Bill Carmichael: Real villains of miners’ strike

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LABOUR is clearly prepared to go to any lengths to ingratiate itself with its union paymasters, but the latest “Justice for the Coalfields” campaign is nothing short of bonkers.

Labour MPs, led by the Barnsley East member, Michael Dugher, are demanding that Prime Minister David Cameron formally apologise for government actions during the miners’ strike of 1984/5.

There are few things more pointless in life than politicians making empty apologies for things for which they bear no responsibility – and let’s not forget that Cameron was 17 when the strike began.

But even putting this aside, the campaign is either a case of collective amnesia or a cynical attempt to re-write history.

The Left would like you to think the miners’ strike was a case of heroic, downtrodden workers victimised by evil Tories out to steal their jobs, aided by a brutal police force.

But the truth wasn’t nearly so black and white. Nottinghamshire miners, for example, who voted overwhelmingly against the strike, were subject to violence and intimidation by NUM thugs on an incredible scale.

Neil Greatrex, leader of the breakaway UDM, told how a mob of flying pickets descended on his home, threatening to kill his 10-year-old daughter and burn his house down. In South Wales, David Wilkie, a taxi driver taking a working miner to the pit, was killed when two NUM members dropped a concrete block onto his cab from a footbridge.

If the police had not been on the picket lines to protect working miners from the howling mobs, there would have been bloodbaths. So before the NUM and its Labour backers start demanding apologies from everyone else, they should make a few mea culpas of their own. It will be a cold day in hell before that happens.

Of course Margaret Thatcher was ruthless in her defence of democracy – she had to be. She was also courageous and tactically more astute than her clodhopping rival, Arthur Scargill.

Today, Scargill is a laughable figure. We learned recently he was so quintessentially bourgeois that he tried to buy his £1m council flat using Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme. Not so much Lenin as a male version of Hyacinth Bucket.

But at the time, along with his allies in the swivel-eyed Left who had seized control of the Labour Party and many of the unions, he was a real threat.

Scargill wasn’t interested in compromise or negotiation. His real aim was to bring down the democratically elected government. He cast himself as the star in a remake of the October Revolution, with the miners as mere extras.

The real tragedy is that they fell for it – at terrible cost to many communities across Yorkshire. But far from owing us an apology, the government of 1984/5 deserves our undying gratitude for saving us from left- wing lunacy and untrammeled union power.

TV without the fee

According to figures released this week, the BBC’s iPlayer received a record three billion requests for free, online programmes last year and internet viewing of BBC shows has risen by a third since 2012.

This is a tremendous success – but it also heralds the death knell for the BBC’s current method of funding.

You only have to pay the £142.50 annual licence fee if you want to watch live programmes. If you watch later on catch-up websites such as the iPlayer, you need not pay anything.

An increasing number of people, particularly the young, are asking why they should pay the licence fee when they can watch their favourite shows just a little later for free?

Isn’t it time that the outdated licence fee – essentially an archaic tax on owning a television set – was scrapped?