Not So Minor Miner Facts

File:UK Coal Mining Jobs.png

Numbers of jobs in the coal mining industry















The BBC and the Left frequently portray Thatcher as the destroyer of the coal industry.

Just how true is that?:


In 1900 there were 3,384 coal mines.

In 1975 there were only 241 coal mines…..3,143 coal mines having been closed by then.

In 1979 there were only 219.

In 1995 there were 65 coal mines.


So was Thatcher really responsible for the ‘ruination’ of a once great industry?

Only if history begins in 1979.


Number of working colleries in the UK
1900 – 3384
1920 – 2851
1930 – 2328
1944 – 1634
1947 – 958
1950 – 901
1955 – 850
1960 – 698
1965 – 483
1970 – 292
1975 – 241
1979 – 219
1980 – 213
1981 – 200
1982 – 191
1983 – 170
1984 – 169
1985 – 133
1986 – 110
1987 –   94
1988 –   86
1989 –   73
1990 –  65
1995 –  65
2000 – 28
2004 – 19


Labour’s Harold Wilson closed around 290 mines, Thatcher 160.


The National Union of Miner’s own website says:
Throughout the 1960s, with a Labour Government in office from 1964, the pit closure programme accelerated; it decimated the industry. During this period, nearly 300 more pits were closed, and the total workforce slumped from over 750,000 in the late 1950s down to 320,000 by 1968. In many parts of Britain, miners now became known as industrial gypsies as pit closures forced them to move from coalfield to coalfield in search of secure jobs.

They were victims of madhouse economics.


Arthur Scargill, the NUM leader, is now being portrayed as a hero…and yet the voting record shows him to be anything but…going against the wishes of his members and leading them to destruction….never mind his refusal to hold a national ballot on taking strike action…because he’d lost two previous ones:


Pretty clear…..69.2% against strike action in these area ballots.


Scargill and the NUM were being funded by the Soviet Union…..Scargill of course used, exploited, the miners as ‘shock troops’ in his political battle to try and impose a hard Left Union rule over the country regardless of the hardships they faced as he betrayed them.

The BBC here try to make light of that and quietly pooh pooh the connection to the Soviets….
Long-shot wait for miners’ cash
At one stage during the miners’ strike the government hoped it might catch red-handed someone from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) trying to smuggle a suitcase full of banknotes into Britain.  Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong wrote: “If a representative of the NUM could be detected entering this country with a suitcase full of banknotes, it might be possible for him to be stopped and searched at customs.”
“Those concerned” (by which he presumably meant Special Branch and MI5) were “exercising vigilance” and on the look-out for anyone from the union going abroad “for the purpose of collecting consignments of notes”.
This was, he admitted, something of a long shot, “but is the best we can do”.


…but such funding was confidently reported by the leftwing Morning Star as the Telegraph points out in its more serious report:

However, it was the considerable donations to the NUM from sources in the USSR that most alarmed Number 10.
Minsters were alerted by MI5 to the Soviet financial lifeline for the miners in early November 1984.
Later that month a secret Government document noted a report in The Morning Star, the British socialist newspaper, that the union had received more than $1.1 million from “our Soviet comrades”.
Sir Geoffrey Howe, the foreign secretary, viewed this as “a matter of some concern” and demanded that the Soviet Embassy in London give a “clear account” of Moscow’s role in the transfer of aid from Soviet miners to the NUM.
A Foreign Office aide wrote to Charles Powell, the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser: “Our belief, which we are checking with our embassy in Moscow, is that it would be most unlikely that the Soviet miners’ union could have been given access to convertible roubles without express Soviet official permission… The Soviet Government has, to some extent, been involved.”


And the Guardian, after a 5 year freedom of information battle, already had the damning  information in 2010:

Margaret Thatcher blocked Soviet aid for striking miners, files reveal

Margaret Thatcher exerted intense diplomatic pressure on Mikhail Gorbachev over funds for miners during strike

Thatcher’s diplomatic offensive worked: no donation reached the British miners during their year-long strike. Gorbachev had embarked on his effort to reform the sclerotic Soviet state and concluded that the wiser option was to continue cultivating the British prime minister for the sake of relations between the two countries. Sacrificing the interests of the British miners was the price to be paid for not upsetting the so-called Iron Lady.



So why does the BBC try to treat it all as a bit of a joke?  Are they trying to distance the NUM and Scargill from his Marxist brothers and paint him as a victim of rightwing smears?


The conclusion must be, then, that Mr Scargill has organised a strike which has no basis in the democratic procedures of his union, which is probably opposed by a majority of its membership, which is employing mass picketing of a kind that is now illegal, and which involves violence and intimidation on a scale quite alien to British traditions, in an attempt to force a democratically-elected government to abandon some of its policies. Mr Scargill may – ludicrously – be condemned as a collaborationist by leading members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, such as Frank Richards and Mike Freeman, but their vague rhetoric about uniting the working class and ‘taking control’ does not carry the menace that Mr Scargill does.?



Here are some inconvenient points the BBC should be including in any report about the miner’s strike:

1.  There was no national ballot for a strike…it was illegal.

2.  The miners were offered very generous redundancy terms….better, far better, than anything else on offer in the public sector….as well as a pay rise of over 5% for those still employed.

