who were losing there jobs, it was a time where many others had already had already lost theirs and I recall there wasn’t much support for the idea that miners had some special right to a job for life.

      4. Craig Beaton says:

        “The only reason the police were involved was because the miners…”.

        Seriously? The police were involved to undermine and support breaking the strike. The police leadership clearly antagonised and agitated under political instruction and deployed deliberately heavy handed tactics as dictated from above.

      5. Lee says:


        reducing it to a flawed economic argument is too simplistic.

        After the strikes there was talk of investment & regeneration which never really materialised, generations of the same family tossed aside…to this day there are disused coal pits sitting idle, nothing has been done with that land & the jobs that did replace the coal mines were in the likes of supermarkets on low wages. Communities decimated, young people left with no jobs.

      6. John Wilson says:

        its not that they did not want the coal it was the heavily subsidised coal from abroad especially Germany was cheaper so to have subsided our own industry surely would have made more sense economically not only that the British coal industry had the best clean coal and coal liquification development in the world

      7. Mervyn Hyde says:

        The evidence is against you that the NUM were just luddites preventing the inevitable:

        Thatcher’s 1982 Cabinet Papers, “the longer term options” national archives CAB/129/215/6 spell out Thatchers privatisation programme in absolute detail and prove the Neo-Liberal agenda through this blue print.

        There has been a deliberate transfer of wealth and power to the corporate sector and unions such as the NUM but not in isolation were seen as a bulwark against these objectives.

        It is an absolute disgrace that Labour failed not only to support these unions but in fact carried these policies forward after the Tories were voted out of office.

        New Labour are as deeply implicated in the Neo-Liberal agenda as the Tories, which is why they persist with the deficit lie, (the instrument adopted to asset strip the state), New Labour today seek political capital out of attacking the Tories for their failure of reducing the deficit, when propounding the same as an economic remedy, where in fact more austerity will produce the same results and create the conditions for more privatisation until we have nothing left.

        It has been the self fulfilling prophecy that has been used for over forty years and served the actual purpose of shrinking the state, the deficit is the difference between the tax raised and the money needed to pay for our public services. So why over the same period have successive governments reduced income tax if it will increase the deficit?

        The reason is is obvious, Neo-Liberal politicians serving the few against interests of the many.

      8. Roger Howard says:
      9. Renato Rodrigues says:

        “the insignificant grains of sand who believe they should be remembered by history are trying to outsmart each other on this little ball that floats around in this vast Universe” – Brilliant!! I’m gonna quote you! :)

      10. Lawrence Caswell says:

        Tories always were and always will be devious lying scumbags who are only interested in the more well heeled members of our society I would love to the Tory party destroyed and it’s money sequestrated as the NUM funds were during the 84 strikej.

      11. H. Bell says:

        Never mind the NUM funds being sequestrated during the strike, each and every year since successive governments have helped themselves to the miners pension fund which is now run from an insurance company HQ in Epsom, (cant remember Epsom pit and we dont need work north of London.) no doubt they too are siphoning off large amounts of cash for ‘admin’ duties as is the way with the financial sector in ‘The West’.

        My pension isn’t worth collecting and we’ve been denied any ‘bonus’ since the crash but hey its only former miners and their families who suffer, most are unemployable anyway after the heroin was introduced to their communities.

        These rogues have a lot more to answer for than a hundred thousand jobs but they’ll get off scot free as their propaganda arm convince the ignorant masses how well they’re doing and lets face it, our gutless citizens of today are a direct consequence of union destruction and the greed society we now belong to.

      12. Cyril Wheat says:

        Pretty much sums it up, thanks for posting that.

      13. Lucy says:

        But when we ‘allow’ MP’s to be there-we are letting them make the decisions to what they believe to be the best for Britain and our future, whether you agree or not is another thing. Of course the left will always portray Thatcher in a bad light because she stood up to Labour- run by the unions that held this country to ransom with rubbish and dead bodies piled up around us-some future for UK? Tough love was harsh but it’s better than what Labour and the unions offered-watching a long, slow death of the workers jobs cos the pits were losing money. Funny how it’s never mentioned that Labour closed more pits than Thatcher!

      14. Dan McCrae says:

        No, the “left” will always portray Thatcher in a bad light because she wrecked industries and communities instead of investing in them, like, say, Germany did. It was mismanagement and a vindictive government that left this country bereft of its assets. Oh, that and flogging those assets off on the cheap to her backers.

      15. David says:

        Actually MP’s are there not because we allow them to exist but because they are the business managers of the Monarch. Mines were closed because progress had taken us into a new world and the economic cost of miners,transport and subsequent industrial claims had out priced the value of the raw product along with the advent of nuclear power and natural gas, we all want to pay less and if paying less means one industry or another suffers then we will all be guilty, except if we want to fight because it’s us at the raw end. Progress comes with a hefty price, and the flat cap mentality of refusing to change bears also a ridiculous cost. I remember the smog and the camphor block pinned to my vest when i was a kid, now i get up and leave the house breathing relatively pure air by comparison. Industry will always have a revolution, regardless, the bargee’s suffered because of the railways, the railways lost ground to road transport, mill owners dispensed with workers because they invested in machines that did much more for longer and cost much less in terms of wages and mouths to feed, do I feel sorry for the miners? the answer is no, since there is always a cost in progression it is wise to learn to adapt, learn new life skills and be aware of the world outside your bubble.

      16. delwyn davies says:

        One MP who did fully support the Miners was Llew Smith , then MP for Blaenau Gwent !

      17. Simon Gardner says:

        “MP’s exist because we allow them, not so that they can use the Police and Armed Forces against us”

        This is a deep misunderstanding of the British constitution and how the executive works and of the historical privileges of the Crown through which that executive still wields its power.

        Your claim may well be true of the United States. It is not true of the UK where the population still remain in many senses jumped-up serfs.

      18. Roy Craggs says:

        Very well said. As soon as Thatcher described the miners as “the enemy within” you knew exactly that she and her cronies would employ any tactics to assist the NCB in defeating the miners.
        It will also be worth asking what happened to the very large mineworkers pension funds since then, due to the policies of all subsequent governments. Rights to the surplus fund sold out by the pension trustees in exchange for guarantees that would never be needed. The whole scenario from 1984 onwards is disgusting, and leaves Britain as a country with 100-200 years reserves of deep mine coal, no-one left with the mining skills to extract it, and a failing energy system that leaves us dependant on imported coal, gas, and oil, and even electricity at times of peak demand. The subsidies we are currently paying to inefficient wind farms would have kept the mines working, Britain energy secure, and the electrical generating grid revitalised, instead of the ailing decrepit structure it is rapidly becoming.
        Written by a proud son of “the enemy within”.

    2. carl sterland says:

      British Coal mines could and indeed did compete with foreign coal, Harworth Maltby Silverhill Annesley Bentink Ollerton THoresby the Selby complex Hatfield and many others all broke production records on weekly basis.

      as usual we have the so called experts commenting on something they never experienced thatchers army was bought in from parts of the uk where collieries didn’t exist so they didn’t understand the workings of mining communities let alone what a winding wheel or a coal prep was.

