Why miners’ strike pardons would be an act of justice – Steve Cardownie

Hundreds of miners were convicted of offences during the 1984/85 miners’ strikes but they were just ordinary people trying to defend their jobs, writes Steve Cardownie.
Four police officers struggle with a striking miner as clashes break out at Bilston Glen colliery in June 1984.Four police officers struggle with a striking miner as clashes break out at Bilston Glen colliery in June 1984.
Four police officers struggle with a striking miner as clashes break out at Bilston Glen colliery in June 1984.

I was pleased to read in Monday’s paper that hundreds of miners could be pardoned after being arrested during the miners’ strike of 1984/85.

It is reported that 1,400 miners were arrested in Scotland with 500 being convicted. Maybe now justice will prevail and appropriate pardons forthcoming.

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The National Union of Miners (NUM) had called for strike action in an effort to defend pits from potential closure that, according to Arthur Scargill, the then NUM General Secretary, were on a hit list held by the then Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

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Thatcher’s tactics to offset the strike action were to build up coal stocks, encourage as many miners to continue working as possible and to use the police to break up picket lines, often using force and sometimes more force than was necessary. This made for a tense atmosphere and pitched battles were not uncommon, particularly when miners attempted to defend themselves against aggressive police action.

It was against this backdrop that my trade union, the Civil and Public Services Association, made a financial donation to the NUM. As a member of the national executive committee, I volunteered to address union branches in Northern Ireland and explain why we were using members’ money to support the strike. I was never taken to task about TV scenes of violent clashes on the picket lines. This was hardly surprising as it was during the height of “the Troubles” and Northern Ireland was accustomed to more serious acts of violence.

Unfortunately the strike was unsuccessful due to a number of competing factors and the trade union movement was left weakened. There were abuses of power by the so-called trade union “barons” during the Seventies and Eighties but this strike was about ordinary working-class people trying to defend their jobs and it deserved a better outcome.

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