FOLLOWING the disclosure of cabinet papers under the 30-year rule, why anyone should be shocked or surprised at the lengths the Thatcher government went to destroy the NUM and a large part of British manufacturing is a surprise in itself.
Their intentions were hardly a well kept secret. Their plans and intentions were there for all to see and read in the form of the Ridley Report prepared by Nicholas Ridley MP in response and retribution for the humiliation of the Heath government brought down by the NUM strike of 1974. In many ways the miners walked into a well laid trap.
The plan contained details of how the Tories would provoke and confront unions in less critical industries (British Leyland, British Steel, remember them?) before ensuring conditions were right to take on the miners. Having first slashed benefit payments ensuring the families of strikers would suffer real hardship, the conditions included provoking a conflict in summer when demand for coal fired energy was low and coal stocks were high. Many power stations were converted to more expensive oil fired boilers. There was also a large supply of unemployed and non union drivers prepared to cross picket lines and move coal stocks along with a mobile police force set up to deal with picketing. The plan was prepared and conducted with military precision.
As with everything Margaret Thatcher did, public opinion will be divided. Many see her as the Iron Lady who tamed the unions and saved the country. (Many of those same people happily invest in our overseas competitors). Those less blinkered, myself included lament the loss of hundreds of thousands of skilled manufacturing jobs this country has lost to other countries whose workers have fewer rights and safeguards than ours. The biggest losers were our youngsters who no longer have access to many highly skilled and worthwhile apprenticeships in trades and industries where we were once world leaders.
Councillor Allan Morris Lliswerry Ward Newport