    3. courier says:

      if i did not know better i would say maggie thatcher was alive and well the only reason for this was revenge for the strikes that crippled the heath government just look at thestate we are in now wholly reliant on foreign companies for our energy put the cost of buying energy at todays prices and what it would cost if we had our own mines supplying our own power stations and it would at a guess be twenty to thirty per cent cheaper than it is now

    4. sven hanson says:

      Do you acknowledge that this was Class War, and was in effect a reprisal for the victory by Joe Gormley over Edward Heath? Thatcher knew that closing the pits would cause massive upheaval, and that she would have a battle on her hands. This was why the mobilisation of the police forces was undertaken, and carte blanche was given to them to use whatever force was necessary to bring the miners and their villages down.

    5. Star renny says:

      The whole problem with the 84-85 strike was it had nothing to do with resource efficiency : It was completley political , There is still 300 years worth of coal stock below britain . The Miners strike was the event that revealed Thatcher to be what many expected : A tyrant on the dog lead of democracy and the South yorkshire police at Orgreave a disgrace to the uniform and a shame to humanity . Nearly half a million pounds was awarded to 44 miners who the courts decided had been beaten . Most of the ‘ Paramilitary ‘ used throughout the strike were not local as the goverment feared ‘ Leaniancy ‘ a famous catch phrase the police used on the pickets to attempt to unnerve the strikers was ‘ Come ere and wet this truncheon. ‘ As usual the truth comes out down the line , Now Thatcher is dead I expect more disturbing revelations about this event in the following years .

    6. Philip says:

      I doubt whether anyone seriously disputes the economic rationale behind the NCB’s decisions and it’s certainly true that Scargill regarded the strike as an opportunity to bring down the Conservative Government, rather than purely an industrial dispute. However, it was part of a phase of deindustrialisation of the UK based on “market forces” arguments when we were often competing against subsidised overseas competitors. As a result, we are almost wholly dependent on overseas suppliers for a whole range of strategic goods and much of our remaining shrunken industrial base is overseas-owned. To a large extent this has resulted in the deskilling of much of the workforce and the creation of precarious, minimal skill, minimum wage service sector workforce and an economy largely at the mercy of the performance of financial services. If Thatcher had not had such a one-dimensional view of economics, powered by a detestation of trade unions, she might have wondered whether the consequences of her polices actually created the sort of society she really wanted.
      The great and almost entirely ignored tragedy of our times is the destruction and sale of much of productive Britain. I suspect that is why those who have done well out of it prefer to make so much song and dance about the EU, benefit recipients & immigration, which are small beer by comparison.

      1. Gerry says:
      2. Ian says:

        Well said, couldn’t agree more. I also trace a social change back to this turning point. I’m sad to say that I can’t remember where the media stood in all this.

    7. Pete Ofthefamily Jones-Price says:

      Let look at some fact in 1984 we had a power sorce which was control by Britain,
      Then there was a rush for gas, you have look know as this was very short term by the
      Goverment of the time, ie shouldn’t there main aim be to secuilly britain interest first
      Yes coal is not the answer but if it was us as part of a policy to turn onto green energy
      We wouldn’t have been talking about power shortegey in the near furture, It would have gave us time to develop new power ie wave power, in the 70s there was talk of the river seven could poduct a major part of our needs

    8. kevin craddock says:

      One big enemy of a british competitive coal mining industry was the selfish way in which the currency was being manipulated .I supplied the coal mining industry and I saw it make huge productivity gains . They were obsessed with 1-5 pence per gigajoule .In the late eighties and nineties , they were making profits of £500 million per year , only for the currency to go up and make them less competitive and for the generators to come along and tell them they were going to pay £500 million less for the coal .Even the Daily Telegraph ran a story about how in Venezuela children were being used to dig domestic coal and the mechanised cola was sent to us . How would you like to be pitted against child labour , cheap labour , open cast ( where you damn the environment ) , and a currency permanently working against you . We may as well close everything down ., import and bring in cheap labour to be lawyers , accountants , teachers ;: in fact everything ! Where do you stop ?

    9. Terry Palfrey says:

      Well Charlie,the thing is this; Thatcher and her Government LIED.Her Henchman McGregor LIED. They LIED about Scargill,they LIED about the NUM and they considered using the ARMY to break the strike. If the truth was known the Government at the very least would have had to negotiate,something that Cabinet of LIARS were not prepared to do. Give all the figures you want-the facts are out-they LIED to beat the Miners. Was Aneurin Bevan ever right when he said ” The Tories are lower than VERMIN.”

    10. john cutts says:

      When you say “… you could buy it abroad for half the price.” Was that half the price per Mt or per tonne? If the latter then why the difference when you show the historical record in Mt’s?

      As i recall, Arthur Scargill said British coal was actually cheaper as it had a greater calorific value, ie, it burned longer.

      So, unlike the “everybody knows the economic case for closure” line that seems to be universal on here, I don’t accept that- and you don’t make the case any better than Thatcher did.

      The strike was political ok, but not from the NUM side. Has everyone forgotten the Ridley Plan?

    11. ethel cardew says:

      Charles you are nothing but a tory sycophant away get yer slippers on put your feet up and listen to your Max Bygraves records in Kent with all your other tory loving zombies

    12. Patrick Staunton says:

      Some very informative comments left, I just want to add my ten cents worth. I have heard it said in the past, that the long term objective for the closures was to protect coal reserves in the long term. Which would make sense given that the state seems to have walked into a situation where ransoms are being asked.

      1. Murray says:

        Patrick – you can’t seriously believe that can you? That it was all done with a long term interest in protecting reserves?

        One of the greatest failures of Thatcher’s governments, and one she rarely gets attacked for sadly, was the squandering of the North Sea oil wealth. Whilst Norway built up a huge sovereign wealth fund with theirs, Thatcher blew ours on ideologically motivated tax cuts. Norway showed strategic thinking, Thatcher’s extended to the next election. So I find it laughable to suggest the pit closures were anything to do with protecting strategic reserves.

      2. meg says:

        Since at least one of the most productive pits was deliberately flooded to prevent it ever being mined again (without the use of some kind of very costly pumping technology) I don;t think that argument, erm, holds water.

    13. Michael A says:

      Charles MacNeill – you try to reduce the conflict to pure economics when in fact in was a social and political dispute i.e. a class war.

      Thatcher wanted to destroy the unions (NUM being the strongest) as they were a source of power that wasn’t under her control. The fact that unions were made up of ordinary working people was irrelevant to her.

      We subsidise farmers, train operators and banks (Tory voters & backers) to name but a few yet we let our mining industry go to rack and ruin. Germany subsidises its mining industry and its not involved in costly imperialist wars to secure fossil fuels.

      You say in 1980 there was 237,000 employees. For every miner there was a wife and two children – that’s nearly 1 million people who were left to starve whilst being hounded by the police and courts. No wonder the tories are extinct in most parts of the country – that’s Thatcher’s real legacy.

