Proud to play a part in strike

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Thirty years ago we learnt that Bates, the pit where I had worked since the age of 15, was to shut with the loss of 600 jobs.

We were not alone, within a week over 6,000 Yorkshire miners were on strike at the Manvers Main complex Cortonwood Colliery and Bullcliffe Wood.

It was all down to the personal malice felt by Margaret Thatcher, who notoriously labelled us ‘the enemy within’.

We had beaten the Heath government in 1972 and 1974, and forced her into a humiliating climb-down in 1981.

She wanted our blood, what she got was a fight.

Her wider aims were obvious: to neuter the unions, privatise all the nationalised giants, and use the ever-growing dole queue as a way of keeping down wage demands and discouraging industrial action.

Thatcher believed taming inflation was the highest priority and mass unemployment was “a price worth paying”.

On March 6, 1984, the NCB tore up a previous agreement and announced closure of 20 pits with a loss of 20,000 jobs.

At the time, Arthur Scargill said government had a strategy to destroy the industry by closing over 70 pits.

The government denied that, insisting that there were no plans to close any more pits than had already been announced. The release this year of Cabinet papers confirmed that was a blatant lie.

I am proud to have played my part in the 1984-85 strike. I believed then and just as strongly now, that fighting for communities and jobs is a duty.

Ministers may try to sweep these events under the carpet, but the scars of the dispute and the subsequent closure programme remain scarred deep on the memories, communities and landscapes of us all. Those wounds remain raw 30 years on.