Miners Strike Ends
The 3rd of March 1985 AD
Just two days short of a year after the Miners’ Strike began it ended in dignified if crushing defeat.
The National Union of Mineworkers had chosen to fight the strike in spite of the existence of large coal stocks built up seemingly in preparation for a strike. Though it can be argued that the intended swift action by Ian MacGregor necessitated equally rapid reaction, choosing to strike at the start of spring was far from ideal strategically. And by not holding a national ballot the democratic credentials of the strike were cast into serious doubt; unhelpfully for the miners’ cause the democratic situation was further confused by the union opting for local ballots but not liking the Nottinghamshire area’s decision to vote for continued working.
Brutal treatment of miners at pickets and demonstrations sickened many of the British public; most did not want the union movement paralysed. But on the other side of the coin memories were still fresh of the 1974 coal strike which brought an elected government to its knees; and the Winter of Discontent was even more recent, the country ignominiously reduced to chaos. Sympathy for miners was tempered by antipathy for their leadership.
Britain got through the 1984-85 winter without the lights going out. About a third of the mining workforce had been tempted back before Christmas by NCB offers; the union was finding it hard to fund action; the miners’ families were desperate: many passed the winter without heating; food was short. A vote to return to work by the national executive of the NUM 98 – 91 signalled the end. Miners, some marching behind brass bands, and cheered by their families, returned to work.
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