      And it was not just mining but other industries that relied on it e.g. steel industry, cokers, truck drivers. Thatcher constantly lied as she used the whole state apparatus – MI5, the courts, the press, the police – to suppress working people who simply wanted to protect their jobs and livelihoods. Those cohesive and productive communities were destroyed and replaced by deprivation, benefit dependence, drug and alcohol abuse, and endemic poverty.

      Please don’t re-write history.

      1. Phil says:

        Absolutely right. While portrayed as pure economics as usual it was far from that. Anyone who doubts this proposition can simply take a look at current events. This financial crisis is being used to roll back any pretence of social mobility and is an effective smokescreen to cover up the wholescale dismantling of the welfare state. There most definitely is a political agenda and its supporters, far from sharing the burden of enforced austerity, are instead revelling in the opportunity to enact their most rabid fantasies of returning to the days of a non-unionised workforce. Evidence of their growing confidence must surely come from attempts to even “rehabilitate” WWI with respect to both its justification and prosecution, and add it to the fairytale class narrative that runs through the history of the United Kingdom like a vein of pus.

      2. Jayvee says:

        At last someone points out that subsidy is routine – providing it is Tory biased….

      3. johnstone little says:

        I commend you on your reply,which is true.I was sacked for trespassing on the Queens Highway.What a charge that was.But i wasn’t sacked until after the strike finished,and i had returned to work at Comrie,as my case came up in April 85.I won my tribunal,and was told i would be re-instated.I wasn’t.

      4. Natasha says:

        And there, Michael, lays the difference between Conservatives and the rest of humanity..they view and manipulate everything in terms of economics…

        The idea of the human cost completely escapes them….and in ignoring that, they actually end up being more expensive….as you say I believe we can trace the benefit dependant society pretty much back to this strike…
        Generations have had the industry of the region taken away from them and it was never replaced…instead Thatcherism decided to concentrate on the financial industry of London and the Home Counties…the Blair governments followed that trend too. This means those people not only had their employment snatched away, but also their pride and most importantly hope…so who can blame them for taking social security and staying on it…I certainly can’t…what else is there for them..

    14. peter jones says:

      Charles you’re the one without a clue – at least regarding what Paul Mason’s article is about. The point is that the Government claimed to be impartial and yet pressured the police and courts to get tough, and then lied about it. The Government denied NUM claims regarding the number of pits and miner’s jobs that would be closed and lost – and they were lying. Labour used similar tactics (the lies if not the use of the police and courts) in the firefighter’s dispute in 2003. The main point that comes out of this is, if Governments tell barefaced lies as a matter of policy and expediency how can we ever believe a word a politician, particularly a minister, says? And how can we change this? And do we care? You obviously don’t. I do.

    15. Mintpark says:

      While the numbers may be correct, it’s naive to see any determinism in them.
      German mining towns wound down eventually but subsidising coal and a socially responsible policy making meant that West-German mining communities had a decent chance to survive and adapt and they have in many cases. This is quite aside from the fact that Germany’s energy policy over the past thirty years may well be seen as far more enlightened than the UK’s, like it or not.

    16. Kenneth Berry says:

      Everybody seems to forget all the poor quality imported coal reaching out shores bound for the power stations have been heavily subsidized by their governments, even today Germany subsidizes its coal mines and are opening up coal mines in the wake of Fukishima, also the cheap (subsidized coal) has a lot higher ash content as opposed to coal mined in the UK, If the coal mines was to enjoy the subsidies that the wind farm industry is getting from this government then we would still have a credible coal industry and we would not be facing possible power cuts in the coming years

    17. jim mcdowall says:

      the flawed economics you have relied upon dont take cognisance of the larger picture Coal Demand was lower in 1983 because the Thatcher govmnt had already made inroads in decimating industry where coal demand was required ie steel for instance. Our pits were not uneconomical they were starved of investment and had excruciatingly high interest rates applied to borrowings which made them look uneconomical. IF the government had supported our industrial base like the other major european countires did we would not have the current dilemma of being unable to manufacture ourselves out of recession. The means to create wealth for our country have been stripped away and left us in the hands of the financial and services institutions who are basically money prostitutes with no concience and no scruples.
      This price for destroying militancy in the trade union movement was far to high a price to pay. 3 genreations of youngsters with no hope no future and no prospects. DO YOU REALLY SUBSCRIBE TO THE VIEW IT WAS NECESSARY?? I DONT !!!

    18. keith says:

      Am I right in saying scargill lived the rest of his life rent free, picked up a union pension and then actually purchased a house under Thatchers right to buy scheme? Or is that just fabricated rubbish?
      Also the world’s moved on. Ask the Iraqis and Syrians what they think about the miners strike 30 years ago. They’ve been on a far worse recieving end of British politics in the last 10 years than any miners village.

  2. Ian Mitchell says:

    Your right nothing new to those of us involved.We knew at times we had them panicking & could win against everything they threw at us. However what makes me angry (still) is again the role of the left union leaders.The dock workers going on strike as documented in these papers terrified Thatcher & the coal board. Unfortunatley instead of the TGWU standing with the miners they settled for higher redundancies & fake guarantees that the dock labour scheme would be protected.A scheme that was later dismantled in a later battle that the TGWU lost.The brutality of the police is well documented & there actions where certainly not neutral .However at the end of the day it was the cowardliness of the TUC & other union leaders who tipped the balance in the favour of Thatcher.
    Ian Mitchell
    ex Silverwood miner

  3. Dave Madden says:

    This may tell us what deep down we knew at the time – that all the powers of the state were turned on its own people – but it is still enough to make me angry, again.

    Thanks Paul.

  4. Paddy Briggs says:

    I was the Commercial Manager for Shell in Scotland from 1983-1986. In this job I had the overall responsibility for serving the needs of our customers in (inter alia) the Road Transport sector. As the miners’ strike intensified concern was expressed about the future of the huge Ravenscraig steelworks. The furnaces at Ravenscraig required coal to keep them functioning and if the fire in a furnace was extinguished then that furnace was lost – at huge cost. To keep the furnaces operating, even at a low level, required huge quantities of coal. This was normally supplied directly from Scottish mines – mostly by rail. Because of the Miners’ strike this supply source was stopped so British Steel sourced their Coal from overseas and imported it through a Terminal at Hunterston in Ayrshire. The coal then had to be road-bridged by truck from the Terminal to the Steel Plant – a distance of about 50 miles. The Haulage contractor appointed by British Steel for this task was a company called “Yuill and Dodds” of Hamilton run by the well-known Mr James Yuill (known to all as Jimmy). Yuill and Dodds was a Shell customer for the diesel and the lubricants their trucks needed. One day I was asked by one of my staff to visit Jimmy Yuill who was concerned that the supplies of diesel he needed might be interrupted because the Transport and General Workers Union (T&GWU) would order their members working for Shell not to make fuel deliveries to him.

