Mudcat Café message #782697 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #12277   Message #782697
Posted By: Peter K (Fionn)
12-Sep-02 - 11:17 PM
Thread Name: Music: Police and Striking Miners
Subject: RE: Police and Striking Miners
The first post states there was no apology for the discrediting of Scargill. In fact the then editor of the Daily Mirror wrote a huge apology earlier this year (May 27). The Guardian gave it massive prominence. The apology was then rebutted by three reporters who had worked on the Scargill story (click here.

I have read this thread fairly quickly, so maybe I overlooked it, but I didn't see mention of another death, at Ollerton, in Nottinghamshire.

George is wildly mistaken in suggesting that the outcome of a ballot would have been a foregone conclusion. If that had been the case, Scargill would certainly have had the ballot (and thereby won the strike). He wasn't a complete idiot.

But he had come into office playing up to his image as a reckless militant (he had led wildcat strikes in Yorkshire previously). Before the 1984-5 strike he had called for industrial action in two earlier disputes, and had been defeated in ballots both times. He was understandably nervous about risking a third ballot.

NEvertheless, to proceed without a ballot, with winter over, and pit-head stocks at an all-time high (part of Thatcher's calculated preparation for a showdown with the NUM), was always destined to be a lost cause. Many mineworkers in the most efficient areas (north and south Nottinghamshire) refused to come out without a ballot. In previous disputes their record in supporting the majority verdict had been exemplary, even where their own interests might have dictated another course.

Incidentally, George, the ballot requirement was of the NUM's own making, going back years before a legal requirement to ballot was imposed on all unions.

Back in 1970 the union rule required a 65 per cent majority for strike action. They got 60 per cent, and apart from Scargill in Yorkshire, the whole union respected the ballot. But they did amend the rule, reducing the required majority to 55 per cent.

In 1972 they balloted again, got 57 per cent, and the whole union came out. This was discipline that other unions would have died for. If Scargill could have been confident of winning a ballot in 84, you can be damn sure he'd have run one.

It would have spared him the humiliating response he got from rail and general unions (whose support had been so critical in earlier victories): "How can we ask our members to stop handling coal when your own members are still turning it?"

One other mistake by Arthur (whom I actually quite like) needs a mention. When it was all over, Mick McGahey, himself a much respected NUM hardliner, (long-standing council member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and its former president) urged Arthur to build bridges with the splinter union, the UDM. Mick realised that to have two rival unions serving one contracting industry was simply playing into the government's hands. Arthur flatly refused, and reaped the consequences.

Arthur may have been "proved right," but it was a hollow victory, and I've always marvelled at how much capital his supporters have made out of it.

Of course he was right that Thatcher wanted to run down UK coal extraction. That was plain as a pikestaff. The question should be: what good could he have hoped to achieve by running a strike on Thatcher's terms, at a time of her choosing? The fact that he did, and that coalfaces stood idle for months, becoming wholly unworkable, just helped make his warnings a self-fulfilling prophecy.