Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The NUM and the 1984 Strike
The 20th anniversary of one of the more shameful episodes in the history of British trade unionism has just passed. The year long coal miners strike of 1984 represented the last hurrah of a movement which, during the 70s and early 80s, had convinced itself that it alone had the right to govern Britain. Lead by the lunatic Arthur Scargill (whose name is now a by-word for extremism and who, incidentally, is reputed to have received money from Colonel Gaddaffi), the National Union of Mineworkers set out to bring down Margaret Thatcher's government by shutting down the key coal industry. The strike never had more than minority support and were it not for the illegal actions of Scargill himself would never have gone ahead. That it did is testimony to the bone-headedness of British Unions of the period, that Thatcher was prepared to stand up and fight it is testimony to her own personal strength of character and to the desire of the British people to restore order to an economy wracked by industrial unpleasantness.

The failure of the 1984 strike finally put paid to the idea that special interest groups should be allowed to dictate policy to government. It also, indirectly, helped end the class warfare that bedeviled British life. By exposing the Unions for what they were, a bunch of self-seeking, anti-democratic extremists, rather than the legitimate voice of working class Britain, the strike helped to invalidate the class rhetoric so prominent in British public life then. The BBC has a short history of the strike although, be warned, in typical fashion they put a sympathetic gloss on Scargill. The man deserves no sympathy. He tried to destroy British democracy and really ought to be consigned to the same pantheon of villains as Oswald Mosley and Lord Haw-Haw

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