    Inter-union cooperation was a key part of the Miners’ strike and the Railway Unions were Full Square behind Arthur Scargill and his National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The position of the T&GWU was more ambivalent and I think quite local in its application. I realised that if Mr Yuill was to be kept in business and more importantly if Ravenscraig was to be kept open then Shell would need the cooperation of the local T&GWU. I arranged a meeting with the Senior T&G shop steward at our depot at Grangemouth alongside the BP refinery. This gentleman was not only the senior Shell Union official but one of the Union’s top men at a National level. He sat on the various negotiating panels that negotiated terms and conditions with the Oil industry. I had met him before and we got on well. He was a shrewd and very fair man – strong in his views but not a militant. Together we reviewed the situation. We agreed that the primary motivation must be to keep Ravenscraig open – it employed huge numbers on site and many more in service industries in the area and across Scotland. On behalf of his members I was given an assurance that there would be no disruption of fuel supplies to Yuill and Dodds.

    This story is a complex one in the febrile conditions of the time. My Shop Steward colleague was naturally supportive of the Miners in their strike – as indeed was I (though, given my position, not openly!). On the other hand I had a Shell customer to protect both in the Company’s interests and in that of the wider business community around Ravenscraig and, of course, the huge plant itself (it was a large customer for Shell lubricants). I was largely on my own in seeking this accommodation with the Union via the Shop Steward. I reported the details to my boss in London. He rang me early one morning and asked me point blank (he was like that!) whether I could assure him that I believed what I was doing was the right thing to do (I did) and that no flack would hit Shell as a result of the deal (more difficult!). He backed me 100% and locally we got on with the task. Yuill and Dodds got their fuel. Ravenscraig stayed open and there were few if any reports in the media about Shell’s involvement. (There were plenty of reports about Yuill and Dodds though as secondary pickets tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the coal trucks getting into Ravenscraig!).

    I have not told this story before but have been prompted to do so by the report that Margaret Thatcher was prepared to use the Armed Forces to help defeat the miners. Some are saying that this would have been to help the movement of essential supplies. I do not, of course, know the truth of this claim. All I can report is my own experience which was that locally essential supplies were kept going and with the cooperation of a major Union. My guess is that this was replicated across the Country and that there was little need for Mrs Thatcher to use the Army to provide transport. So if the Forces were on standby it was for other reasons.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Paddy Briggs please be sure to record your memories on video or audio . Your information needs to be archived somewhere for posterity so that future historians can piece together the full story

    2. rapier says:

      just proves, the unions are in it for themselves and not for COUNTRY! NEVER have been and NEVER WILL be!

    3. Michael Wilkinson says:

      Thank you.
      So many stories and rumours in the past its refreshing to read about real events.

    4. Donald Mc Dougall says:

      The Yuil & Dodds affair was a disgrace, all concerned being the very worst example of “Scabs”. You hide behind the ” Keep Ravenscraig open banner”, but history shows the fate of Ravenscraig & Gartcosh was sealed, Thatcher took it all. Weak Union leaders, the TUC and scum that were willing to betray their fellow working man defeated the miners. The miners at least could hold their heads high, having fought bravely for their jobs, not prepared to bow down to tyrany or intimidation.

    5. Bob Cartwright says:

      And how did Thatcher thank the workers of Ravenscraig.closed it down.

  5. By Stander says:

    Perhaps it was cheaper to import coal than pay our own miners to take it out of the ground, but it’s that kind of short-sighted thinking that sewed the seeds of economic decline. It overlooked the fact that the money paid to miners was largely spent in their local communities, driving the economy. Money spent on imported coal is simply a negative on the balance sheet of UK plc, artificially replaced by “deregulating” banks – i.e. giving them a free run to do pretty much what they wanted to so long as their financial conjuring tricks turning sludge into fools gold, and we all know how that turned out!

  6. robertday154 says:

    I have two perspectives on this:

    1) At one time, I had a family connection with the treasurer of the independent UDM – Union of Democratic Mineworkers, who were fairly active in the Nottingham coalfields. Their argument was that they had not been balloted on the strike action; the likely reason was that the outcome of the vote in the Nottingham coalfield would most likely have been rejection of the strike call. The reason for this was based around the strategy that Arthur Scargill had followed in the years before the strike, Many of the Nottinghamshire colliers by that time were relocated Scottish miners (there were also a number of Scots miners in the Warwickshire coalfield, which I later became familiar with). Many of these Scottish miners were on their third or fourth pit, and they held a certain amount of animosity towards Scargill, because many of them said “Where was Arthur when OUR pits and OUR coalfield was being closed down?”

    2) Later in my life, I had a work colleague (now deceased) who was working for the Department of the Environment in the 1980s. Although stationed with the Birmingham Rent Assessment Panel, during the miners’ strike he was posted to the Civil Contingencies Unit. The preparations for the State of Emergency were more advanced than the papers suggest. The CCU had activated the Regional Seats of Government; working from the RSG under the Government Five Ways complex in Birmingham, this colleague said that at one point they were on standby for a State of Emergency being declared within the next 36 hours. Just because the Prime Minister was “considering” declaring a State of Emergency, that did not mean that it was only ever a paper exercise. There were steps to be taken to bring the necessary machinery into action so that a State of Emergency could be declared, and those plans existed as part of the national Civil Defence programme. Of course, now all this has been devolved to local authorities; whether a Government now or in the future could declare a State of Emergency in the same way is an interesting question.

    1. mark pritchard says:

      Be ashamed to admit your family was scabs I was on strike for the full year very proud of the fact still work at one of the last pits left in the country

  7. Bill Sheppard says:

    it’s nice to see it confirmed (“in writing”) but surely we all knew this at the time, certainly up here in Sheffield? And there’s clearly more to come out, not least the role of the police at Orgreave. But what will never cease to amaze me was the lack of support from the Labour Party leadership, in fact their downright hostility. The TUC was also pretty ambivalent, not surprisingly given the role of the TGWU as described by Paddy. The outcome could easily have been very different if they’d been actively supportive. As for the comments about “market realities”, when did these every apply to the nuclear industry – or to propping up the banking industry since 2008?

  8. Murray Goulden says:

    Thank you Paddy for your post, a rare pleasure to get such insight from a comment. Reminds me of accounts of German industrial relations, which appear to be conducted from a position which recognises shared economic interests rather than political differences.

    Charles MacNeil – I’d ask you to compare the case of economic necessity you present with that of the farming sector and the banking sector. Both have received vast state subsidies in order to survive the economic necessities you invoke. Which should lead one to ask what seperates these cases.

    1. Charles MacNeill says:

      If Gordon Brown could have let the banks go bust he would have. The actions taken were the minimum needed to stop the economy crashing.

      As far as I know farming only gets a subsidy due to the EU. Nowadays that subsidy is based on “Green issues” e.g. farmers getting paid to have hedgerows for birds to breed in.

      Subsidies to the NCB came to £1.3Bn in the year before the strike and that didn’t include the inflated prices that the CEGB and British Steel were forced to pay. These inflated prices drove up the cost of electricity and steel and made British industry less competitive in the world market. But as carl sterland says not all mines were loss makers but many were.

