Friday, 12 April 2013
A word of thanks
I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the many young people across the internet who have taught me so much about the vicious Mrs Thatcher in the last few days. They may have been too young to young to have been around when she was wreaking havoc on this country, but they are all very eager to remind me of how she decimated the coal industry.
I say "decimated", but I am not sure that it is quite the right term for a reduction in output of 10%, but at least it has got a 10 in it.
Anyway, her cruel victimisation of the miners and the 160 mines that she closed was in marked contrast to the 290 mines closed by Wilson. Mark my words, Thatcher wouldn't have dared to take on the 550,000 miners working in 1962. It was only due to the unstinting efforts of the Labour Party under Wilson and Callaghan in reducing the workforce by 350,000 that Thatcher was able to take on the remaining miners in 1983.
And how she provoked them. In 1983 Thatcher and Peter Walker connived make the unscrupulous offer to every miner working at the pits scheduled to be closed the choice of either a voluntary redundancy package or a job at another mine. And to add insult to injury she offered to invest a paltry £800 million in the coal industry. Scargill quite rightly rejected this, saying that there was no limit to the price the tax payer should pay to maintain the number of NUM members paying his salary.
Scargill was, of course, also correct in his thinking that it was better to extract coal at a cost of £40 a ton at the pithead than to pay South Africans, Americans and Venezuelans £28 per ton for coal delivered to any UK port. After all, who needed any of this so-called 'high quality' foreign coal when there was plenty of the British stuff full of ash and sulphur?
Of course, when the strike was over and many miners had lost their jobs the devastation in Scargill's home area was tremendous, with wide scale unemployment in villages that had been mining coal as long ago as the 1930s.
And we have only just begun to realise the environmental impact. The abundant growth of the Scandinavian pine forests was kept in check for many years by the naturally occurring acid rain, powered by sulphates and nitrates emitted by UK coal fired power stations. With the replacement of coal by so-called 'natural' gas, those trees now have to be felled using petrol driven (CO2 emitting) chainsaws.