The past had its battles too


           Yesterday the media took me on a trip down memory lane. The past is a different country.  1984 was a year of struggle. Mr Scargill forced through a miners’ strike seeking to stop the Coal Board closing pits when they judged them to be uneconomic.  Mrs Thatcher saw the challenge as a continuing one from the Union movement to an elected government.

        It is difficult from today’s vantage point when there are different demons and tensions, to remember the intensity of the fears and worries on both sides of the Union dispute. Union action had prevented the 1960s Labour government from reforming industrial relations as they saw fit, and had helped speed the end of that government. A miners’ strike had finished off the Conservative government of the early 1970s prematurely. Finally, public sector unions brought down the Labour government of the 1970s, ending its authority and its mandate through the winter of discontent, 1978-9.  Margaret Thatcher had no wish to confront the miners, and backed down from doing so in her first Parliament as PM. By 1984 she decided there was no choice but for an elected government to make a stand against union power. If the choice was Mr Scargill dictating terms or the elected government making judgements, most people knew where they had to stand.

          In my role as her Chief Policy adviser I sought to prevent the use of troops to move coal or otherwise be involved in civil matters. I advised  to keep the Cabinet out of negotiations with the miners. The dispute had been framed by Mr Scargill, who insisted the Coal Board should have  no right to close pits on economic grounds, and by Mr Macgregor, the Coal B0ard Chairman, who insisted management had to be able to manage the industry as they judged right. I felt that if Cabinet members became involved in detailed discussions between employer and miners it could intensify the bitterness of an already very bitter dispute and lead to more muddle and threat for the country. The issue of closing uneconomic pits was not one for politicians, who rightly delegated commercial decisions to the NCB.  My hope was enough miners would see that Mr Scargill had chosen the wrong issue at the wrong time of year to inflict another defeat on the Coal Board and indirectly on the government. Instead the bitterness increased as some miners went to work and others did not.

         I was able to offer some help to the government as they sought to keep the lights on, by working with the electricity industry to maximise the use of nuclear and oil to reduce the claim on coal stocks. I  wanted to avoid a three day week or mass lay offs of people in other industries owing to a shortage of power. There were enough miners families in misery without plunging many more workers into the same situation. The sad truth of the industry was a long continuous decline under Labour and Conservative governments. 410 pits were closed between 1960 and 1971-2, mainly under Labour.

               At the end of the dispute I tried to get the government to offer the miners the right to work a pit the Coal Board claimed was uneconomic for themselves, as I was suspicious about some of the pits the Coal Board wished to close. I wanted a magnanimous aftermath. John Moore the privatisation Minister worked up some proposals but they got into the press before they were fully thought through or cleared with the PM, so the whole  idea was lost.   It was not until I was in the Cabinet myself that I was able to help one group of miners do just that, at Tower Colliery. They demonstrated that free of Coal Board control it was possible, at least in their case, to run the pit for longer .

           During 1984 I offered Mrs Thatcher direct advice on a wide range of domestic topics, sending her papers to help with each day’s meetings when she was in London. . It is curious that the  memo I wrote which has excited attention was not designed for the PM herself, but for the Policy Unit members. It was a fairy tale version of what I thought would happen to the Stock Exchange once the government told them they needed to reform themselves and remove their restrictive practices. The official advice I gave on the topic does not seem to have seen the light of day, probably because it was  not  written mainly  for fun as the fairy story had been.

         Peter Oborne in his column  has referred to the absence of a piece of advice on the main privatisation programme. The principal paper which got Mrs Thatcher interested in a substantial programme was retained  by her and not filed with the official papers as she liked the paper I wrote and wanted to keep  it as a reference. It has found its way into the Churchill College archive in Cambridge directly from her own papers. There was plenty of other advice offered by myself and other Policy Unit members on the general privatisation programme.  but that will need researchers to find it amidst the voluminous papers of a busy government.  

          I see that in Scotland there is criticism of so called “secret cuts” to the Scottish block grant. There were no secret cuts. The Treasury proposed a cut on  the grounds that Scotland got favoured treatment, which the Prime Minister rejected. The Scottish block grant that was agreed was reported and debated fully in the normal way!


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  1. Lifelogic
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Indeed a hugely important victory, in which you played an important role very well. This has, on balance, created for more jobs and benefits to the UK than were lost.

    Alas Cameron’s many failings are going to give us Miliband, Unite and the state sector unions in charge in just 17 months, a huge lost opportunity that was there for the taking in 2010.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Tell it to the millions in low paid dead end jobs that replaced high paying coal mine work and the towns and cities outside London to this day ravaged by these policies. Thatchers children are now Thatcher grandchildren suffering the same deprivation. Don’t tell us anything like that from you secret ex-pat going to the dogs location.

      • uanime5
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget about all the old mining towns that have high unemployment because nothing was introduced to replace the jobs lost when coal mining ended.

        • Mark B
          Posted January 4, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

          So true !

          People like Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, John Major and Tony Blair, should all hang their heads in shame for all closing down unprofitable coal mines and not doing a thing to help the communities !

          I think when casting blame, one should be at least honest and not just name one name, but all the names involved.

          We could of course go back further, but I think you get the point.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        You ought to do your homework Bazman, and see what the out-going leader of the NUM, Joe Gormley, said before he left office. He confirmed that the miners had effectively become middle-class, and warned those who would follow him not to wreck what had thus been achieved. He could see the dangers of industrial strife far in advance of many of his contemporaries.

        I know it’s difficult for some to escape their narrow, lefty, brainwashed mind-set and try to see a bigger picture, but I’m interested to know how you’d square the fact that some pits were worked out, or were too expensive to run, and that keeping them open would have a knock-on effect upon the rest of us with dear energy prices?

        Just as with Miliband and his energy taxes, it would have driven a lot of other people into poverty, just so that inefficient loss-making and heavily-subsidised industries could be kept open. It would then have been the miners themselves who were derided as ‘fat cats’ and resented even more widely than they were at the time for holding the rest of us to ransom, but I guess that scenario doesn’t count in the skewed and ‘fantasy’ world of the political left.

        • Bazman
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

          Middle class miners. Now theres a thing.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        These mines were clearly going to have to close anyway, the sooner they closed the better. Then other profitable businesses and tax payers did not have to continue supporting them for evermore and could then use the funds more sensibly themselves.

        Unfortunately Cameron/Blair/Brown/Major & the EU have substituted idiotic “renewable” taxpayers subsidies which are even worse.

        • Bazman
          Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

          Massive subsidy to nuclear is no problem though and col can still be used as there is no such thing as global warming. Coal will never be used in this country as it cannot be mined for minimum wages and needs manpower. Nuclear and gas do not no matter how expensive they are. This is why the government support it. You would have to provide real unionised good paying work.

    • Richard1
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely, congratulations on your role during those turbulent years. There should be proper recognition for the relatively small number of Conservative ministers and politicians, led by Margaret Thatcher, who were determined to see democracy and the rule of law prevail over extreme left-wing union bullying. The unions and the socialist policies their puppets in Labour governments foisted on the Country wrecked the economy in the post war decades. The 1980s saw this terrible decline turn around. We are a a richer and freer country as a result.

      We must nevertheless remain vigilant against new collectivist ideologies which pose similar threats to prosperity in the future.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        That will be the banks and the banking system and big business not pay the correct tolls whilst making large profits? If not then who? The population demanding a share of the wealth generated?

        • Richard1
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          Not sure what this means. The relative economic performance of the UK turned a sharp corner in the 1980s as a result of the Thatcher Govt’s reforms. That has provided huge opportunities for millions of people which they would not otherwise have had. It is certainly true, as others point out in this string, that there was hardship as a result of pit closures. That is what happens when the state props up uneconomic industries. They become monopoly employers and the areas around them economic wastelands as soon as the subsidies are inevitably removed. The same has happened in the former soviet union in areas where the state established and funded uneconomic industries. The lesson is not to have these socialistic distortions in the economy in the first place.

          • Bazman
            Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            Many areas have gone from monopoly industries to monopoly state benefits almost all coal is imported so the state in many areas now subsidises it with benefit payments and tax credits not to mention housing benefit. don’t forget that these jobs were not minimum wage work. The question is as the inequality grows in this country how will the wealth be shared. You seriously expect people to have nothing and be happy with it because of circumstances far beyond their own control with the like of you telling them its for their own good?

