Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Tribune letter in defence of Arthur Scargill

Tribune letters page. 

Attacks on Scargill in Thatcher obituaries are not justified.

Mark Metcalf

So amidst the many Tribune articles that rightly attack Margaret Thatcher for her divisive politics there were the ‘inevitable’ attacks on Arthur Scargill.

Paul Anderson believes the government’s destruction was ‘aided by the inept leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers.’ For Ian Hernon the revenge of Thatcher on the miners was ‘helped enormously by the bone-headness of Arthur Scargill’ and for Edward Pearce, Thatcher ‘toward the not staunch was Arthur Scargill in reverse.’

I must say I expected a lot better than such rubbish. I helped established support kitchens in 1984 in my home area of Easington/Peterlee. I went picketing in many parts of the north.

I was also then a steward at Tudor Crisp Factory in Peterlee and I saw there the real reason why the miners went down to defeat. I approached my regional officer in the GMB to request organising strike action in support of the miners and was abusively told there was no chance. At my local Labour Party, discussions on organising solidarity action were ruled out of order.

I think it needs restating that Scargill was no lone wolf somehow leading people towards the fight. The NUM national conference in Sheffield of April 19 1984 had seven motions to it that gave the go-ahead for strike action without a ballot, Scargill did not even vote as he chaired this. I was outside that meeting with around 4,000 strikers who chanted ‘you can stick your ballot up your arse.’ They did so because they feared a sell-out. The miners had already voted with their feet and if Scargill hadn’t gone with the strikers he would have been quickly removed. Miners felt they had already had votes and it was time for action. They were in my mind correct to do so. Scargill then did the job he was paid to do, which was to try and win the dispute. He made some mistakes but he did a pretty decent job of standing alongside those who had put him into power. For this I find it to be pretty poor taste to see him attacked in obituary pieces about Thatcher.

Mark Metcalf

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