Margaret Thatcher and the pit strike in Yorkshire – by Martin Coldrick (BBC News – April 8, 2013)

Yorkshire – In Yorkshire, the mere mention of Baroness Thatcher’s name is often likely to lead quickly to talk of the 1984-5 miners’ strike.

With the news of her death at the age of 87, emotions remain high in Yorkshire’s former pit communities about the miners’ strike and the role of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

At times, that strike – lasting from 5 March 1984 to 3 March 1985 – almost seemed to be a battle of wills between the Barnsley-born leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Arthur Scargill, and the Conservative prime minister.

In 1984, when there were 170 working collieries in Britain, employing more than 190,000 people, Mr Scargill obtained a “hit list” of mines the Thatcher government was planning to close.

The ensuing strike against job losses, for which the NUM controversially never held a national ballot among its members, pitted striking miners against Mrs Thatcher’s government, the police and other miners, and led to divisions in families which remain to this day.

‘Vindictive acts’

The bitter year-long stand-off between Margaret Thatcher, Arthur Scargill and the NUM has come to be seen as one of the defining events of the era – not least in Yorkshire where her legacy is often remembered less than fondly.

As Chris Kitchen, Yorkshire-based NUM general secretary, said: “Unfortunately for the vindictive acts she did to myself, my comrades and my family and for the mining community, I’ll not be shedding a tear at her demise.”

South Yorkshire saw some of the worst violence of the dispute – most most notably at British Steel’s coking plant at Orgreave on 18 June 1984.

Those clashes saw about 10,000 striking miners go head-to-head with 5,000 police, and led to 93 pickets being arrested with 51 pickets and 72 police officers injured, according to South Yorkshire Police.

‘Political springboard’
Darren Vaines, a former miner at Ackton Hall colliery near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, was on strike for the entire 12 months of the dispute and was at the so-called Battle of Orgreave.

“It’s a very strange emotional feeling because her death brings back a lot of memories and opens up a wound that has never really healed,” said Mr Vaines.

Margaret Thatcher went head-to-head with the NUM during the 1984-5 miners’ strike
“The cut went so deep, people have never been able to forget about it. It’s something they can never get out of their system.

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