My memories of the miners strike

I was thirteen years old when the miners strikes started 25 years ago. I was not, perhaps, th best placed person to make judgments on the strike, but neither was I your typically stereotypical ignorant teenager. Yes, even then I was interested in politics. So what do I remember of that time ?

Most abiding memory was that the NUM and Arthur Scargill refused to allow a vote by members of the union on whether they should strike which for me was the key reason why I could not, back then, support the actions of miners. And as I recall this was the view of many people from non Tory midle class families who were probably union members but saw the NUM as being on a political crusade more than representing their members.

I cannot deny that Thatcher was playing politics too and it is well know that the government had prepared for the strike for 18 months in advance, but if Arthur Scargill had had any sense at all he could have called for a ballot, which at the start of the strike I am sure they would have won, and could have removed one of the government's key arguments from the debate. The constant government line that the NUM did not want to consult its own members because it was scared it would not get support for the strike was vital.

The winter and New Year of 1985 also stood out in my mind as a time when we genuinely feared that power cuts could come back. My parents were not overly stressed by this, they still had hundreds of candles from the 70's and the power cuts back then, but as a teenager with no real memories of such disruption, I found myself back then wanting to see the government win. Selfish, I know, but as I have got older and wiser and can see the very real reasons why miners went on strike, but can also still see why the government felt they had to take on the unions.

The saddest thing is that the scars of the strike still run deep with so many, even 25 years later. I used to go out canvassing in North Norfolk with fellow Lib Dem who was a former Kent miner. He said he had learnt to get on with the police and by moving to Norfolk he felt he could trust them, but back in Kent he could never speak to a policeman, couldn't help them and would never trust them, and he assured me that if I had witnessed what they did I would feel the same.

I cannot coment on whether he is right, but it is sad that the strike affected people so that they can still feel like this.

No comments: