OK – strictly speaking this is second term Thatcher (1983-1987) but having found a load of miners strike related stuff in my huge archives today – I couldn’t resist sharing.
We all know Thatcher defeated the National Union of Mineworkers in 1985 – but not before, through heavily gritted teeth, she climbed down in the face of the miners in 1981.
On 10th February that year, the Prime Minister announced the closure of 23 pits. This was part of a Tory drive to ‘slim down’ and eventually privatise the nationalised industries that then existed in the UK – like the National Coal Board and British Leyland, which dominated the car industry.
The miners had been instrumental in bringing down the 1970-74 Conservative government of Ted Heath and so the fight with the NUM wasn’t just political and economic…but totemic and personal.
Thatcher was going to take down the workers who took down the Tories seven years before. But in 1981, it was not to be. Faced with strike action, she caved in eight days later. The show down with the pit workers would have to wait another three years…
Click HERE to read the BBC account of what happened.
Here is leaflet I have in my collection when miners and NHS workers took action together in the early 80s.
In May 1981, IRA (Irish Republican Army) hunger strike Bobby Sands died in prison. He’d been elected as an MP from his prison cell where he and other IRA members, banged up for terrorist offences, had refused to eat for weeks.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher basically refused to yield and Sands popped his clogs. Thatcher was not prepared to treat IRA inmates as political prisoners – which was their demand.
As a result of his death, many bands cancelled their gigs in Ireland at that time. Not so much out of sympathy for Sands – though some may have supported his stand – but because of security fears.
One band, Matchbox, said they were “very nervous about going” over to Ireland. Heavy metal combos Girlschool and Vardis also decided to stay away from the Republic of Ireland, under advice from the gig promoters.
It’s hard to believe now but going over to Ireland was a big deal at this time for many UK bands – especially in the north where ‘the troubles’ were in full force. Every week, people were being killed in sectarian murders between Catholics and Protestants – as well as clashes with the army, police and bombs going off in shopping precincts and other meeting places.
The troubles also spilled over on to the UK mainland and two years before, Lord Mountbatten – a member of the Royal Family – had been assassinated while on holiday in Ireland.
When The Specials went to play in Ireland they made great play of the fact that as they had done in England, they were going to plead the case for unity among the youth and against the horrible divisions that had led to very real bloodshed.