    • David Cowie
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Think you are all missing the point, the Govt lied in 84 and deceived the people. Mcgregor is a bear faced liar re his plans are were those in the know. Love him or Loathe him Scargill was telling the truth all along had the truth came out at the time History would be different and Thatcher would not have got away with the half of what she did. As for it being a victory, try telling that to the thousands who starved trying to protect their families. Never was it inevitable, it was manufactured and watching Torys re write history is appalling (as they did with their relationship with Mandela)

      • Duyfken
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        And I suggest that you Mr Cowie have missed the point. In the all-out fight between Scargill and his followers against Maggie, I am sure the truth suffered in the process from both sides. Of course that happened. The point was that the unions, in this case the coal-mining union, needed to be brought to heel – they were just out of control and succeeding, under the previous regimes, in flouting the democratic rule of parliament and of the country. There is little that can be said about Scargill other than to deride his avowed intention to scupper the government. If you think that was a laudable aim, then there is no point in arguing the toss with you. The consequences for those directly affected as you have described, are certainly more than unfortunate; one needs to look farther than at Thatcher’s actions to attach the blame.

        Still, I like the ursine description of Mr McGregor.

        • David Cowie
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          I would argue that the Govt flouted the democracy of the country. That was the politicizing the police etc. “Had to be brought to heel”. Since the demise of Unions, working people have indeed been brought to heel, as you put it. Torys will never serve the interests of those that work hard. Which under this Govt and the ideological IDS, means we are now to work for our poverty>

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Scargill said the pits would all be closed, the right said he was scaremongering as it was not possible, and like millions of blacksmiths who believed they had a job for life because people would always need horseshoes coal miners could not conceive of a world where the mines were closed down forever and then they did. To them waste money, resources on gas, nuclear and to export bad working conditions and wages for other coal mines. China has cheap coal due to advanced mining techniques or closer to home eastern Europe? Get real. How much dole and benefits not to mention social problems did it all cost and is still costing. Chinese/French nuclear is for the best? Ram it.

        • Edward2
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

          You repeatedly call for a pollution free sustainable energy policy for this country Baz.
          But now you are calling for us to return to mining and burning coal as a part of this mix.
          Your ideas just don’t make sense.

          • Bazman
            Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

            I have repeatedly called for a green end game. Ram it.

      • Mark B
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Of course Scargill was telling the truth. Coal mines were being closed long before Lady Thatcher came to power. it was hardly anything knew.

        But Scargill had other ideas way beyond those of a mere Union. He used the miners for his own ends. Never allowed them a democratic vote on whether or not they wanted to strike, and used questionable methods to insure people stayed out.

        The miners should have been allowed to run the pits as a co-operative. Free from poor management.

        If you asked many miners at the time what future they wanted for their children, I do not think it was one deep down under the ground.

        Yes, more should and could have been done. Bu the previous administration (Labour) had bankrupted the country and forced it to go to the IMF.

      • Bryan
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        You really must not rewrite history, whether you sympathized with the miners or not. When opposing the closure of the Kent coal fields Mr Scargill bleated constantly that the fields produced the most economic deep mined sea coal in the world. It might of been true if any of the seams actually went out to sea!

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    It must make you feel really old when the cabinet papers are released when you were there! But thank you for a fascinating account. The BBC were, predictably, very anti “Thatcher” and even hinted that she was determined, secretly, to close 70 pits just to hurt innocent women and children.

    Now the EU are the Unions who need standing up to. They are closing down our coal fired power stations and interfering on our windmill policy. The lights will stay on, though, because there are a lot of diesel generators which, as everyone knows, do not emit carbon footprints.

    • Mark B
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Whilst the EU, do indeed have more than just a hand in environmental and energy policy, we must not forget that environmental lobby groups and even our own Government are responsible for the mess that we find ourselves in.

      They knew and should have therefore foreseen what was ahead, that is what they are paid for.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Mark–The Environment Agency would be the first for the chop if it were down to me. If ever there were a make work place full of Jobs(not)worths this is it. Personally, I take offence for instance at being instructed (“by law”) to fill in a form (in detail for each river and period) showing my catch each year. This is what happens when Government sets up a politically correct but useless, even counterproductive, Department, meaning of course they rapidly manage to find so-called work to fill their nine to fives. It’s bad enough that one should have to pay for a Government licence (not cheap) in the first place, not that I have ever seen a Government inspector, Thank God, though I have no doubt at all that hundreds perhaps thousands of them get paid. Simply shut the whole Department down, dead easy. Absolutely nothing, nothing adverse that is, would happen.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Indeed the BBC is nearly always anti everything remotely to do with Lady Thatcher, they even got at her daughter Carol (etc ed). They far prefer “great intellectual thinkers” like Russell Brand and Jo Brand.

    • formula57
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      It increasingly seems that the BBC is the new enemy within.

      Where oh where is a Thatcher, adroitly assisted by a Redwood, to smite them?

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        There are a few good Tory MPs available for the job, but most Tory MPs would never support any sensible policies as they are Ken Clark, John Major, Tim Yeo, “BBC think”, taxis for hire or just career politician types.

      • David Cowie
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        The same biased Media that attacked and demonised Scargill. Get tired of those on the right moaning about the BBC etc. The right control most of the press and give a biased account of everything. Someone dares to report that the Torys got caught lying and they start spitting the dummy out. 30 years from now we will be reading about the secret Tory plans to privatise the NHS!! Hopefully we will still have some non biased press to report same.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink


      ‘The BBC were, predictably, very anti “Thatcher” and even hinted that she was determined, secretly, to close 70 pits just to hurt innocent women and children.’

      The BBC have a proven track record, and I notice the political commentator, Peter Jones, made a rare appearance on the BBC News channel yesterday to give his take on the release of the papers. That reminded me of one occasion at the time of the BSE problem, when I was in the central lobby of the House of Commons talking to Peter Bruinvels. Jones came up to us and engaged us in conversation. It was clear he was trying to get us to say something damaging to the government, but we weren’t buying any of it. No doubt if we had said something controversial, it would have been attributed to ‘sources close to the government’ which would have been an absolute nonsense, but that’s the way the BBC works and it’s little wonder a lot of people steer well clear. Little wonder too that consequently, so many other broadcasters get the scoop on them. So the much trumpeted accolade ‘most trusted broadcaster’ is a bit hard to swallow.


      • lifelogic
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        “the BSE problem” and whatever happened to that hugely overblown government scare?

        Still by lovely beef ribs on the bone, were very reasonable for quite some time – it is an ill wind as they say.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, for some time we could actually afford to buy it quite often without having to take out a second mortgage.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Few working people realise or remember the Power the Unions held back then.

    Closed shop agreements, even internal battles between unions themselves for representation of “workers rights”

    Try to get out of the manditory political levy then, and you would be sought out.

    Union branch meetings were held on a weekly/monthly basis where a few took the decisions (by Vote) for many, all above board and proper according to the rules, as any member could attend, but precious few did, other than the regulars.

    How do I know,
    I was an elected Shop Steward at the time, gaining that position within the department in which I worked, as I and they were fed up with all of the manipulation and constant arguments with management, and thus we sought to try and change it from the inside, for the long term better good of the members and indeed the Company.

    I and a few others did attend regular Branch meetings, did out vote the old crowd for a time, but then pressure was put on from on high, and Branch meetings were flooded with new members meaning that the traditional stance on policy returned.

    The Company (which employed over 2000 workers) eventually moved out of the area for so called economic reasons, but subsequently closed a few years later.

    A little bit like you with the Conservative Party John, you tend to stand more chance when working from the inside, rather than trying to batter and influence from the outside, you hope people listen to commonsense, sometimes your point gets through, but on other occassions it is futile.

    Do I think Unions have a place in todays World ?

    Certainly, because you cannot allow Companies to do entirely as they please with regard to the workforce, however Unions also have to realise that in trying to overprotect the workforce with their demands, they actually hasten their demise.

    • oldtimer
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      The 1970s were especially bad in this respect. In the Midlands shop stewards held sway, often by intimidation – one was known as “Bunch of Fives H*****”, referring to his readiness to use his fists to get his way. At the time some national union leaders privately said they could not control their shop stewards. That era ended with the dismissal of Red Robbo. They carry a heavy, but not sole, responsibility for the decline of manufacturing in the Midlands in the 1970s because of their refusal to adapt to the needs of a changing world. In consequence many businesses folded.

