Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Thirty Years Later We Are All The Losers

It seems a Long March from Arthur Scargill's Barnsley to President Putin's Moscow over thirty years on paths that are neither mapped nor clear but they exist.  It is a problem with MEN in the meaning of money, energy and nationalism.

Today, 3rd March is marked for some as the day the National Union of Miners ended the Miner's Strike of 1984-5 which still provokes controversy and dispute.  As someone who was there and involved from day one I can reiterate that it was not the Conservative Government and Mrs. Thatcher that won, it was the miner's leaders who lost it.

We forget that only months before the Prime Minister and government had been blooded by the Falklands Campaign.  The needs of this together with some of the men around the Prime Minister with substantial military experience meant that in the Cabinet and among other senior ministers and officials there was a core who knew something about waging wars, including class wars.

So there was an understanding of the essence of strategy, tactics, logistics and above all intelligence and related analysis in the government which was totally absent in the NUM and its leadership.  They went on strike, wholly unprepared, to trigger a class war without the faintest idea of what it would entail in reality.

They truly believed that the arm waving rhetoric, verbal and other aggression, propaganda antics and endless media photo opportunities would lead to the masses rising from their TV watching and football, shedding their credit card debts and overdrafts and marching past the clubs and pubs to glory and the left wing vision of a socialist paradise, once the various factions had agreed what that might be.

One of my stranger experiences was a meeting presided over by the Yorkshireman, Rodney Bickerstaffe; still with us and demonstrating, held to urge public sector union officials and sympathisers to ensure they stood, if not four square, then at least three square behind the miners.  As well as the predictable purple prose we had the usual stunts including the message from the front, a group of canteen workers who had proclaimed their loyalty and devotion to Comrade Arthur.

It is possible to go on and on and on about the crassness and bungling of the NUM.  What I can say was that if the NUM had elected the real man to do the job of President, Mick McGahey, see Wikipedia, it would have been very different.  A while after it was all over, I came across him in a bar and we shared a few brandies and wondered what an uncertain future might bring.

We did not imagine that very soon the Communist empire of Eastern Europe would collapse and a different world emerge.  My own view at the time was that western capitalism was here to stay for some time and the communist nations were in no shape to compete or to overcome it.  Then as now there was the reluctance to understand and accept the rapidity of technological and economic change in so many sectors.

Why are we now all the losers?  The first casualty of war is said to be the truth.  The truth was that in the early 1980's because of the fudging and politics of the previous thirty years there was no feasible energy policy for the future.  The miner's strike simply added to the confusion and pushed people into positions that they were reluctant to move from.

One factor was that among the miners there was the fractures on the union side, leaving Scargill to control what was left of the NUM.  What was needed was a change of leadership there that might allow some real negotiation and this did not happen.  This pushed the Prime Minister in the direction of the oil men, the financiers and other vested interests in related sectors.

It meant it became impossible then to formulate a coherent energy policy for the long term.  After Mrs. Thatcher left, John Major dillied and dallied letting in Blair and Brown.  They patched. prodded and proclaimed this and that but let the EU, the major companies and noisy groups of others force us into systems that not only leave us vulnerable but at huge expense.

This has continued under the Coalition and the coming election, so far as energy and all its implications go, we have the choice between the mad and the bad.  Either way we lose.

And now we are all looking to Moscow and wondering what President Putin might or might not do.  But it is likely he will do something and none of us will like it.

On the memorial above is the name of the father of my father-in-law, orphaned while still in the cradle.


  1. Scargill's "we're going to bring down this Tory guv'mint" was hugely damaging to the miners' case.
    The man was a total idiot who didn't understand what he had taken on....the arrogance of previous easy "victories".

  2. I thought Scargill came over quite well on TV before the strike, but that was his downfall. As NUM leader he was hopeless.