3rd March 1985. Dash for Gas.
Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher said the militant miners were the ‘enemy within’ at a time of one of the most bitter disputes in Trades Union history.
The Bishop of Durham called the Coal-Board Chief, Ian MacGregor an ‘imported elderly American’, forcing the Archbishop of Canterbury to regret his remarks, and not until Today in 1985 after a year of death and destruction, did the miners’ strike (financed by the Soviet Trade Unions) finally end.
It had started after a dispute in 1984 in South Wales which escalated into a national strike following proposals by the National Coal Board (NCB) to close up to 20 ‘uneconomic pits’ with the threat of 20,000 redundancies within a year.
It was back in 1958 that the closure of thirty-six pits was announced which was to prove the start of a run down in mining. In February 1972 there was a total electricity blackout lasting nine hours imposed daily, as a result of the strikes when twelve power stations were closed down because no provision had been made for emergencies.(1)
After the troubles of the early 1970.s by 1981 the Government of Margaret Thatcher announced a pit closure programme of fifty mines involving 30,000 miners.
Trouble flared in April with growing militancy and flying pickets resulting in the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ in June 1984, the Sheffield coking plant, which left one dead, 41 police and 28 miners injured, requiring for the first time the police to wear full riot gear.
The leader of the miners, the militant Arthur Scargill, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), refused to condemn violence and was later fined £250 for obstruction. He also vitally, refused to have a national vote on the issue.
Trouble flared in rural Woolley, South Gloucestershire with youthful miners throwing missiles at a phalanx of police behind full-length shields; a modern Battle of Hastings.
The strike was declared illegal and by November the courts were sequestrating NUM assets, by December 1984. there was a drift back to work, many had left the industry and the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire miners set up the moderate Union of Democratic Miners which continued to work.
The result was a conflict between the moderates and the more militant NUM, Scargill’s Yorkshire miners which continues to this day as seen at football matches.
The result of the troubles was Privatisation of the pits in the next decade with a handful of pits worked by 7,000 miners.(2)
With the closure of the pits, home produced coal comes from open-cast production, but most comes from Poland, America and Columbia at a time when 40% of our energy still comes from coal.
(1) See my recent Post.
(2) By 2017 the last of the deep pits had closed, but there were five companies extracting coal from open-cast mining, one being the Coal Authority on the Blagdon Estate, Northumberland home of Lord Ridley, nephew of the late Viscount Ridley, once a member of Thatcher’s Cabinet and who had in 1977 produced a plan to break the power of the Trades Unions.
The present Lord Ridley, who gets a revenue from the operation, also happens to be brother-in-law to ex Environment Secretary, Owen Patterson who once attacked the ‘Green Blob’ of environmentalists and climate science.
desmog.uk/Pic of opencast.