Marching to the Fault Line
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The 1984 Miners' strike was one of the defining moments in modern British history. Leading journalists David Hencke and Francis Beckett had unrivalled access to key government and union players at the heart of the story; they have also uncovered material that the powerful would have liked to remain secret.
Miners could start planning for all the things they had once only been able to dream of, and the NUM’s Miners’ Charter called for modernization, the sinking of new pits, training, safety laws, compensation payments for industrial injury and disease, a five-day week without loss of pay, pensions at the age of fifty-five, and construction of new towns and villages with good housing in mining areas. They were living at last in a world where all these things seemed possible, and they started to get.
Unsurprisingly, the Fraud Squad turned out to be much more interested in the missing Soviet and Libyan money than in Windsor. But Windsor understandably resented it, and it played a large part in his decision to go to the press.13 In the year of the Lightman Report, 1990, the future for Neil Kinnock held real hope at last. Thatcher had finally slipped, clinging to the unfair and deeply unpopular poll tax long after it had been shown to be political suicide, and that year she was forced out of.
Which the miners’ strike was closer to a civil war than to an industrial dispute. The return to work was unconditional surrender, as unmistakable as a defeated army throwing down its weapons – or, perhaps more accurately, a besieged city opening its doors to the invaders because there is not a scrap left to eat and the alternative is to die of starvation. The police – better armed, better equipped, better dressed, better trained, better organized, better led, and most of all better fed – had.
It’s a luxury to sit back and analyse.’ But it was the reason why the ban on coal movements imposed by the transport unions was not very effective, and many transport workers continued to move coal out of the areas where it was still being mined. The language used by other union leaders seemed to betray the sense of foreboding they felt for the whole movement. Moss Evans, General Secretary of the TGWU, Britain’s biggest union, called for financial support so that the miners should not be.
Useful tipoffs from people, but he would tell me about a document and never show it to me. So it was always his version. I had no way of knowing whether it was genuine.’ That is why his tipoffs to Jones seldom resulted in useful coverage for the miners. All the same, Jones was becoming increasingly unhappy about the way he felt he was being manipulated by the government and the NCB, used to exaggerate the drift back to work and hail every returning miner as a hero. The NCB, he knew, had been.