      What makes the coal strike unusual is that the coal that was being produced at a loss wasn’t needed due to reduced demand. When the unneeded mines were shut the NCB briefly returned to profit.

      As I said above the world price of coal hasn’t changed much in the intervening 30 years. UK deep mines just can’t compete with cheap Russian/Chilean/Australian/American coal.

      1. Murray says:

        The claim that the banks “had” to be saved is one made by the banks. There is no need to accept it at face value. They certainly did not need to have been recapitalised with no significant curtailment of their dominant position within our political and economic system.

        The farmers may receive their subsidy from the EU but that doesn’t change the fact that for decades state money has kept British farmers solvent against cheaper foreign imports.

        And as has been said elsewhere, nuclear power continues to receive state support. As does the arms industry. And I could probably find many others if I gave it enough thought.

        The premise that this was nothing but an ‘economic’ decision is totally false. Time and time again, states protect favoured industries from market forces, and Britain has, and remains, no exception to that.

      2. deano says:

        breifly returned to profit eh?,british coal was making big profits,so much so that the tories had to say there was no market for the coal so that they could justify the pit closures.

      3. Stuart Adair says:

        I can assure you Charles as a professional working in the field that farming (and sport shooting) subsidies are not mainly for ‘green issues’. Farmers, especially in the uplands are paid for production – there is not a single hill sheep farm in the country that can generate a profit without subsidy. Cameron has just increased the subsidy for grouse moor management in England – while everybody else is undergoing cuts. Thatcher herself considered getting rid of farm subsidies but old Willie Whitelaw warned her she would empty the glens and destroy the rural Tory vote, needless to say she backed down.

        Here is a breakdown of all farm subsidies


        Here’s George Monbiot on the subject


        The plain fact of the matter is the so called free marketeers in the Tory party love subsidies for their friends. The miner’s strike was a blatantly political act and as many have already commented, the fall out has been a disaster – the destruction of stable communities in favour of low wages, job insecurity and all the social ills that come with it. The Tories speak with forked tongue and Labour are just New Tories. Eventually this will be seen for the act of political vandalism it was.

      4. H. Bell says:

        If you want to close down every loss making industry in this country start with the last 5 years of HS2, project managers, other managers, CEO’s etc etc and not a sod of turf cut yet the payroll is in the millions already.

        Free Schools, well they take up a proportion of funds which are denied the state schools, however the two in my area, a former mining community with little in the way of opportunity, were both former public schools. So whats the score here then, another six years of elitist education paid for by this country’s taxpayer to those who were well enough off to pay for their kids to avoid the state system previously but no longer?

        All of you ‘economics buffs’ appear to miss out on how this government misappropriates taxpayer cash to suit themselves and their teams of old boys but deny a decent living for anyone who works with their hands, we lord the finance sector who leech from every one of us by use of the printing press/digital currency. We pay our ‘road fund license’ again misappropriated into the sky fairy emissions tax, part of the global hoax played on mankind, climate change, who gets those billions per year. Not to mention corporate tax dodgers who if they cant dodge paying it all receive a nice healthy rebate from the chancellor on our behalf.

        I’ll tell you what this is all about, these shysters realised they no longer needed to pay a wage to anyone productive while they could rape pension pots, expense accounts, taxes and whatever they liked as it was there for the taking, handed over by a gullible public who think their taxes go to good causes, 12 billion in overseas ‘aid’ funding despots throughout Africa, not people, people dont matter to these psychos as we can now see by the ‘Asylum seekers’ heading for our ‘continent’, will we save 12 billion, no we’ll be paying that out in benefits to people who’ve paid nothing in, in the hope some of those will work for peanuts, like all the other great Tory plans, its not going to happen. By the way, Osbourne, clown that he is, doubled the national debt in five years, economics, he couldn’t spell the bloody word.

  9. Roger says:

    A well balanced article that puts the final nail in the lie claim that this was a political strike inspired and led by Scargill. It was a political strike but planned and controlled in meticulous detail by Thatcher. The effects are still being felt in large parts of the country in former coalfields but also in areas where we see a breakdown of communities and a growing divide between the rich and the poor struggling on minimum wage or without employment.
    I was a twenty three year old miner and suffered greatly financially and personally during the strike but I am proud to say I stood and fought in a noble cause and though we did not prevail we have been vindicated through history.

  10. davidbush says:

    The wonder of this is how the miners and Scargill managed to fight for so long against the vast and illegal actions of the state. They deserve medals for their brave efforts in the face of such unequal odds.

  11. Phil Taylor says:

    Paul Mason is repeating mining village myths.

    In six year, 1964 to 1970, Harold Wilson presided over the loss of 212,000 job losses in mining. In just under twelve years, Margaret Thatcher presided over 191,000 job losses. So you could argue that Wilson destroyed more “cohesive communities” than Thatcher in half the time. That would be unfair to Wilson, and Thatcher.

    Paul Mason’s polemic is unfounded.


    1. deano says:

      the difference was that most of the mines closed during the thatcher years were viable,often receiving massive investment just so they could be shown to be making a loss,the pit closures of the 60’s were mainly very old pits,many still working by hand as opposed to machines.

  12. Philip Edwards says:


    Please tell me you didn’t believe a word coming out of Downing Street at the time. Nobody with any common sense did – so maybe this excludes journalists. I have just watched a segment on BBC TV News in which a journo, contemporary with the strike, said he repeated verbatim what the tories fed to him. But of course it turned out not only was Scargill right in everything he stated – destruction of a complete industry and its communities – so was the Left in its analysis of the long term affects.

    So where does this leave the journalists who reported “objectively” on the strike, particularly Murdoch’s gang of scumbags? Who can forget the BBC News fraudulent editing of a video report that showed miners “attacking police” when the reverse was the truth? Is it any wonder you journos get lumped in with the establishment – justifiably or not – when so many of you are either far right, lack the guts to face up to reality or simply go along to get along? Why should we trust you?

    As for the tories, we EXPECT them to lie, cheat and steal not only money but lives. It’s what they have always done and always will do. It’s why Aneurin Bevan despised them – and how right HE has proved too.

    So these “shocking exposures” are no surprise to any citizen in possession of his or her natural intelligence and common sense. Many of us said at the time what was going on. Had you journalists done your job then we might have avoided the last thirty odd years of neocon spivvery and destruction of our society.

    You watch what will happen now: Just as the exposure of the economic attacks on Merseyside, this latest round of exposures will be quickly filed away and forgotten by you people in the media. It’s what most of you do when the going gets tough…….you run away, or do as you are told. None of you have the guts to draw the obvious conclusions and implications for what’s left of our society. No wonder the Scots, Welsh and Irish want out. Almost anything is better than the current disgusting gang of public school barrow boys and their fellow travellers.

    And if we ever got a “British Spring,” guess whose side mainstream media would be on. It won’t be the people’s, that’s for sure.

    1. robertday154 says:

      Another perspective from the time: on Good Friday of 1984, i was travelling on a train from Derby to London. As it was a Bank Holiday, the train was so crowded that I could not get a seat, so I stumped up the extra £5 to go in First Class. There I found myself sitting next to two camera crews, one from ITN and the other from the BBC who were travelling back to London after covering the picket at Orgreave.