      Ian McGregor was well aware of this background history when he was appointed to run the NCB. It seemed to me that Scargill was fighting the rearguard action of that militant group. Fortunately he met his match.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        Bankers replacing the union bosses and ever worse working conditions with pay subsidised by the state and massive inequality for huge swathes of the population as the unions influenced has waned is progress then? The unions on the whole look after the interests of the many instead of an elite few. Don’t laughably compare bankers to union bosses in terms of privilege. Bankers have the best pay, union and closed shop ever to exist.

        • alan jutson
          Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink


          You are correct in so far as the Unions represented the many, and were an absolute essential when they were first formed, particularly with regard to health and safety at work, and gaining improvement in general working conditions.

          But do remember that many Unions Bosses now have huge salaries, a huge pension provision, a very large expense account, and often live in Union Funded subsidised accomodation.

          They are thus now financially very far removed from most of the people they represent.

          Indeed some even earn more than the Prime Minister.

          Now why did I make that comparison ?

          Perhaps because both do not always listen to the Grass Roots opinion either, but prefer to go in their own direction, but never suffer the consequences of their actions.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink


      Absolutely! That undemocratic Marxist trash set the cause of the British trade union movement back decades! Unions do indeed have a role in the workplace. Used properly, they provide representation, and prevent exploitation, but I have bitter memories of those that used to hold all the power in Coventry in the early 1970s.

      And I note there’s one or two on these pages who are involved with trade unions whose vitriolic language doesn’t exactly give us any cause for optimism. Everything they write is tainted with nastiness, and that puts people off. They seem to forget that there were and still are an awful of trade union members who aren’t socialists, and don’t vote Labour. I made sure the Marxists within the trade unions were aware of that fact back in the 1970s, but they did all they could to silence me. The effect that had, was to set me against them for life.


    • Allan
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      “Try to get out of the manditory political levy then, and you would be sought out.”

      The political levy has not been mandatory since the 1913 TU Act (which overturned the earlier 1909 actions in the Courts which severely damaged the TUs). No member could be (nor can be) made to pay into the political levy. The TU could ask for the member to pay in but could not force any member to pay in.

      Any TU official found guilty of such behaviour would of course leave themselves and their TU open to both criminal and civil sanctions. From memory, I think it was around ’85 the requirement to ballot the membership of the TU on the very existence of the Pol. Levy every 4 or 5 years was introduced.

      These reforms continued right into the ’90s with TUCLRA etc

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:59 pm | Permalink


        Some of us had to live in the real World as it was, not how we would have liked it to be or how it should have been.

        Life could be made fairly uncomfortable if you tried to go against the Unions wishes.
        No I do not mean violence, but there were plenty of other methods that could be used that could make your job untenable and uncomfortable.

  4. Mark B
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    John Redwood MP said;

    “John Moore the privatisation Minister worked up some proposals but they got into the press before they were fully thought through or cleared with the PM, so the whole idea was lost.”

    Funny that. Not in a, “Ha ha” sort of way. Anyone might think that the running of former State owned business by the people as some sort of co-operative, would be a bad idea.

  5. Johnnydub
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    As someone born in 1972 I can’t really appreciate how bad the 70’s were but it does seem clear to me the malign influence of the British unions.

    Look at our car industry – we’re now the second biggest manufacturer of cars in Europe, so why no British manufacturers?

    Because the unions killed them all. It’s only the threat that external owners can say “behave or we’ll move the factory out of the country” that has kept the unions in their boxes (c.f. Ineos / Grangemouth)

    This is also the reason the unions have ploughed full steam into the public sector as they perceive the government can’t do the same…

    • Allan
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      You also might want to look at how management behaved during the ’70s. It certainly wasn’t all one way traffic. If you’re interested have a trawl for how the management of shipyards on the Clyde reacted to the idea of consolidation and modernisation.

      The skilled workforce were in the majority keen for consolidation to happen – the white collar management – especially senior management were certainly not quite so keen as their numbers would have been dramatically reduced.

      For one reason or another HMG though was determined to utterly end shipbuilding and even when in Opposition, Conservative MPs made it clear that UCS was to be ‘butchered’ with assets sold off on the cheap.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Those official papers do indeed serve as a reminder of those turbulent years. How gratifying for you to have served such a Prime Minister at such a time. You will never tell us, but the comparison with the political lightweghts on both front benches today must be very stark and frustrating for you – I know it certainly is for me.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Never a truer word Brian! The present shower, with the odd exception, are just a load of spineless yesmen jellybabies. They all seem to come from the same sort of background and lack grit. We need people who speak our language who the rest of humanity can identify with. A Nigel Farage maybe.


    • Mark B
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Well said Brian.

  7. JA
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    The ‘uneconomic’ industry of this day has to be the over enlarged, irrelevant and supreceded political class, surely ?

    This is where huge modifications and savings for our country could be made. Why do we need such mighty organs of state and expensive employees in what surmounts to a council province (with no real powers) within the EUSSR ?

    What was good for the workers, surely ? (I agree that the miners had to be dealt with)

  8. JoeSoap
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    This is really all about people getting between 2 groups of other people and how do they make things better or worse for the people they have gone between?

    In a sense the NCB got between the miners and the pit, which the miners saw as a patch of earth which was indigenous to them, with added investment in materials and methods by an intermediary, the NCB aka government. The miners felt they were being “had” by the NCB, and without a proper assessment of market value of their coal vs. costs, there was no proof to the contrary. There was no open market in today’s sense, with possibilities for importing as much coal as was needed or switching to oil/nuclear/gas. This seemed to breed a sense of monopoly and privilege amongst the mining communities, and much of the remainder of the population felt they were being “had” by the miners. This conflict paved the way for a far more open, privatised energy market, without government involvement.

    The question is- where do we see parallel situations today, with involvement of governments, intermediaries, the people feeling that they’re being had, whilst the producers feel that they are in a monopoly position?

    We are closest to this with the supply of money, I guess. The banks have the investment in infrastructure and in a way are in a parallel situation to the NCB of 1984. They can, in theory, create or stop the flow of cash, albeit the government has a quasi-veto over their actions. People feel that they are working at the “coal-face” but aren’t making the returns they should be, with tax, deductions and low interest rates on savings chipping away. They see the returns going to the government’s friends on welfare and in the banks. The same friends today as were Gordon’s in 1997-2010.

    Scargill brought this situation to a head in the coal industry, by alerting the workforce to just what was going on under their noses. Perhaps we need a Scargill today in the economic sphere to show us what is happening to the money being made by the workforce, but manipulated and squandered by government and the banks?

  9. Atlas
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    So it would seem that Scargill was right after all. There was a secret plan to close 70 pits. A plan Thatcher and the NCB chairman denied existed. All very Machiavellian.

    For me, the use of the police in a way that made them a law unto themselves in that dispute – and it is an attitude they still have now – sapped my confidence in the Conservatives to the point of no-longer supporting them.

    Reply The government did not accept Mr Macgregor’s idea of substantial pit closures. They were only prepared top back a policy of judging each pit on its merits depending on its geology.

    • zorro
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – Yes, but they denied that the plan existed, when of course, it clearly did….


      Reply The Coal Board was a nationalised industry. It had to agree its closures, wage bills etc with the Treasury who lent it to money it needed to pay for the losses and investments it was making. The government did not agree to a 70 plus pit closure programme, so it was not a secret plan, but a vetoed plan.

    • Atlas
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your reply. I take your word for it that the Government of the day did not accept Macgregor’s idea as proposed by him.

      For myself I can only say that what I saw of the dispute – and I think Scargill stupidly shot himself in the foot by not getting a strike ballot mandate – has indeed cast a long shadow on my opinion of the Conservative Party.

      I actually joined a trades union (after years of viewing them as the Devil) when I was on the receiving end of Thatcher peremptorily tearing up an employment agreement with the Civil Service. So much for negotiations eh?

      Experience is worth a thousand words – as I came to realise why the actions of the Tolpuddle Martyrs were something to be proud of.

      Not all Trades Unionists are Bolsheviks.

      Reply Far from it. There are many good Trade Unionists who value the services and collective bargaining their union provides. However, Mr Kinnock has made clear that Mr Scargill’s actions and words were far from helpful to the Labour movement.

