The miners’ strike to defend their industry against extensive pit closures was also a highly politicized conflict between the National Union of Mine-workers (under the leadership of Arthur Scargill) and the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher. Scargill hoped to repeat the success of the NUM in the early 1970s in undermining the then Conservative government, and Mrs Thatcher was determined to force the miners into surrender. The strike, which the miners eventually lost, saw a government assault on civil liberties and high levels of tension, animosity, and sometimes violence between police and strikers, and was a turning point in industrial relations in Britain. The strike was in due course undermined by a breakaway regional miners’ union who distrusted the NUM leadership, and the legitimacy of the strike was questioned because there had not been a national strike ballot. At the time the Coal Board and the Government stated that they only planned to close 20 pits, but Scargill claimed that the real goal was to close 70 pits: release of previously classified government information early in 2014 under the 30 year rule proves that Scargill was correct and the government lied at the time. The coal industry has been largely destroyed. The significance of the miners’ strike, and the implications of the miners’ defeat for British trade unionism, is suggested by the large number of books and pamphlets it generated, some of which are listed below. A documentary film, ‘Still the Enemy Within’, directed by Owen Gower, 113 minutes, was released in 2014. Another film released in 2014, ‘Pride’, was the fictionalized account of a true story: the links formed between the London-based group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and a Welsh mining community and local NUM between 1984-85.
One unexpected and more positive by product of the strike was that it mobilized many women in the mining communities (not previously active in industrial disputes) to organize support for the strikers and play a more prominent role locally (see section F.1.b). The continuing significance of police methods during the strike was reflected in the 12 June 2015 Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) Report on police tactics and alleged misconduct during the violent confontation with thousands of pickets at the Orgreave coking plant. The report accepted that mounted police charged without warning and miners threw missiles in response, and that some police used excessive violence. The report also found that some officers committed perjury (evidence of this led to the 1985 acquittal in court of 95 miners charged with riot and unlawful assembly). But despite criticism of senior police officers in South Yorkshire, the IPCC decided not to launch a formal investigation.