Miners’ common cause with Tories during 1984-85 strike as Labour ‘red wall’ crumbles – Yorkshire Post Letters

The 1984-85 Miners' Strike divided communities.
The 1984-85 Miners' Strike divided communities.
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From: Valerie Kendall, Appleby-in-Westmorland.

THE recent election is not the only example of so-called blue-collar workers finding common cause with more traditional Conservative voters.

Some former industrial heartlands voted Conservative at the last election for the first time since the 1984-85 Miners' Strike.

Some former industrial heartlands voted Conservative at the last election for the first time since the 1984-85 Miners' Strike.

In 1984-85, the time of the Miners’ Strike, when I lived in Leeds, the hitherto little-known Conservative Trade Union (CTU) organisation came to the fore as a rallying point for those miners who saw no future in membership of the NUM led by Arthur Scargill.

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They chose to work, experiencing at the least ostracism and designation as ‘scabs’, and at the most physical violence, both threatened and real.

Working at The Yorkshire Post brought me as a Conservative into the West Yorkshire branch of the CTU, where I edited their magazine Crossfire. It was a rudimentary publication, typed up and partly written by me and printed secretly on an ancient printing press in the basement of a club in a mining village.

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Norman Tebbitt, then Minister for Trade and Industry, was one of its contributors and I understand it was read at high levels of government. It was distributed more locally by clandestine means; together with a couple of activists I left copies in working men’s clubs among other places. The men who worked through the strike were very brave.

In the late 80s, when working at The Barnsley Chronicle, I met some of the production workers whose jobs at the pits had disappeared with the pit closures. Not too surprisingly, they were bitter about this and about the damage done to their communities. What was surprising was that not only did they blame Margaret Thatcher but also Arthur Scargill, who they believed had led them badly for his own ends.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this – one of the major industrial actions of the 20th century – the-then Conservative government took great interest in the activities of the CTU. That former mining communities suffered from the aftermath of the strike, which was unsuccessful, is undeniable and I suspect continuing to this day.

Although my beliefs were, and are, self-evidently different to theirs, I have sympathy for the miners’ wives who supported their men throughout the strike in practical ways and then were totally ignored by the NUM leaders afterwards. I hope that the blue-collar workers whose votes have now given the Conservative government a majority to take positive action will be proved right in having stepped out of their normal voting comfort zone.