  10. Bert Young
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    When I read the comments on the released papers criticising Margaret Thatcher yesterday , I put on my beloved ” I love Maggie ” baseball cap given to me years ago by a member of the Conservative Central Office . Some of her decisions were , in retrospect , wrong , but , in taking on the Unions and restoring the balance and confidence needed badly in the country , she was proved right . Without her leadership and courage we would have been reduced to nothing and the laughing stock of the world . God rest her soul .

  11. Alan Wheatley
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    When I moved from Berkshire to live in Yorkshire in the 1990s I noticed the BBC local television programme, Look North, flavoured comment with a “miners good, Tories bad” slant. Apart from this bias I thought Look North to be a good programme.

    It struck me that by repeatedly chanting the mantra history was being rewritten in peoples’ minds, and this is something not limited to Yorkshire.

    I recall hearing it be said that more pits were closed under the subsequent Labour government than under the Conservatives. Can someone confirm this?

    Reply There was continuous decline in the coal industry under all governments from 1945 to 2010. The average number of employees 1947-57 was 704,000. This fell to 401,000 by 1967, and to 235,000 by 1979 when Mrs Thatcher became PM. So two thirds of the mining jobs of the nationalised post war industry were destroyed before Mrs Thatcher arrived on the scene, a lot of them under Labour 1964-70 and 1974-79.

    There were 698 mines in 1960, but only 289 by 1971-2. The bulk of those 410 pit closures occurred under the Labour government of 1964-70.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply: If you hadn’t used those figures John, I was going to. A similar thing happened with the railways. Some lines were so uneconomic, it was sait it would have been cheaper to buy each of the small number of passengers who used them a car of their own.

      As a lover of railways, I didn’t want to see them decline, but the realty is that someone, somewhere, has to pay for them. The Beeching report recommended a lot of closures, some of which occured during the last months of the Tory administration. Labour came to power in 1964 promising to blunt the beeching axe, but closures went ahead anyway, which is cynical. Yet the BBC still try to spin it as though it was all down to the Tories.

      Why not then some intrepid conscientous MP try to get a private member’s bill to re-christen the BBC the ‘Biased Bolshy Broadcasting Corporation’?


      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        Tad–My memory is that Professor Sir Alan Walters (on the back of an envelope in about 5 minutes I should say) showed that it would be cheaper to give passengers, so few were they, a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce to get about in. And that’s just the passenger trains: on one line near me the Goods Trains simply didn’t run most days because there was not a single item to transport. I too love the railways and although there was no choice but to close many of them I still do not understand why many more were not kept open on a once-a-month ‘ghost train’ basis just to keep the line open. In other words I am saying that a great deal of the cost was wages. We could still have had available then on that basis the lines from Ally Pally and Noel park in to the City of London. Ask anyone on the Northern Line in the Rush Hour whether that would have been a good idea.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          Fair point Leslie, and accepted with good grace. The irony now however, is that trains are once again coming into their own, and some of the closed lines would be most useful as in the ‘London extension’ of the old Great Central. Maybe we can put a lot of that down to the rapidly expanding population which has resulted in our roads being close to saturation point. What a pity that in an attempt to keep the economy expanding, quality of life and the right to a bit more personal space wasn’t factored into the equation.


      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Hold on, we could be competing for MPs here.

        I’ll be looking for an MP who will introduce a Private Members’ Bill making it a criminal offence for a retailer to offer for sale any article with any label stuck on any surface which would be visible during the normal use of said article, unless an approved water-soluble adhesive is employed so that said label may be easily and cleanly removed without leaving any sticky residues on said visible surface of said article.

        That was the thought that came to me when I had spent nearly half an hour trying to clean off whatever mucous material the Chinese had used to stick a label on a new mat for the cats’ dishes …

        But maybe it’s an EU competence anyway?

    • Bob
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Reply There was continuous decline in the coal industry under all governments from 1945 to 2010. The average number of employees 1947-57 was 704,000. This fell to 401,000 by 1967, and to 235,000 by 1979 when Mrs Thatcher became PM. So two thirds of the mining jobs of the nationalised post war industry were destroyed before Mrs Thatcher arrived on the scene, a lot of them under Labour 1964-70 and 1974-79.

      There were 698 mines in 1960, but only 289 by 1971-2. The bulk of those 410 pit closures occurred under the Labour government of 1964-70.

      Publishing this information could trigger convulsions to the small minority of your readers who still believe in the BBC.


      Why not then some intrepid conscientious MP try to get a private member’s bill to re-christen the BBC the ‘Biased Bolshy Broadcasting Corporation’?

      Just cut the Licence Fee, it’s time wean them from public subsidy. Life outside of their cosy Licence Fee bubble will do the rest.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Re reply, thank you JR.

      Perhaps there needs to be some chanting of a different mantra!

      I would like to think that with all that coal still under our feet and the never-ending need for energy there could be a long-term future for coal, mined and used in ways appropriate for the 21st century.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      Are you sure that the numbers of mine workers were so dramatically reduced over time because the mines were unproductive or was it rather that modern methods were being used and the same level of staff were not required?

  12. Chris S
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I see from a little research that 239 miners at Tower colliery paid £2m for the mine, each contributed £8,000 from their redundancy money.

    They managed to work it from 1995 until January 2008. I hope they felt it was a worthwhile enterprise and that they made a decent living.

    Margaret Thatcher really had no choice other than to take on Scargill who really was the enemy within. It’s true that she defeated him and as a result we now have sensible labour laws and union power is constrained as it should be ( the exception being its influence on the Labour Party ).

    But the Conservatives have ultimately paid a very high price and to some extent so has the country. Voters have a long memory and as a direct result, with the exception of the Major years, the Conservatives now seem unable to command a clear majority at a General Election and their position in Scotland is truly dire.

    The dispute was made so bitter by Scargill that I find it difficult to see what Mrs T could have done differently at the time. We know she simply had to win.

    I agree that she certainly could have been more magnanimous in victory, but perhaps you have a view on the way the dispute was conducted, John ? Would it have been possible to win a bit more humanely ?

    Reply That was what I wanted them to do, and my advice which they did accept was not to use troops and not to intervene directly to up the tension.

  13. acorn
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Those were the days. In 1979 the UK domestically produced 120 million tonnes of Coal, now we mine about 15 million tonnes, the rest we import from Russia; Columbia and the USA.

    Since 2011, we have been a net importer of gas via the European gas network from Norway, Belgium, Netherlands and in liquid form from Qatar.

    Our Electricity Grid is becoming unbalanced in terms of dispatchable and non-dispatchable generation types. The system needs major interconnections with the European Grid network for long term stable use of our large tranche of wind generation, which will be increasingly “constrained off grid” at great expense.

    Punch and Judy politics, comes with its own economic self destruct mechanism.

    Reply In 1957 the UK coal industry produced 220 m tonnes

  14. Robert Taggart
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Methought you did well Johnny – in the calm and measured way you handled the probably mischievous if not hostile broadcast media – no need to mention which one ?

    So there was a long hit-list of pits for closure – one always thought there was – and was even more pleased when it came to pass.

    The ‘war of minds’ had to be won – hence the ‘economy of truth’ on this matter.

    The NUM / Scargill now claim a moral victory – indeed – it matters not – it being but a pyrrhic victory at best.

    “Power to the People” – the electorate that is !

    Reply Macgregor wanted to close pits, but the government did not. The government was prepared to support the notion that economic decisions had to be made pit by pit and that on a case by case basis worked out and uneconomic pits had to shut, but did not accept a large advanced closure list.

    • bigneil
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      my father was finished due to the closures – although the effect was lessened as it was 6 month before he was due to retire – -he disliked scargill but was devastated at what it was doing to the younger workers with families.

      I think some of the people on here who have clearly never done any other job than behind a desk should actually try manual work – -a manager at the factory I retired from did not believe our version of the workload – -so he agreed to come and have a weekend of 3×12 hr night shifts with us. – -he never finished one of them and was shattered – he admitted he could not do what we did – and at early 30s he was the youngest there !! – -he also did not realise that people who worked night shifts went to bed during the day – he thought we all just stayed up !!

      such ignorance from management shows when a union is needed – -all we were was a load of scum to be worked to death

      similar to the govt -work us till we drop -take every penny off us they can – -and only come being nice when its election time – -then its back to usual – -us us us.

