Labour Research June 2009


Marching to the fault line

The miners’ strike and the death of industrial Britain

Francis Beckett and David Hencke, Constable, paperback, 474 pages, £18.99

Twenty five years ago thousands of miners, responding to Thatcher’s plan to enact extensive pit closures and consign their communities to ruin, went on strike. During the following months the state sponsored a relentless campaign against them. This book is a sympathetic account of the strike, which tries to assess whether the outcome could have been any different.

Beckett and Hencke catalogue some interesting new information, including details of the eye-watering sums of money expended by the Conservative government and just how close the Tories came to making substantial concessions to the miners. Also shocking are the details of the advice provided by Charles Falconer (later Tony Blair’s Lord Chancellor) to the National Coal Board concerning recognition of the breakaway UDM.

 The authors set out to present a balanced account of the dispute. This is something they largely achieve, but with at least one notable exception. Their antipathy towards Arthur Scargill seems excessive. Some may possibly find their criticism of Scargill insufficiently sensitive to the nature of the dispute and the situation the NUM faced. Nevertheless, the book provides fascinating new information.