CALLS for a public inquiry into the year-long miners’ strike are being stepped up as the 30th anniversary of the start of the most bitter industrial conflict in living memory draws near.
A series of events will be held by former miners, their families, supporters and union activists in the coming weeks, and some of the anger and bitterness that characterised the dispute is expected to be rekindled.
The recent revelation in government papers released by the National Archives that then prime minister Margaret Thatcher secretly considered calling out the troops to suppress the strike has fuelled demands for a full-blown inquiry to be held.
North-East Labour MP Ian Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has tabled an early-day motion in Parliament regretting “that nearly 30 years after the strike ended, there are still men who were wrongly arrested or convicted during the dispute, who have never received justice”.
More than 60 MPs are supporting his motion.
Mr Lavery, MP for Wansbeck in Northumberland, said he would continue pressing for an inquiry into the events of 30 years ago.
He has the backing of many former pit workers at East Durham coalfields caught up in the conflict.
He said: “People who live in great mining communities across the UK have not forgotten the strike, and they will never forget.
“Passions have not waned. In 100 years’ time, I am confident that people will say that their great-grandfather was a miner and was proud to have taken part in the strike. That is how deep this thing runs.”
The strike started in early March 1984 over pit closures planned by the state-owned National Coal Board, and went on to pit Mrs Thatcher’s government against the NUM and its then-president, Arthur Scargill.
So bitter are many ex-miners about the strike that colleagues of theirs who defied picket lines and went back to work can still expect to be blanked in the street even now, according to union official Alan Cummings.
The 66-year-old formerly NUM lodge secretary for the ex-pit village of Easington Colliery, said: “People have long memories.
“There’s very few people talk to them, and it split families, but we didn’t have a lot in this part.”
The strike held firm from March 1984, and the village pit, employing 2,700 workers at the time, was only lightly picketed, but in August of that year, things changed.
Mr Cummings, still living a stone’s throw from the former pit gates, said: “I have never seen as many police before in Easington.”
“The atmosphere was really bad.”