· The Miners’ Strike 1984 – 85.
· Thatcher did not believe in the state subsidising failing industries as it rewarded inefficiency and robbed money from productive areas of society and the economy.
· Traditionally Britain had relied on coal to run heating and the power stations. The backbone of Britain becoming great and the industrial revolution had been the coal miners.
· But by the mid 1980s Britain was importing coal from abroad and coal had become increasingly expensive and difficult to mine in Britain. By the late 1970s, British mines were running at a loss.
· It was obviously just a matter of time until Thatcher’s government came into conflict with the miners, the most militant of the trade unions.
· In 1981 the moderate NUM leader, Joe Gormley retired and he was replaced by Arthur Scargill, a Marxist.
· The ballot box could not get rid of Thatcher, but Scargill remembered what the NUM had done to Heath, and union power had also brought down Callaghan’s government. Maybe direct action would do for Maggie too?
· The government stated that it was no longer willing to support failing pits, and that facing up to the economic realities meant the ability of paying out decent redundancy packages
· ignore the problems was just putting off the inevitable. The miners claimed that with proper investment and a commitment to the long term future of coal, it could again be profitable.
· They also pointed out that the social consequences of wide spread pit closures would be catastrophic as whole communities were reliant on the industry. If the pits closed, local communities would be devastated.
· The NUM refused to contemplate the closure of any pits (a change in their position since the 1950s). The government prepared for the conflict.
· Thatcher called Scargill ‘The enemy within’ and was as determined to defeat him as she had been to defeat General Galtieri.
· In many ways, the strike was to be symbolic of the battle between new, high tech, Southern Britain and old, heavy, industrialised, Northern Britain.
· The government had already passed through two Employment Acts, in 1980 and 1982 designed to weaken Trade Union power. These acts;
- Forbade mass picketing.
- Outlawed the ‘closed shop’ whereby all members in a factory had to be union members.
- Declared industrial action illegal unless workers had voted for a strike in a formal ballot.
· In preparation for a showdown with the miners, the government had stockpiled stores of coal at power stations.
· Also, by the mid 1980s, Britain was no longer as reliant on coal as it had been in the past due to electricity being produced by oil, gas and nuclear reactors.
· Houses and factories were heated by gas, not coal any more.
· The Strike.