Think Tom and Jerry. Think Thatcher, think Scargill. Arthur Scargill was a key figure in the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike - one of the key British historical events of recent times. With his trademark comb-over hairstyle, and firebrand oratory, Scargill became the embodiment of all things anti-Thatcher in an era of incredible change.
Arthur Scargill’s path was mapped out early on – born in Barnsley, Yorkshire in 1938, his father was a coal miner, and a member of the Communist Party. At age 15 the young Scargill swapped his school cap for a miner’s helmet and followed his father’s blackened footsteps down the pit.
But it wasn't just to the colliery that Scargill followed his father, it was to political meetings too, and in 1955 he became a member of the Communist Party, before joining the Labour Party in 1962. In 1973 Scargill became the leader of the Yorkshire NUM, and was a key figure in the strike that brought down the Conservative government in 1974.
Arthur Scargill commemorates the 25th
Anniversary of the 84/85 Miners' strike
In 1981 Scargill was swept to the presidency of the NUM with a massive 70% of the vote, after promising to give equal amounts of power to all regions of the union - a move that brought the militancy of the smaller arms of the movement to the fore.
In 1983 Magaret Thatcher appointed Ian MacGregor as head of the National Coal Board (NCB). On paper McGregor had an impressive CV, having turned around the fortunes of British Steel...at the expense of half of its workforce.
So it was no exaggeration when Scargill declared that same year:
“The policies of this government are clear - to destroy the coal industry and the NUM "
In 1984 the NCB announced that agreements reached in 1974 were anachronistic and that restructuring of the industry would mean that 20 mines would close at the expense of 20,000 jobs. Scargill and the NUM were incensed. Meanwhile, the government had started stockpiling coal to keep the turbines of the power stations turning in what it predicted, rightly, would be High Noon with the NUM.
The Strike was long and drawn out, with Scargill literally at the forefront of it at the ‘Battle of Orgreave', when he was famously arrested, before police brutally prevented strikers from stopping coal lorries getting through to the power plant.
The Strike became a war of attrition, one the government was more economically equipped to deal with. Schisms appeared within the NUM, and miners began to drift back to work to literally put food on the table.
The Miners’ Strike divided the UK between North and South - a wound which has yet to heal.
Arthur Scargill resigned as NUM president in 2002, and now concentrates his energies on leading the Socialist Labour Party, which he established in 1996 in reaction to New Labour’s abandonment of previous commitments to the unions, and therefore normal, working people.
Arthur Scargill makes the You2uk.com Great Britons list because of his lifelong commitment to the working man…and woman.