      • Robert Taggart
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Agreed, bigneil.
        Business and business people are all too often amoral, worse still immoral – if allowed to be so.
        Trade Unions have much to offer. Alas, all too often though – POLITICS as opposed to politics – takes precedence over the interests of their members. That said, the NUM members were all too often all too willing to ‘go with the flow’ of their Leaders ambitions.
        Be glad that few, so very few, other people have to go through all that agony anymore. The extraction of the latent energy still hidden beneath our ‘green and pleasant land’ need not occur in future in the same anachronistic manner anymore – it can be ‘tapped into’ with far fewer people and far less infrastructure – not unlike Fracking.

        THE Miners Strike – a battle that had to be fought – a score that had to be settled – a result most of us can be pleased with.

  15. Bazman
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    A past battle of mine was a strike in 1988 in a shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, which happened after the then VSEL management decided to scrap the new flexible holidays and return to a fixed works fortnight traditionally bad weather and high prices. They could not say why. Everyone was involved apart from apprentices, directors and a few oddballs this went on for about 6 months with the welders out in a separate strike over condition for further 12 weeks. The government of the time said they did not want to get involved with a commercial dispute, but like John this is disingenuous. How can a company with multi billion pound contracts building nuclear submarines and other weaponry with the government as its only customer and being told they should be the only customer be above this industrial dispute? Anyway the strike dragged on for everyone with The Tory MP Cecil Franks only input being to call for ballots to return to work and a mindless few repeating that they did not agree with strikes. Eventually it collapsed and everyone want back with moral at rock bottom mass redundancies soon followed and in 1992 I luckily got the boot along with ten thousand others.
    To my mind the strike was engineered as how could a company like this stop work without permission? Rumours at the time said the building of the subs was going to fast and the missile software was behind, so 12 weeks stoppage would have been convenient as Trident without missiles was not politically acceptable. As for flexibility, companies could ram it from that day on as far as I was concerned.

    Reply Such disputes are best resolved by dialogue between employers and employees. Bringing the government as customer in would usually hinder, not help. How could the management engineer a strike, without the active help of the Unions in so doing?

    • Richard1
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      This story also shows the difficulty any business faces when it has only one customer, especially when that customer is the government. It’s shows that the government must make sure it purchases from the most competitive supplier, potentially including foreign suppliers, in order to get the best deal for taxpayers. Where a domestic company is sole supplier to the government and where that company has no other customer, there will be a high risk of disputes of this sort.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Why was it necessary to have fixed holidays when the flexible trail was successful. The directors at the time said they just ‘felt’ it was right. Just ‘felt’ Try that one with your boss. This was not a few bloody minded individuals and their unions it was the whole yard of fifteen thousand employees in a whitewash vote for action.Why pursue it so doggedly? The missile software theory is a bit off the wall I must say, but at the time the Trident missile system was not fully operational with a missile crashing into the sea during a test fire.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Interesting comments there Baz. Help me out. You indicated in an earlier post that you were out of work, and you have my sympathy in that respect, but are you saying you are not prepared to be flexible in future as far as companies are concerned?

      If that is correct, is that not putting yourself at a disadvantage?

      The second point is an ambiguous one and I’d need to do a bit of research, but prior to 1988, missiles had been launched from nuclear submarines for years and the ones being built by your shipyard were of a largely proven design, so I’d say that a software problem was unlikely.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Flexible does not save your job as being the most cheapest and efficient does not.The last factory I worked at was the most efficient and profitable. The chairmans own words. Closed it anyway and everyone voted for a generous pay off apart from about five people. LOL! Would not have got that had it been a British non union company as opposed to a German unionised one. Even offered work to all in other plants which no one took. Your faith in companies and your loyalty especially your loyalty makes you a gift to them. Are you loyal to your bank and power company too?

        • Tad Davison
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          I hear you Baz, and I have to be honest and say I know of similar circumstances where seemingly profitable and well-run companies with good worker-management relations have been forced to close for the must incomprehensible of reasons, but that wasn’t what I was alluding to.

          You see, thanks to the EU, if the indigenous workforce either aren’t prepared to be flexible in the hours they work, or cannot for good social and family reasons, there are plenty from abroad who will, and often at a much reduced rate. That tends to erode our own living standards. I want to see our own people such as yourself given the jobs that are available. I found I had a lot in common with Bob Crow when he spelled out his opposition to the EU and I’m sure you’re acquainted with his position.

          As for my own loyalty, that is always to my family and to myself, not to any company, bank, or electricity supplier. Employers only got my loyalty and dedication, so long as they paid me for it. When I started work, I took home £11.50 per week provided I did a Saturday morning. I actually did more work than a man who sat next to me who took home £70 per week. I felt that was grossly unfair, so when another job came up that paid more, I took it, and to hell with being loyal to an unfair company.

          When I was 18, I was able to vote, fight in the armed forces, and even get married if I wanted to, but the company I then worked for had a policy of not paying the full rate until a person was 21. My wage at that time was £26 per week, but the company refused to budge, so I left, and they then had to employ two people to do my job, both of whom were paid £50 per week, so good economics there then. But they weren’t worth being loyal to.

          When I was 19, I went to work on a North Sea oil platform on a 28 day about contract – 28 days on, 28 days off. The hours were 12 hours per day, seven days a week whilst I was on board. That job paid a lot more, and effectively gave me six months per year to find temporary work in many areas, so provided I was prepared to graft, I got the rewards.

          I have always felt that if a person is worth keeping, they’re worth paying, because any company’s biggest asset is their workforce. And a person who is prepared to put themselves out, surely has to be more useful to an employer, so it cuts both ways. But it is often difficult to make employers see that cheaper is not necessarily better.

          In all, we in Britain need to be flexible and competitive, but the deal should be to maintain our living standards. A whole swathe of cheap labour coming to these shores might not do us many favours.


      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Tad, Vickers made the submarines, not the missiles.

        A current analogy would be building aircraft carriers for which there are no aircraft!

        • Tad Davison
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

          I know what you mean Alan, and it was probably the sloppy way I explained it. The technology for launching the missiles had been around for a while, the US used pretty much the same system, so on the face of it, and without researching it thoroughly, it seemed an unlikely reason for the slowdown in building our own vessels.

          But I take your point about our aircraft carriers. Without aircraft carriers, we aren’t presently able to defend our sovereign territory conventionally. All we need now is for a certain hostile South American country to invade the Falkland Islands, and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. I very much doubt if we could use Trident subs against them, except in the conventional role – and if we happened to lose one of them……..!


  16. John Wrake
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    An interesting account of former battles in which you played an important part. That part was, and is, appreciated.

    But there are too many instances in our history of forces organised and deployed to fight battles as they were fought before, of which the blitzkrieg of 1940 is a prime example. Those battles were lost.

    In the political field, you and your euro-sceptic colleagues in Parliament continue to use the strategies and tactics of the past. The real opponents of proper government now are not a readily identifiable enemy like over-powerful Unions and modern Arthur Scargills. They are those, elected like yourself to represent their constituents views and govern in the interests of Great Britain, who consistently fail to do so. They inhabit all three major parties in Parliament. Some are simply venal and self-serving. Others are ambitious for political advancement and simply do what the whips tell them. The most dangerous are those with plans to destroy this nation by subsuming it into a greater power, contrary to the oaths of office they have made.

    Until you and others like you rethink your battle plans, you are destined to fail.

    John Wrake.

    Reply All the time the Conservative Eurosceptics are seen as the problem rather than part of the solution it gives the federalists a big boost.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply: Which is why we must try even harder to turn it around. The exposure of blatant lies and misinformation would be a start. If it upsets the pro-EU lobby like some of the intransigent numbskulls who continue to defend the EU – tough!


    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Re reply: John, I do not see “Conservative Eurosceptics” as “the problem” at all.

      I think it would be fair to say that Conservative Eurosceptics have so far proven not to be the solution. I would like to think that they will be part of the solution, but seems they need to be a part a “combined operations” strategy.

  17. JoolsB
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Hasn’t the Scottish Block grant been increased at the same time as English councils are seeing their budgets cut further? So our Scottish, anti English Prime Minister rejects the fact Scotland (and Wales & NI) get preferential treatment – says it all really. Please remind him John that no matter how much money he slings at Scotland, they still won’t vote for him and if he and your party continue to do absolutely nothing about the Barnett Formula, the West Lothian Question and the unfair and discriminatory manner in which England is governed both politically and financially, then Scotland won’t be the only place where Tory MPs are as rare as pandas! And you wonder why England is turning to UKIP.

