Margaret Thatcher shut our Mines – Why?

miner

Many people, even of the older generation, ask themselves in puzzlement why did Thatcher close Britain’s coalmines when surely coal was a valuable enormous natural resource for the Country? It is certainly a question that deserves an honest answer, doesn’t it?

First let it be said that the Conservatives had at the front of their agenda then the need to destroy (and nowadays marginalising?) the power of the Unions. Which was the most powerful Union in those days do you think? Yep, it was the Union of Mineworkers. They also had history you see – they had already brought down the previous Conservative government of Ted Heath. He had himself tried to curb Union power and he suffered two miners strikes – the last in nineteen-seventy-four causing the so called Three-Day-Week designed to save energy. He misjudged the mood of the country though when he called a General Election to gender public support to facedown the miners’ pay demands – he lost the election and Labour’s Harold Wilson steamed into power, and then Maggie Thatcher indeed stole Heath’s crown as Tory leader the following year [forty years today!].

When subsequently Mrs Thatcher got the top job as PM in 1979 she was certainly gunning for the miners. She wasn’t going to get caught out though like her predecessor was she? No, she spent four years biding her time and building up massive stockpiles of coal all around the country – fifty million tons of it so enough coal indeed to last the country a year or more ensuring that the miners couldn’t ever use coal energy again to curtail the government’s plans.

The coalmines were of course in public ownership then, under the National Coal Board in those distant days. Previously, they had had to be nationalised post war by Labour – nearly a thousand collieries taken over from many disgusting private pit owners who had neglected them, had underinvested in them, and had often left them unsafe. The Tories when next in power nevertheless then scrapped investment, so the pits were then facing increased competition from oil (before its six-fold price increase), consequently some pits were losing money, were expensive to maintain, and some coal production had to be subsidised from the industry. That was an anathema to the Tory dogma and even more so to Thatcher’s particular obsession with full-blown privatisation, free marketeering, and furthermore her desire to rollback the State,. She saw the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – smash the power of the mineworkers and therefore the Unions, and at the same time finally move the pits out of public ownership.

When the trap was finally primed it was easypeasy for PM Thatcher to bait it wasn’t it to provoke a strike? She let it be known that without consultation a shed load more mines were to be shutdown, with further massive job losses causing devastation and substantial local community destruction in colliery villages. The then charismatic miner leader Arthur Scargill stupidly got caught in the set trap didn’t he and called an all-out strike? The miners in fact enjoyed significant general public support at the start, but as time went on that dissipated (but never dropped below a third of the public) – why was that support lost? It was because idiot Scargill absolutely refused to hold a strike ballot to legitimise their actions – the public saw this as an individual megalomaniac destroying an industry without validity.

The State used every possible device to intimidate both miners and their families, including the impounding of Union funds, mass arrests without bail, and denial of rightful benefits. There was sickening violence exercised during the yearlong strike unfortunately, and the dreadful thing about all that was that the bulk of it came from our previously trusted police forces – one of the most disgraceful examples of state exercised & orchestrated oppression in British history – and coordinated from New Scotland Yard no less (many-many months of bloody violence, infliction of serious injuries on miners using truncheons & horses & dogs, intimidation, blocking picketing, occupying pit villages, and all else). The recently exposed disgrace of the police resulting from the catastrophe at Hillsborough, pails into insignificance compared with what they did for Thatcher during the miner’s strike, surely? After thirty years there still has been no public enquiry into that abuse of power and police actions & malpractices during the miners’ strike, and never will be (despite strong evidence of assaults, perjury, misconduct, and perverting of the course of justice) –why the hell not?

Scargill hadn’t seen the writing on the wall so hadn’t established a financial war chest for his members and they were stricken down after a year out of work and had to capitulate (starved into submission no less) – by then a couple of dozen mines had pre-closed and a market of tens of millions of pounds had been lost forever, so it was only a matter of time before the whole coalmining industry in the UK collapsed and was dead & buried. Seven hundred thousand of our peoples overall have lost their livelihoods as a consequence of coalmine closures and the industry rundown. That is of course apart from the substantial loss of national resources and adverse financial consequences to our Country – well done Mrs Thatcher and all our other failure politicians, eh?

[Unused and unmaintained deep mines can never be resurrected of course, as they collapse underground and fill with water].

The silly thing about all this buying so called cheaper things (like coal) from abroad is that while home products provide jobs and inject money directly into our Country’s economy, conversely our increasing imports simply do that for someone else’s country – where is the long term logic of that, then?

 

 

[Britain has needlessly thrown away two hundred years of coal reserves from viable deep mines – for the sake of spite and ideology?].

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