      They were quite exercised by the accusation that was being levelled at them of ‘media bias’. Their line was that no matter what footage they shot, they weren’t responsible for the final edit or how that package would be placed when the news broadcast was made; depending on how the news agenda worked out that day, three minutes of footage shown on the six o’clock news could be ninety seconds by nine o’clock and possibly 30 seconds’ worth on Newsnight…

  13. norman howell says:


  14. steve thompson says:

    it amazes me, you find some little person wants to leave their mark in life and dont care who gets hurt by the decisions they make. thatcher and her government made a lot of terrible decisions with british coal and also north sea gas, they sold all industry off as well. norway looked after its resources, leaving them the ritchest country in europe, but thatcher meant to leave her mark as the iron lady. she should have been impeached before she died along wih her cabinet, she just didnt care about peopl which politicians say is fundamental

  15. steve selby says:

    not matter what mi5 the others qchq the damage was done by stealth means ,,no matter how much hammer they did to the people ,they stood up .like they did against ,Hitler ,

  16. anthony says:

    philip i could not have said it better.as someone with links to what at the time was happening to the pickets there were a number of police officers quite willing to infiltrate and start violent trouble at our meetings.It was the excuse needed to those other officers to break up and arrest minersThere were often far more police than pickets especially and at enormous cost flown about the country.Exactly the tactics used during the Sun dispute at Wapping.They would mingle with the strikers with the sole intent to aggravate and cause trouble.Murdoch and Thatcher both still adored by the scum in government.

  17. Robin Lenox says:

    There were photos in the possession of the NUM during this event that proves the army were being used to help police suppress the miners at the demo in London.. One soldier was seen and heard to say to the police “nick that bastard get his camera” as a photo was being taken of him aiding the police. I remember seeing the photo in a paper of some kind at the time. The government not only considered using the army but actually did.

    Todays papers prove beyond doubt what all fair minded people already new that Thatcher and her team LIED to the British people and the strike was politically motivated by the tory party.

  18. liz k says:

    Thatcher v miners was the start of the demise of manufacturing in the UK. British coal is best. its a disgrace we are sitting on tons of it and importing it frm abroad.

  19. Ricky Holcombe says:

    As a miner on strike for the duration of the strike and proud to this day to have been you need to state facts and not fiction
    Although some of the mines were not economically viable many were,but they were made on paper not so so that they could be closed
    My own colliery South Kirkby had its entire surface demolished and rebuilt at an astronomical cost to justify its closure despite breaking its own production records many times over in its last few months and leaving millions of tonnes of coal
    We mined the cheapest deep mine coal in the world but could not compete against child labour and massive subsidy’s
    The closure of mines the loss of employment, the loss of vast resources and the loss of communities can never be forgiven or justified .
    Thatcher was a brilliant tactician but did this country no good at all and we are now reaping what she sowed in the enormous cost of our energy bills
    Lastly Arthur Scargill never lied and will always be remembered by those that knew him as a true honest leader who had no other agenda than to fight for the miners and their communities and who truly understood the consequences of the closure program put in place by a senseless Tory government
    Only those courageous men that worked in the mines fully understand what happened and they will never forgive

  20. robert pearson says:

    At the time Scargill said the government wanted to close down the pits. Thatcher publicly denied this and said there was no plan to close pits. History shows Thatcher lied to the British public and Scargill, rather than the left wing scaremonger he was portrayed as, was telling the truth.
    The industry was dismantled within months.

  21. Alan says:

    It was all planned and is contained in the leak of the Ridley report in May 1978 in the Economist. The forces of the state were used by Thatcher to crush the unions to make way for selling UK assets to their mates. The miners were betrayed by the Labour Party, TUC and other unions. They are still doing the same stuff today and there is no credible strategy to stop them from our organisations. It was about wealth and power not coal. Even less about the elite having any thoughts for the 99% or the ‘economy’ – greedy feckless Tories and cowed labour movement that turned their backs on the miners.

  22. sven hanson says:

    I came upon this article produced by Mike Sivier – I endorse these views.

    So now we know that Margaret Thatcher lied about the scale of her attack on the British mining industry.

    She told the country that only 20 pits were to be closed, when in secret she and National Coal Board chief Ian Macgregor had planned to close no less than 75.

    The revelation vindicates then-National Union of Mineworkers’ leader Arthur Scargill, who claimed at the time that there was a “secret hit-list” of more than 70 pits marked for closure.

    Documents released under what used to be called the Thirty Year Rule show that under the plan, two-thirds of Welsh miners would become redundant, a third of those in Scotland, almost half of those in north east England, half in South Yorkshire and almost half in the South Midlands. The entire Kent coalfield would close.

    The workforce was to be cut by about a third, from 202,000 to 138,000.

    Thatcher went on to use the lie as an excuse to break the power of the trade unions, setting the scene for the long decline in employees’ rights that has brought us to the current sorry situation in which part-time work, zero-hours contracts and fake ‘self-employed’ status are robbing us of what few entitlements we have left.

    She used the police as a political weapon to attack picket lines, sowing seeds of distrust that persist to this day. How many people who saw the scenes of carnage during the miners’ strike can honestly say they trust the police to uphold the law without fear or favour? Is it not more accurate to say they fear the police as agents of a ruling elite?

    She destroyed Britain’s ability to provide fuel for our own power stations, leading us into dependence on foreign powers for our energy needs. It is this helplessness – caused by the policies of that Conservative Prime Minister – that has put so many British families into fuel poverty under the current Conservative Prime Minister, forcing them to choose between heating and eating.

    In short, Margaret Thatcher owes compensation to a huge number of British people.

    Some might consider it a lucky escape for her that she died last year and will avoid our wrath, but then again, considering her state of mind at the end it is unlikely that she would have recognised what it was.

    Perhaps it will be possible for some of her victims to claim compensation from her estate; that will be a matter for them.

    But other leading Conservatives and civil servants were in on the plot – and they should not be allowed to walk away unpunished. These include:
    ◾Nigel Lawson (Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time).
    ◾Norman Tebbit (Employment Secretary).
    ◾Sir Robert Armstrong (now Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, Secretary of the Cabinet in 1983). Armstrong has denied that there was a cover-up – an astonishing claim when documentation shows there was an agreement not to keep records of the secret meetings in which the plans were hatched and developed.
    ◾Peter Gregson (although he may also be dead; attempts to determine his status have turned up nothing).
    ◾Michael Scholar.

    These are just the names on the document market ‘Secret’ meeting at No 10 on the BBC News report of the revelation.

    They all knew about the lie and could all have told the truth but they did not.

    They betrayed Britain.

    Will they escape justice?

  23. Herbert says:

    It’s simple really. The union’s needed breaking and broken they were. Job done.

