A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lessons from history

One of my weaknesses is buying any second-hand books on Labour and union history that I spot in charity shops.

Appropriately for TUC conference week I have just finished reading 'Battered Cherub', the autobiography of NUM President Joe Gormley (1917-1993).

Quite aside from giving an insight into the extreme poverty and hardship of Gormley's youth in depression-era Lancashire, it's a reminder that the Scargill-era NUM was quite different to what had gone before.

Gormley (described by Bevan's wife Jennie Lee as 'an ultra rightwing socialist') and his predecessor on Labour's NEC Sam Watson were Labour rightwingers, and the Miners were a key component in the block of union votes in the Labour Party that vigorously opposed first Bevanism and then CND. As late as 1981's Labour special conference at Wembley, the NUM were voting with the right to leave MPs with a majority of the vote in the new electoral college. Fighting communists inside the union like Mick McGahey on one front, and Ted Heath's Tory government on the other, whilst at the same time having a healthy contempt for Harold Wilson's soft left fudging, Gormley got the miners into a position where by the time he left office in 1982 they had unprecentedly good pay and conditions.

He was also highly concious that they should not overreach themselves politically and could not afford to repeat their 1974 feat of bringing down a government. Almost his last act as President was to intervene to call for acceptance of a 9.3% pay offer from the Tories and see off a national strike call from the Scargillites.

The book ends with the failiure of NUM moderates to run a strong candidate against Scargill, putting him in as President against the background of the Thatcher government and the SDP split. Gormley writes of the need for a balanced energy policy with roles for coal and nuclear as well as oil and gas.

The rest of the story I think we know. Scargill's confrontation with Thatcher. The tragic heroism of the 1984 strike, and the subsequent destruction of the mining industry and economic and social devastation of the coalfield communities.

We are paying the price for that now with high energy prices and strategically terrifying dependence on Russian gas supplies, whilst hundreds of years of coal supplies sit under the ground and once proud miners drive taxis, work in call centres or claim benefit.


Blogger Mark Still News said...

Scargill was right and honest. The miners had a democratic election to go on strike in 1984, as the EC members, Coal miners themselves, of the NUM, who were elected by the members, in accordance with the NUM rule book, then voted for action to try and save their pits, jobs and communities. Scargill did nothing wrong and the Fascist government had no right to interfere in NUM internal affairs. The pits closed down as Scargill predicted,thousands of jobs and even businesses closed down affecting once proud Towns and villages. Scargill was a real man, not like these middle class nerds eunning the country now. Joe Gormless was not even half the Man of Scargill. The Miners were underpaid for the job they did, again they were real men not gutless middle class nerdish soft hand key board tapping wimps! A Statue of Scargill should be placed in Trafalgar SQ that over shadows Nelson!

3:54 pm, September 10, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Scargill was right in every sense but we can't go back now. I doubt there are many school leavers now who would choose to work down the pit, times have changed and we need to adapt to a changing world.

Energy production must be decentralized the the responsibility must be place onto the individual. People should be investing in multi fuel burners and looking at bio fuel rather than gas. The government should be concentrating on getting help to those who want to save energy. 80% grants on solar water heating, double glazing and insulation.

I'm afraid I have to agree with Mark most of our politicians are middle class twits, with no sense of reality and don't give a damn about working people. Labour is full of over educated snobs. These people should be made to serve their country before they are even allowed to serve as an MP. Most of them wouldn't last two days.

Labour are finished.

5:38 pm, September 10, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scargill made it possible for the Thatcherites to destroy the British Energy Industry.

As was said at the time "Scargill will fight to the last Welshman"

But then, on the last of his visits to South Wales, he needed police protection - from his own members

Right ? Honest ? I think not.


9:18 pm, September 10, 2008

Blogger Mark Still News said...

To Zoro

Actually they were thugs paid by the UDM to cause havoc. NUM members would not do that to Scargill.

Scargill should have been made PM a long time ago!!

1:16 am, September 12, 2008

Blogger Darren said...

No mention in his book of him being a secret state asset?

Classy guy.

5:15 am, September 12, 2008

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Anonymous-is no one?

1:43 am, September 13, 2008


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