  18. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I think if mine and hundreds of others bread winning ability was taken from me I would cause a fuss, however what does not exactly chime is your wish to open some of those mines again.
    I wondered if the interview with CH4 was longer than shown and they edited it.They quoted you as saying that at that time you considered it to be war of attrition,but as I remember it was solely about the mine closures.

    Reply I do not recall using the phrase “war of attrition”. Margaret Thatcher saw it as a question of whether any elected government could govern or whether union power would prevail, as it had done over the Wilson, Heath and Callaghan governments before her.

    • Chris S
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      You only have to see the mess France is in to see exactly what would have happened here if Mrs T had not taken on the unions and won.

      For the next couple of years at most, our next door neighbour has the second largest economy in the EU yet is virtually ungovernable. No President has been able to force through essential changes because they are immediately faced with anarchy on the streets.

      Hollande is so frightened of the unions that he prevented Peugeot from closing a loss making factory yet that company is losing vast sums of money. The company appears to be going down the same route as British Leyland :

      Car sales were 14% down in France last year and I only read this morning that although they were also down by almost 5% in Germany, sales of Peugeot cars there were down 23% !

      By contrast, Jaguar and Land Rover sales here, in China, the US and in Germany are substantially up !

      • bigneil
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        years ago my brother used to repair cars – even as far as full bodyshell replacements – and on British Leyland cars used to find coins inside the ruined chassis – welded inside during construction in the factory – -so they would rattle as the car went over bumps – one car contained £1.74p all in small denomination coins – I felt sorry for whoever bought that one. -this wasn’t a one-off – it was regular.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:20 am | Permalink

          Niel, in 1981, I bought a six year old Morris Marina as part of a deal, and it was the biggest bag of crap short of a Trabant. It was as rotten as a pear and after I had welded on new wings and sills, and plated God knows where else, I had to re-build the clapped out B series engine. I also fitted many new or recon ancilliary components just to get it running right. In the time I had it, I changed the bottom trunnions several times, I fitted new diff bearings, new leaf springs, and it had two gearboxes. If I drove it above 40 MPH with the windows open, the headlining used to come down and almost suffocate the rear seat passengers.

          I recall the motoring press even tried to stop the Marina going into production, but they didn’t succeed. On my way into work every morning, I used to pass acres of them on the Rolls-Royce Anstey aerodrome, yet British Leyland kept churning them out, subsidised by the tax payer.

          That really miffed me, because my taxes were going to pay for it, and that taught me the errors of socialist policies. Yet they still criticise privatisation and the breaking of the stranglehold of the trade unions – the very thing that emancipated us.

          The system we have now is not perfect, but you had to live through the 1960s and 70s to appreciate how bad it was. And some would take us back to it. God help us if we ever get Milliband!

          If the standard of workmanship of cars is a measure, then privatisation has brought us a long way.


  19. behindthefrogs
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Leaving the decisions to the NCB meant that the full economic situation was not considered. In addition to the economic balance as seen by the NCB there were various factors that should have been considered. These should have included the welfare costs of the unemployed created, the affect on other businesses in the area and not least the economic cost to the country of having to import replacement coal. If these had been properly considered far fewer mines would have been closed on the same timescales.

    Both Mr Scargill and Mr McGregor were right and wrong in some of the arguments that they presented.

    • peter davies
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Also to add some balance our govt now pays subsidies for nuclear so a continued subsidy for coal in that context should have been acceptable.

  20. David Hope
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Could you elaborate a bit more on why the idea of privatising the pits or passing them into cooperatives failed? Sounds sensible enough.

    Why the did the leaking of these ideas lead to the idea being lost, surely it was a much better option than closure and less controversial? Did this idea go down very badly in the press or mining unions and if so why?

    Reply The Number 10 press office was asked to comment on the possible “privatisation ” of the pits. They issued a strong denial, before I could explain to the PM what was going on and try to persuade her to consider the idea. Once the PM’s spokesman had denied something it was usually impossible to resurrect it, for obvious reasons. I thought I had another week or so to work up the proposal and set it out in private to her, so had not written to her about it.

  21. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mr Redwood for putting your side in an objective tone.

    History seen through the eyes of the participants is facinating and more so if the narration is free from doctrine.

    I would very much like to hear a Scargill version without the rhetoric.

  22. Demetrius
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    As someone in the middle of the strike what was amazing was the arrogant stupidity of the coterie attempting to run it. They were told on day one that the government was to some extent both prepared and capable. This was ignored for a number of reasons, notably the power they thought they had. Many truly believed they were on the way to turning the UK into something like East Germany and that the strike was a Second Coming of the Russian 1917 Revolution. The miners paid a heavy price in the end and the blame lay squarely on the miner’s so called leaders.

  23. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    The two miner’s strikes of the early 1970s did not finish off the Heath government. The fact that he broke every major promise of the 1970 manifesto did finish him off.

    No support for lame ducks – broken
    Immigration control and financially assisted repatriation – broken
    Only join the EEC if the terms were right – broken
    No statutory control of prices and incomes – broken
    Good fiscal and monetary control – broken

    Edward was true to himself in one sense. He thought that full employment meant an unemployment rate of 3% and his head was full of neo-Keynsian rubbish.

    Reply The 3 day week and the dislocation caused by the miners’ strike was I think an important factor in his defeat. the strike also accounted for the early election.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:04 am | Permalink

      Agreed, but as I recollect it the second miner’s strike and the 3 day week arose precisely because the Heath government attempted statutory control of prices and incomes, in direct contradiction to its 1970 manifesto commitments. I remember the name of the act; it was the Counter Inflation Act. This totally ignored the fact that the 1972 budget increased public expenditure dramatically and created a fiscal deficit that was financed by printing money. The inflation was the government’s fault.

      On the eve of the poll Heath was headed for a 60 seat majority until Enoch recommended a vote for Labour. “Vote Labour – Scupper Ted”. I have the Evening Standard news story, now yellow with age, on my bookshelf. Ted’s manifesto asked “Who governs Britain?” Enoch thought that was the right question but applied it to our surrender of sovereignty to the EEC.

  24. zorro
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Please tell us that Cast Elastic will not bottle it….? Doubtless, Eurosceptic Dave will ram it through with the Parliament Act…….lalalala


    Reply If the Parliament Act is necessary and can be brought in then I expect Mr Cameron will do so. There may, however, be legal issues over the applicability of the Parliament Act, and the Conservatives do not have a majority on their own to simply assert or enforce it. Better would be for the Lords to understand the will of the people and the Commons and to get on with passing it.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      If the Prime Minister wants to ram a Bill through over the objections of the Lords then he has to get the Commons to pass it for a second time. If there was a solid majority in the Commons who would support doing that then it would not be a problem, as all the stages could be dealt with very quickly on the same day, but of course there is not that solid majority.

    • zorro
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – But we are talking about the hypothesis that the Tories have a majority in Parliament post 2015 and can push it through the Commons….but the HoL refuse to endorse it (quite likely)……. You mention some unspecified legal difficulties (even with the Tory majority in the Commons) with regards to the Parliament Act. So what does ‘heart and soul’ Eurosceptic Dave do in the face of these unspecified problems….? What if with all the obvious pressure from the media and bien pensants at the time supporting the Lords…… Are we really then to expect Cameron to have the political will against all this pressure to push this through, when he has already said that he will vote to stay in no matter what deal is effectively presented……? I can feel a credibility gap approaching….John, this is effectively what you will be expecting people to vote enthusiastically for the Tories for in 2015….ouch!!

      Reply If the Conservatives have a majority in the Commons then there is no difficulty in using the Parliament Act.


      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        “But we are talking about the hypothesis that the Tories have a majority in Parliament post 2015 and can push it through the Commons”

        No, we’re talking about the feasibility of using the Parliament Act to force through Wharton’s Bill before the next election. If the Tories got a majority at the next election then there could be a new Bill, a government Bill rather than a Private Members’ Bill, and if the Lords rejected it then there would be that solid majority in the Commons to pass it again as required under the Act, as explained here:

        But by the time that had to be done for a government Bill, which would be late 2016 according to the procedure laid down in the Act, the putative Tory government would be well advanced in its putative renegotiations with the other EU member states.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          Denis–I do not understand why we need a Bill at all, before, after or during the Election for all I care. If a referendum is in the Tory Manifesto and the Tories get in on their own I cannot grasp what there is to talk about. If there is some piece of Parliamentary baloney that says different, whatever it is should be swept away. I am a simple soul and struggle to believe that the Lords would think, or even be allowed to think, it a good idea to block a referendum that had just been voted for in a recent General Election. Personally, I should like many more referenda, period, and why we should need a Law each time in order so to do, God alone knows. To tell you the truth, I have trouble in this day and age understanding why we cannot have a referendum this afternoon–and if the Liberals say different let them stew justifying such a position. When did any of John’s cohort of commenters here ever meet an ordinary individual member of the electorate who does not want a referendum? Do we need a referendum on a referendum??

