Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Scargill breaks silence on miners' strike: Thatcher blocked five deals

Former union leader Arthur Scargill broke his silence on the miners' strike today, claiming Margaret Thatcher blocked five separate deals that could have ended the dispute.

Writing in the Guardian to mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the watershed struggle, he said the agreements were "sabotaged or withdrawn" by the then-Prime Minister.

Mr Scargill also denied long-standing allegations that he rejected a national ballot of NUM members, saying instead the strike decision was taken by union delegates to his "true surprise".

The strike pitted the miners against Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government in a dispute over pit closures and was a pivotal time in British industrial history.

It lasted around a year and saw numerous violent clashes between picketing miners and police, injuring 20,000 people in all.

Mr Scargill, now 71, said: "For 25 years, I have been accused of refusing to negotiate a settlement with the National Coal Board, and of 'snatching defeat from the jaws of victory' - a blatant lie."

He said the NUM settled the strike on five separate occasions in 1984: on June 8, July 8, July 18, September 10, and October 12.

The first four settlements were sabotaged or withdrawn following the intervention of Mrs Thatcher, he said.

The last one was initially agreed, Mr Scargill said, but rejected after the pit deputies union Nacods apparently called off its strike action.

"The monumental betrayal by Nacods has never been explained in a way that makes sense," he wrote.

"Over the years, I have repeatedly said that we didn't 'come close' to total victory in October 1984 - we had it, and at the very point of victory we were betrayed. Only the Nacods leaders know why."

Mr Scargill said he had been preparing for a national ballot on industrial action and was "truly surprised" when an NUM special conference in April 1984 saw delegates vote for miners to join the strike instead.

He also defended his actions at Orgreave coking plant in Yorkshire, the scene of arguably the strike's bloodiest confrontation in June of that year.

Around 10,000 picketing miners clashed with 8,500 police on June 18 as the miners tried to force the closure of the plant and the government to settle.

Mr Scargill said: "Had picketing at Orgreave been increased the day after June 18, I have no doubt that Orgreave - and Scunthorpe - would have faced immediate closure, forcing the Government to settle the strike."

He also said if Labour Party leader at the time, Neil Kinnock, had supported the strike, Mrs Thatcher's government would have fallen and Mr Kinnock become Prime Minister.

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