THATCHERS DECIMATION OF THE BRITISH MINING INDUSTRY
Michael Dugher has called for today’s Conservative ministers to apologise to ex-miners after cabinet papers from 1984 have revealed that Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government did have a hit list of pits for closure. The newly released documents reveal that Margaret Thatcher’s government had a plan to shut 75 mines over three years despite denials from the then government and National Coal Board. The papers also reveal that the previous Conservative government did influence police tactics and put pressure on them. Government ministers at the time pressured the Home Secretary, Leon Britton, to ensure chief constables adopt a “more vigorous interpretation of their duties”. This ensured an immediate crackdown on pickets reaching the coalfields in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
The cabinet papers also show that Margaret Thatcher was willing to go as far as declaring a state of emergency and bring in the army in order to gain victory over the miners and the unions.
The papers also reveal that far from the government of the day being neutral in what was an industrial dispute, the previous Conservative government took a political approach and was determined to close the pits as a way of weakening the coalfield communities that it regarded infamously as “the enemy within”. The coalfield areas are still suffering today because of the legacy of the pit closure programme.
Commenting, Michael said:
“This comes as little surprise to those of us who witnessed at first hand what was going on in places like South Yorkshire during the strike.
“These newly released cabinet papers reveal the true scale of the previous Conservative government’s dishonesty in maintaining that this was simply an industrial dispute based on economics. We know now what we knew at the time: this was all about the worst kind of politics – about divide and rule, and an attempt to break the coalfield communities. “It is clear that people like Margaret Thatcher and John Redwood did regard the miners as the ‘enemy within’ and were prepared to use the police and potentially the army to escalate the conflict.“The objective of Thatcher’s Conservative government the destruction of an entire industry and the proud mining communities that sustained it. This resulted in mass unemployment and huge social problems that blighted those parts of the country for years to come. And we are still living with that legacy today – including the perverse situation where we are forced to import coal into the UK. “Rather than shedding tears for Margaret Thatcher, Conservative ministers today should apologise to former miners and their families for the dishonesty of the previous Conservative government and for what they did to our coalfield communities, in what was one of the most shameful moments in our nation’s history.”