  24. Jamie says:

    John Redwood is right in thinking that there was a political agenda on the left, and it is still there – Marx said that workers cannot use the existing institutions and that the ‘State must be smashed’ Many miners were probably not prepared psychologically or politically to go that far and nor was the country. Thatcher a class warrior ‘par excellence’ would have gone to any lengths to smash the workers and therein lies the difference. (Her friendship with Pinochet is an indicator)
    Thatcher by defeating the miners won a battle in the long war between Capital and the Workers. She did not win the war, that is up to us and future generations.
    As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels said in ‘The Communist Manifesto’ – Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries unite. These words perhaps explain the wide-eyed look of terror that John Redwood has always shown to the world and it explains the vicious look in Thatcher’s eyes. She knew what the stakes were and it is time our side realised them.

  25. Shamus says:

    The saddest part is that nothing has changed, a greedy self serving elite that control the money, legislation and media. When they’ve cashed in on anything of value they’ll bugger off and leave the rest of us to turn the lights out. Not that there will be any lights on as I for one won’t be able to pay the bill.

  26. john wilcock says:

    they killed my village in elvington nr dover kent . the southeast pits put a good fight up but all gone now , min wage . rich get rich poor get poor

  27. Nick E says:

    Which side are you on? My mind was made up immediately the strike was called as it pertained to represent something much bigger – the 200 year legacy of the working people of this country.

    I worked for a TV company in the south of England during the 84/85 miner’s strike and tried to galvanise the 800 or so strong workforce to sign a petition of support and donate food supplies to be distributed to striking miner’s families for Xmas 1984. I managed to get 3 supporters and two of those withdrew under pressure from the management and the TV union. In the end I accumulated whatever provisions I could, donated mostly from friends, and delivered them to miners’ welfare centres in Kent (yes, there were coal mines there), Aberdare in South Wales and Kellingly in Yorkshire.

    My argument with my work colleagues was that once the Thatcher government had finished with the miners, they would do the same to us. The general opinion seemed to be that the government of the day ‘needed’ the media and would in no way take on the ‘powerful’ TV unions. I was told by many work colleagues, members of the so-called ‘militant’ TV union, that Scargill and the miners ‘were asking for it’, but we media people were different and therefore safe in our jobs. And guess what happened? Within a decade the ‘safe’ jobs for life were gone, bought out with big redundancy packages and with barely a murmur. At least Scargill, the NUM, the miners and their families fought for what they believed in.

    As for the 300 years worth of coal still under the ground, most of it is going to stay there as the cost of reaching the flooded and inaccessible reserves (whatever the environmental issues) makes them unobtainable. Another natural energy resource wasted, or in this case, sterilised.

  28. Roger Luffman says:

    One thing that has not yet come out in the Archival releases or if it is there has attracted no publicity is the extent to which the telephone lines of many people whose connection to the coal industry was at most peripheral were monitored by the police. The establishment still try to convince us that this country is democratic. Not really, Never a fully free country.

  29. quietoaktree says:


    “Reminds me of accounts of German industrial relations, which appear to be conducted from a position which recognises shared economic interests rather than political differences.

    They are factual.

    Their economic system is `Sozialmarktwirtschaft´ (Social Capitalism)

    — and only available within the EU with German assistance.

  30. Paul Turner says:

    One fact of the debate that no one has mentioned yet is that Scargill was proved right all along. He forecast what Thatcher was doing to the industry. Reports have since emerged about how the government used MI5 to discredit him and his union and planted false stories about them obtaining money from Libya following the death of Yvonne Fletcher and using money to pay off their mortgages when Scargill lived in a house that was mortgage free. The miners were effectively 2 weeks from toppling the government when all this news broke out to turn public opinion against the miners.

    A friend of mine had a girlfriend who used to work near Orgreave at the time of the picketing there. She knew the police charged picketing miners and the government used the media to portray the miners as the offenders when everyone there knew it was the police who instigated the violence. All those miners who were not convicted of alleged riot afterwards is testament to that. Furthermore, like Hillsborough, the police covered it up and no one was ever charged. The government was very supportive of the police afterwards and took their word for the events of 1989 until the truth emerged over 20 years later.

    People should listen to Ken Loach as he is well read about the miners strike. He knows the miners were set up and following the strike thrown on the scrap heap. Anyone who believes the tory government was protecting people’s freedoms and upholding the law from the enemy within wants their head seeing to.

  31. Paul W says:

    There is another thing which appears to have been ignored here, that the coal we import is of a much lower quality & higher pollution producing than our own deep mined coal, meaning power stations having to build expensive desulphurisation plants & increased cleaning of furnaces etc due to the higher levels of deposits left behind.

    Having contacts within the heritage railways I can also confirm that they suffer problems with imported coal requiring much more maintenance due to the polluting deposits left after combustion & the engines require much more of the poor quality imported coal to travel a similar distance compared to UK deep mined coal

    The economic argument isn’t as simple as a price per tonne, calorific values and pollution produced also need to

  32. Heather bates says:

    My husband was a miner I had taken my son to school was walking home with my small daughter in a pushchair no one else was in the street and a police van mounted the curb and tried to run into me I pushed my daughter into the gate of someone’s garden or she would have been killed .
    My brother cousin and husbands friends we’re beat and bruised my brother was weeing blood for days after being bashed by the so called police in the hall at rossington there crime was gathering at a meeting
    My husband myself and our two young children were expected to live on eleven pound a week
    My husband and I would eat one meal a day so the children could eat more food thank you mrs thatcher ???i will never forget and neither will my children

  33. neil says:

    I have read all the comment here which I have found interesting to say the least. As a Brit who left the UK for South Africa back in 1969 I have to confess that I was not resident during the Thatcher premiership but do remember that I would have had no prospects for a decent job without a radical revision of the ‘system’.

    Without wishing to take an overtly political position one way or the other I will say that the UK, not ever having had any sort of democratic revolution (the last ‘aristocratic revolution was back in 1688, when the Stuarts were effectively overthrown) is seen as a country of dinosaurs that is ruled by a class ridden elite.

    The ideal of course would be not dissimilar to what Kemal Ataturk did in Turkey between 1923 (elected president), and his death only 15 years later (10 November 1938).

    In that short period he scrapped the corrupt monarchy (sultan), and steered the country from a feudalistic state (not dissimilar to the UK), to entry to the modern world.

    Result: Turkey nowadays has plenty problems but without doubt it is the most moderate and progressive of the Islamic states.

    What I AM suggesting is that the UK forthwith scraps the unelected Hanovers (‘ex’ Germans – it may be remembered that they did not support Churchill until after 1942 – the year that the UK – with the help of Russia and the US, started decisively winning, militarily at least, WWII).

    Next, have a decent electoral system, not this fossilized first past the post, in which 36% of the vote at last election to the Tories resulted in them getting 47% of the seats, the Liberals getting 23% secured a mere 8%, while Labour at 29% got roughly the seats which it was entitled.

    I have plenty other comments, but this posting seems long enough.
    Constructive crit. etc would be highly appreciated.

    Best to you all for 2014, Neil + 3 beasts, 12 paws, only 2 tails.