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            There has to be an Act of Parliament to authorise the holding of a national referendum, laying down conditions for it – who shall be allowed to vote, how it will be conducted, etc – and making provisions for the costs.

            You can see those matters covered in Wharton’s Bill:


            just as they were covered in the Act for the AV referendum.

        • zorro
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

          Thanks Denis, I did know that (Wharton’s Bill – never has had a chance anyway), but was thinking ahead (using the Royal ‘we’ I do get carried away at times!) and thinking about how Cameron would deal with this issue in a majority (however unlikely) Conservative administration post 2015… I can see how, having re-read what I wrote, how it could have been misunderstood. I suspect that I may not have been particularly lucid at that point….there may have been extenuating circumstances. Please forgive me 🙂


  25. Iain Gill
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I went to a school where the careers teachers basically told the boys “work in the shipyards, go down the mines, or join the army” that was the extent of their ambitions for us.

    At the time I was strongly pro Mrs T, and in comparison to the alternative she was far and away the best choice for the country.

    But on reflection many mistakes were made, some purely vindictive against parts of the country that were perceived as only ever likely to vote labour. It saddens me greatly to see once proud highly skilled hard working communities now consigned to the fate they suffer, these same people are now apparently scroungers and it is apparently their fault that state manipulation killed any demand for their skills.

    The political class of all sides needs a much broader intake with a much wider set of backgrounds, and something really needs doing about the blommin PPE courses. It is the political class and its lazy predictable half-truths that is the problem, and in its own way the current generation are making bigger mistakes than were being made then.

    A lot of supposed equations don’t really produce the accepted results when you consider the way people have been damaged and end up being supported by the state.

    I don’t think the political leadership have much of an idea what the country should be doing to pay its way in the world, and their manipulations tend to keep down our best chances. And my views are pretty far apart from the accepted wisdoms of the political class about which parts of society deserve subsidy and which don’t.

    Keep up the good work John.

  26. BobE
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    “Right to buy” destroyed social housing.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Only because there was no obligation to replace bought properties.

      • Chris S
        Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Mrs T insisted that councils did not replace the council houses that were sold by ring fencing the funds they raised from sales.

        I understand why she did that : Council estates were at that time bastions of socialism where every occupant was dependent on the state for their housing. There was no pride and no effort made by the vast majority of residents to improve the place or keep it looking nice.

        The transformation was dramatic and much for the better : owners started to have pride in their home and spent money on improvements. Many former council estates are now an excellent mix of public/private housing and look much the better for it.

        The advent of Housing Associations was another huge improvement and they make far better landlords than councils ever did.

        There are still some sink estates, mainly in cities which did not promote council house sales for political reasons.

        We are told there is now a housing shortage but that is entirely down to the last Labour Government’s immigration policy and the ongoing problem of being unable to restrict immigration from the EU.

        Without excessive inward immigration there would be no housing shortage.

        Reply No, that was not the policy. The policy was then Council had to repay any debt or mortgage outstanding on the homes it was selling but could use the rest of the money build new homes.

        • Iain Gill
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          I was a massive supporter of Mrs T and right to buy, but this is a massive distortion.

          I well remember council housing estates before right to buy came in, many were perfectly decent safe neighbourhoods full of proud residents. The worst problem areas were on the whole high rise developments which were a legacy of another public sector fashion which was badly divergent from reality, and on the whole few people bought high rise units under right to buy.

          The worst sink estates we have now are a result of the way social housing is managed and subsidised. Estates which were originally built to house the workers in shipyards, mines, glassworks, steelworks, and so on, are still there but now there are none of those industries left. If the tenants had any buying power at all they would have migrated over time as those industries shut down to areas with better jobs prospects, but they don’t their housing subsidy is tied to staying put largely. The state chooses to continue to subsidise housing in areas with little modern day jobs market, a massive distortion which could easily be solved by giving the individual citizens the spending power over their own housing subsidy. So naturally those that can escape these estates and sadly those left behind tend to be those that have little choice, and that leads to a one way dive in the local schools too consigning the youngsters to poor education and no chance of escaping.

          Housing Associations are just a mechanism to keep debt off the quoted public sector debt figures, they are still monopoly providers giving poor service to their tenants.

          The only thing you have right is that immigration is a massive problem, which none of the political class want to admit. And I am married to a (migrant? ed) and have (words left out ed) children fully integrated into a very diverse family and set of communities, I am not some BNP nutter. Really it amazes me the gap between reality and the political class on this issue.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          Reply to reply: But that’s the get-out John. A lot of councils didn’t use that money to build new council homes, it was used for other things. It might be worth digging to find out how many were Labour controlled councils. I seem to recall the Poulson scandal and that because of the drive to build high-rise blocks, some councils were in hock to a greater extent than some countries at that time.


  27. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    As I recall EC state aid rules came into this; national subsidies for coal production could only be reduced, not increased, and some of the countries on the continent had managed to get themselves higher initial bases? Perhaps you could comment on that, JR?

    Of course it can be argued that a country should not subsidise its coal production when it can import coal cheaply, but as behindthefrogs has commented above there are knock-on economic costs in shutting down such a major industry, and there are social costs, and for the Tory party especially there have been political costs which have led to an unhealthy state of division between different parts of the country.

    And now that we are no longer subsidising coal production, how wrong that would be in the eyes of the free market purists, instead we are subsidising bloody windmills.

  28. John Wrake
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Reply to reply: “All the time the Conservative Eurosceptics are seen as the problem rather than part of the solution it gives the federalists a big boost.”

    I don’t understand why you continue to misinterpret my comments.

    I nowhere suggest that Conservative Eurosceptics are the problem – indeed I thought I had identified those causing the problem fairly clearly.

    Equally clearly, the Conservative Eurosceptics HAVE a problem and I thought it proper for their friends to try to help them overcome it.

    Their problem is that they fight their corner with inadequate weapons within a party whose leader is totally opposed to their ideas and who is supported by a large majority of his followers, and his so-called partners in the coalition, not to mention the Opposition party.
    As Conservatives, they have already conceded the grounds of their argument to the federalists, as their leader continues to do. They emerge, in the eyes of many people, as a rump of petulant whingers, content to grumble at what they cannot change.

    Many of us have had our fill of words, honest or otherwise. We want to see some action to break the hold on this country of politicians who have neither the right to give away our sovereignty, nor the ability or willingness to manage our affairs in accordance with our constitution.

    Do not despise the criticism of your friends, and do not ally yourself with those who are not your friends.

    John Wrake

    Reply By working within the Conservative party we now have a party which opposed Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon and the Fiscal Treaty, is pledged to a renegotiation and to a referendum on whether to stay in. If I and others like me had left to join UKIP we would now be outside Parliament with no ability to obtain such changes from the party with the most MPs.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      I think it has to be asked whether your party leaders would have opposed any of those treaties if they had been in government at the time.

      I imagine that you and some other Tory MPs would have done, but unfortunately you are a small minority within a parliamentary party which probably still has more members who are deeply albeit quietly committed to the establishment of
      a pan-European federation than it has members who are deeply committed to maintaining our national sovereignty and restoring and improving our national democracy.

      I have pointed out before that to my knowledge only one of the major UK political parties has ever dared to openly display the EC/EU flag on the platform at its party conference, and moreover in what is the position of honour as if it was superior to our national flag, and that was the Conservative party in 1984.

      when Thatcher was giving her courageous and defiant speech after the IRA bombing.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Comment on Reply–John–Maybe you and yours like a boring life, or possibly do not have the courage of your convictions, I really do not know, but my view on what you just said is that, as often, you omit a whole major chunk of the argument on the subject of UKIP, meaning that if say half a dozen of you were to have up and joined UKIP and immediately resigned and stood again, for UKIP of course, we might have seen the sort of shakeup (virtually anything could have happened) that this subject so clearly needs. Far too many MP’s just like the status quo including the Terms and Conditions (I do not say that of you because you must be ultra employable). A conditional promise of a referendum in four years’ time in an attempt to blackmail the electorate is simply not good enough.

  29. Antisthenes
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The UK has a lot to thank Margaret Thatcher for as she took an ailing country and nursed it back to health. It appears that you had no small part in that so I tip my hat to you also. The left revile her which says more about them than it does her and if they had an ounce of decency would be very ashamed of themselves for doing so. I do believe that more are coming to the conclusion that she was one of the UK’s best prime ministers. We must bemoan the fact we do not have someone of her stature around today to lead the Conservative party (minus the wets of course) and the country.

  30. John Wrake
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Reply to second reply:

    The Conservative Party may well have voted against Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon and the fiscal Treaty, but it didn’t affect the outcome. The pledge to re-negotiation and a referendum in 2017 is a sham promise by a leader who is not just incompetent but mendacious.

    I have not suggested that you join UKIP. I HAVE suggested that you resign the Conservative whip and remain in your seat as an Independent. If others like you did the same, it would send a powerful message to those who have stopped their ears to the electorate.

    Reply And would help the federalists to a more federalist Parliament next time! Quite an own goal.

    John Wrake.

    • Chris S
      Posted January 4, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      I agree with John here But :

      While the Conservatives continue to think that they have a chance of winning in 2015 while ignoring the threat posed by a split vote on the right, nothing will change and I believe we will be heading for a disastrous Labour/LibDem coalition.

      I’m pinning my hopes that the Euro elections and subseqent polling will cause such a panic amongst Conservative MPS threatened with defeat that a deal will be done with UKIP to ensure we get the referendum we all want to see.

      I think that a deal is the only way of ensuring Labour is kept out of power since Cameron failed to get electoral reform through the house. That will go down in history as a catastrophic error for which he will be rightly blamed for failing to provide strong leadership when dealing with Clegg and Co.

      Without a electoral reform or a deal with UKIP I suspect that the Conservatives will end up just less 20 seats short of Labour’s total and that will put Miliband in Downing Street with Cable rather than Clegg by his side.

      That will be a disaster.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        You are right to highlight the failure to get the boundary changes, which means that the Tories will be under much the same disadvantage vis-à-vis Labour at the next election as they were at the last election, and by most accounts they would need to be about 6% ahead in overall support to have a chance of getting a Commons majority.

        But instead of being about 6% ahead of Labour as they would need to be, the Tories have been fairly consistently running at about 6% behind for the past year and a half:

        Of course it’s possible this could change by the time of the next election, and the Tories could close and then reverse that 6% gap, but I think that’s unlikely to happen even with an improving economy because the Tories will get little credit for that.

        There are some interesting conclusions to be drawn from looking at those charts: firstly that Labour would have won the last election handsomely if the LibDems had not temporarily inveigled about 11% of the voters into supporting them rather than Labour, and secondly that the Tories would lose the next election primarily due to their own failure to compete with Labour, and the rise of UKIP would play only a minor role.

        It’s a rather depressing thought that through its foolish ideas and lack of competence a party can make a complete mess of the economy and the government’s finances, and yet it only gets removed from office through voters being suckered into turning to a party with even more foolish ideas and even less competence, while the party which has in the past esteemed itself to be the natural party of government signally fails to exploit the gross failure of the governing party and the best it can do is to form a coalition which prevents it from rectifying imbalances in the electoral system so that it will probably fail to win the next election as well, and yet it tries to pin the blame for the consequences of its own deficiencies on a new party.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Chris S, I do not see any possibility of UKIP and the Conservatives doing a deal; indeed, I think a deal makes no sense.

        If you take it that the UK’s relationship with the EU is the most important policy issue at the next general election, then the two parties will go into that election with directly opposite views: UKIP’s main policy is that the UK should leave the EU; Conservative policy is that the UK should remain in the EU.

        As to the Conservatives, we know that Cameron is promising the renegotiation and referendum, but he is still clearly saying (e.g. to Andrew Marr this morning on BBC1) that his preference is for the UK to remain in the EU and that he thinks he will be able to negotiate improved terms such that they will enable him to recommend that course come the referendum.

        UKIP, in stark contrast, want the UK to leave no matter what terms might be achieved.

        As to general election votes, I think it futile to play the tactical voting game on an issue of such major consequence. Best to be given voting choices, and then vote for what you believe in.

        And take account of the various and unpredictable outcomes, one of which could be a minority Conservative government where there balance of power lies with UKIP and the LibDems nowhere.

        • Chris S
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

          I respect your view but the reality is that UKIP will at best get Farage elected if they are lucky but will have an “Eastleigh Effect” in many other constituencies.

          Remember, UKIP and the conservatives together polled more than 50% in Eastleigh yet the LibDem won!

          Surely the only thing that matters is for the referendum to take place ?

          It certainly won’t under Labour with of without the LibDems.

          If UKIP really do want an in/out referendum, working with the Conservatives is the ONLY way to make it happen.

          If they are so confident of winning it, why not let Cameron fail in his negotiations first ? John and his Eurosceptic wing will keep Cameron honest and will be very vocal over the outcome of the renegotiations.

          If UKIP don’t at least offer a deal they will be proved to be no more than a protest party that will fade to nothing after 2015 no matter how many MEPs they get in May.

          • Alan Wheatley
            Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

            There is a lot of water that has to flow under the bridge between today’s prediction and 2015’s general election!

            What ever your views on UKIP, one thing they clearly offer is that they are not the Conservatives, nor Labour and not the LibDems. If UKIP offers the Conservatives a deal then they immediately loose that differentiation and with it some of their appeal.

            There is too much deal-doing between those in power (in one way or another).

  31. peter davies
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    The miners issue is still a very emotive subject for many but the fact of the matter is that anywhere in the world that earns its living will have a limited shelf life based on supply/demand economics and the cost of extraction.

    The real villains in the case of the miners in my opinion were the government ministers that nationalized them in the first place. Had they allowed the pits to operate and fail independently we would not have ended up with a massively overmanned unionized workforce able to hold the UK to ransom.

    I haven’t read any of the 30 year papers but that was a very good piece by Mr Oborne on your role in the Policy Unit in the Telegraph. It seems that many of the current crop are short in the intellect/commonsense department so surely someone of your calibre could add real value and wisdom to the shaping of govt policy or are you too Anti EU/Anti PC for the current modern crop?

  32. John Wrake
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Reply to second reply, viz. Reply And would help the federalists to a more federalist Parliament next time! Quite an own goal.

    Since we presently have a federalist Parliament, the term ‘more federalist’ has no meaning. What you presumably mean is that your electors voted you in merely because you were the Conservative Party candidate, and not because you are John Redwood – therefore, if you leave the Party you will lose your seat at the next election.

    Only you can judge whether your political career simply rests on a Party affiliation, or whether people vote for you because of what you stand for. Though Party membership may have ruled in the past, I suspect we are in new territory now and electors will be looking for men and women of integrity rather than Party hacks to represent them in 2015.

    Of course, there are always risks when choosing between truth and expediency.

    John Wrake.

    Reply I think voters voted both for me and the party I represent. I set out my views as I see things, so I resent the idea that by being a party member I lack integrity. An independent MP has no colleagues or friends to second his motions or back his proposals.

  33. John Wrake
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    reply to last reply:

    I understand that my reference to people of integrity rather than Party hacks has caused resentment. I have not accused you of lack of integrity, nor of being a Party hack.

    How would you describe a person who supports by his membership an official Party policy with which he does not agree and which he is unable to change? Perhaps lack of consistency would fit.

    Such a person might claim that he works to change the Party policy from within. It is the claim made by successive governments about changing the European Union from within.
    You and I know that such attempts have failed and will continue to fail where the majority do not want to change.

    As for the claim that an Independent M.P. would have no friends or colleagues to back him, if true, it shows up Conservative Euroscepticism as a shadow. Being without a Party machinery to provide infrastructure would put an M.P. into a situation well known to the thousands of people running small businesses, who create much of the wealth of this nation.

    John Wrake.

  34. REPay
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I worked at the London Stock Exchange for several years… Big Bang and that reform was one of the best things to happen to the UK economy and to London. Your fairy tale was spot on too! I hope the next Labour Government or the EU does not ruin London as a financial centre.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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