  34. Russell says:

    While the press talks about the destruction of civil liberties in the USA with the war on terror since 9/11. Here in Britian the erosion of civil liberties has been slightly more glacial. The formation of the National Coal Board under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, set the stage in the context of this issue. But the British Government’s fears of change in the 20th Century began somewhat earlier. The early years of the twentieth century saw an increasingly bitter series of confrontations between capital and labor throughout the English-speaking world. In Britain, the rising militance of the working class was beginning to make the aristocracy doubt whether ‘the people’ could be trusted. It was World War I that set in motion the growth of the British government to the size where it could begin to destroy civil rights with little hindrance.
    The only tool any government has is varying shades of control. From kings, prime ministers, and presidents to the cop on the beat, taking control is their instinctive response to any disturbance of the peace. Even if this response actually inflates the disturbance. For then the event can be used to justify more and better equipment for all government agents.

  35. Robert Reynolds says:

    Sadly, our National Archive will not tell what could, would, should have been ‘our’ national and commercial priorities, our policies on mine retention and much else, had we ‘back then’ enjoyed the real democracy for which many died and for which many post-war hoped.

    Instead we have the record of the trapped, lives made small-minded, not seeing or ignoring the bigger picture, of social division, of sham democracy and of on-going vulnerability under the rule of fear and greed and corruption. Beneath the apparent issues of ‘simple economics’, men and women driven by non-human forces of their own inadvertent creation: ‘capital’ seeking its own concentration, ‘labour’ competing for advantage.

    Battle-blinkered miners were eventually over-run by a battle-blinkered state, both parties championing a mock independence entailing social atomisation, unable or unwilling to see the need of all, for all, to belong in equal partnership, free from need to form ‘gang’ oppositions. The legacy was too great from the disarray lived through under all previous governments, hope denied of distinction between rule by ‘the mob’, untrusting, and rule by ‘the able’, all rationally to be trusted (unless proved to be lazy or criminal).

    The show goes on, no call from politicians or press for the liberation of conscience, for freedom to trust in real democracy. We are sleep-walking toward the next waves of crisis, almost inevitably of war and ruin. Divided we will act ‘for ourselves’, and so against ourselves, threatening eventually to destroy people and planet.

  36. ian holmes says:

    My dad was the surveyor at a South Wales pit that was closed in the 80’s with 50 years worth of high grade anthracite left behind. A community destroyed,mass unemployment. People are now dying because they are unable to heat their homes. The country’s resources have been wasted.

    1. HELEN CHADWICK says:

      Totally agree with Ian Holmes. My mother family were all coal miners, her father & most of her brothers all worked in the pits in South Wales. Her brother, worked in the Tower Colliery until it shut. Since all the mines were shut, much of the coal has been imported from Poland, & its vastly inferior to what was being mined in Wales. Thatcher card NOTHING about the whole communities that had NO MEN working. She was out to break the NUM . But what could you expect from a person who said.There is no such thing as society?”

  37. Andy Moorhouse says:

    “At its peak in 1948 the coal industry employed 720,000 and produced 210 Million tons of coal.
    In 1960 198Mt and 607,000 employees
    In 1970 147Mt and 290,000 employees
    In 1980 112Mt and 237,000 employees

    By 1983 the UK demand for coal had fallen

    – See more at: http://blogs.channel4.com/paul-mason-blog/thatcher-miners-official-papers-confirm-strikers-worst-suspicions/265#sthash.bxnLx9fR.dpuf

    So, we now only mine 6 million tons, which leaves us to import 44.8Mt . Total UK consumption of coal in 2012 was over 60 Mt. So demand for coal for coal has only halved – AND THIS 2012’s NUMBERS ! So an industry was shut down, communities massacred in the 1980’s and 90’s and the demand for coal was and is still there.
    Answer that Charles MacNeill or anyone else.

  38. Sheena says:

    During the 84 -85 strike, my then husband the father of my two boys, my father, my brother and my friends went on strike because we knew what was coming. Our pit was full of miners from the North East and when their pits closed they may as well have dropped a bomb on what was left behind. Thanks to the pit closure programme by Thatcher and her sort they have left behind whole swathes of communities where there are no jobs, no prospects and no hope and do you know what I wish we had stayed out longer. We were not Lions led by Donkeys – we knew what was coming to us and we did not want it. We wanted opportunity for our young people and if the pits offered that so be it. What have we now only areas where drug dealing is considered as a good opportunity. There was much greater impact on closing an entire industry down than just pure economics. This was politics of spite and in Thatchers word ‘We were the Enemy Within’. Shame on her and by the way to that evil excuse of a woman our Pit though it only employs a fraction of what it previously did remains open to this day.

  39. Tom Ferrour says:

    Mason states “Arthur Scargill, the miners’ leader, was criticised afterwards for beginning a conflict he could never win” but Scargill only chaired the meeting of delegates that decided to begin the strike, he did not voice an opinion on the matter. See David John Douglass, Ghost Dancers

  40. Dr David Gibbon says:

    A fantastic response. Thankyou all for this very enlightening discussion . It should be archived, please .

  41. Ian Guild says:

    Thatcher would never have been able to finance her war and the inevitable thousands thrown onto the dole without the revenu she misappropriated from the Scottish oil fields.
    This revenue should have been used for the common good as it was elsewhere

  42. Patrick Dodds says:

    Scargill wasn’t criticised for starting a strike he could never win, he was criticised for not holding a ballot.

  43. Gerald says:

    The melt down of the country stated well before Margret Thatcher however it is Margret that took it is its height, ever since the miners strike the country has got worse, people ignore the hidden agenda that is really going on and it is clear to see it, some one mentioned privatisation, just look what has happened. most people will still ignore facts about this and that but the true fact is Britain is not going to last much longer, Immigration has followed civil war will follow and why because people IGNORED IT ALL

  44. Anchor100 says:

    I was the front line of the dispute as a Transport & General FTO . Our T&G Drivers were caught between a rock (or lump of Coal) and a Militarised Police force. Our Dockers with many reaching old age and not having a future faced the political reality of cash or unemployment. I ask any working person confronted by this dilemma in the context of the era what would your choice have been?

    We organised for the entire strike weekly deliveries of food and essentials to two mining communities in a Notts. Coal field who supported the strike despite the decision of the Notts. Breakaway union not to . My take on the Thatcher revelation is it only confirms what we all suspected. But i think MI5 and the secret service were deeply/derelict involved i think my phone was tapped so no surprise there.? But Arthur Scargill in my view seeing it close at hand was bound up in his own rhetoric and did not have the personal political nouse (def: common sense; intelligence to lead and understand). The wonderful collective camaraderie existing in mining communities that the Miners as thoroughbred union AND WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE he was given the privilege to lead. His analysis of the pit closure programme and all that has since come to light
    was accurate.. My critique is and remains as a clever leader using skill as and negotiators nouse. History teaches you do not make progress with a Megaphone?!!! I have always despised Thatcherite tendencies and Thatcherism but to know your enemy is always sound advice?

  45. david allen says:

    Now we know why Thatcher got the rebates from Europe. Getting rid of our industry and selling off all the utilities because the government was totally incompetent . A bit like they are now.

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