3.  There was huge investment going on in the coal industry at the same time as inefficient pits were closing….claims that the  intention was to destroy the industry were patently untrue.

4.  As mentioned above, the close links to the Soviet Union which was attempting to fund and stir up industrial conflict in the UK.

5.  Whilst the BBC gives voice to the heroic battles and struggles of the miners it fails to point out the massive disruption that a successful strike would have imposed on the country…decimating industry, shutting power stations and turning out the lights in domestic homes.








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35 Responses to Not So Minor Miner Facts

  1. chris says:

    Remember that Len McClusterfuck is planning strikes at present…


    • Span Ows says:

      This is merely apologising for wrongly accusing Scargill of stealing funds. To be honest who cares as IMHO his major ‘crimes’ – as pointed out in Alan’s post above – are what he has been praised by the Left for.


  2. Teddy Bear says:

    Here’s where 2 different agendas of the BBC collide.

    If they were true to their carbon footprint AGW beliefs they would be grateful to Thatcher for closing the mines she did.

    Shows the real hypocrisy inherent in both of them, and that their supposed left wing mindset is nothing more than a tool to gain power.

    LEFT = Lies Evading Factual Truths


    • Frank Words says:

      When faced with such a dichotomy the left generally just ignore the fact.

      To paraphrase F Scott Fitzgerald:

      The BBC is something that can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.


  3. john in cheshire says:

    It’s always a joy to see evidence that no matter how the truth is distorted, twisted and denied, it still sees light of day and the dissemblers are shown for what they are. What a hateful organisation is the bbc.


  4. mike says:

    What do you mean the BBC and the left? aren’t they one and the same?


  5. Charlatans says:

    I think I related this story on this site before:

    In the late 70s, when NUM President Joe Gormley and his team, which included Scargill, attended a reception in Warsaw, they were persistently badgered and briefed by their Soviet sponsored hosts, to raise the subject of the notorious US ‘Neutron Bomb’ at the TUC conference and other high profile events in the UK. The Soviet hope was demonetization of this US weapon, which killed people but left buildings standing, that the weapon would become unacceptable and be loudly opposed, (by ‘ban the bombers’) within the West.

    This US bomb, which killed people, but did little damage to buildings, was the Soviet propaganda flavour of the month at the time.

    Joe Gormley was getting a bit fed up of this propaganda constantly being fed him at this reception and turned to accompanying members of the British Embassy and said:

    “If this bugger does not shut up soon about this bloody Neutron Bomb, I will give him that many SS20s up his backside he won’t know whether he is coming or going”.

    Needless to say Scargill was in the other corner taking it all on board.


  6. Gary Smith says:

    As an ex- miner and current accountant I feel enough has been said already with regards to the strike. One thing that always tickled me, and would tell the layman a lot about what happened in the early 80s at my pit (bold)
    OVERMAN ” why do you work 4 days a week lad ?
    LAD. ” because I can’t manage on 3 boss ! “


  7. Jingleballix says:

    It almost certainly true that the Soviets backed Scargill – even before he became leader of the NUM, in fact it is strongly suspected that they helped engineer Scargill’s appointment at the expense of the more moderate Gormley.

    The reasons were simple………firstly, a union dominated UK government would undermine capitalism; second Labour was committed to nuclear disarmament…….the Soviets new that a Tory government was both pro-nuclear and pro-NATO – meaning that US missiles would be parked in UK.

    Thus did the Soviets interfere broadly in British politics in the 1960s and 70s……..Wilson and Foot were rumoured to be far too close to Kremlin officials.

    Once Thatcher got in – the Soviets helped procure Scargill’s appointment and set about developing a strike that they intended would bring down Thatcher’s government…….with pro-USSR far left government installed – Kinnock would’ve towed the line or else been deposed himself.

    MI6 informed Thatcher of this – which was why the Tories were prepared and stock-piled coal and burned more oil and gas.

    Quite why Scargill (and his henchmen like McGahey and Daly – all Communists) were never indicted for treason one does not know.

    I’d wager that the BBC haven’t investigated/reported on Scargill’s finances, his perks (a grace and favour flat in the Barbican, that he only relinquished 9yrs after stepping down as NUM leader) or his eventual expulsion from the NUM.

    A very bad man.


  8. Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

    Alan, thank you for a well written piece.
    However, table 27 is open to criticism, however trivial that may seem.
    You can not average percentages, old chap. That figure of 69.2 is meaningless in the context in which it’s given.
    I had thought to offer an explanation by illustrating with my own figures, but better blokes than I am have already done just that:

    Keep up your excellent work.


    • Deborah says:

      Second Dysgwr’s thanks to Alan for an excellent post.


    • Span Ows says:

      At the risk of being shot down in flames by some maths wizard I disagree:

      a) Alan isn’t wrong, he is merely quoting the book.
      b) in this case even though it is averaging percentages which cannot be done (as your link illustrates) it is NOT really averaging percentages: it is averaging a list of numbers that happen to be percentages. There are no numbers of miners quoted so it is merely an average of the list of numbers; if each line had e.g. Cumberland 10, 34 miners 22% voted ‘yes, Derbyshire 15, 783 miners 49.9% of whom voted ‘yes’ etc then your mathematics rule would apply but as there are no such qualifiers an average of the numbers (percentages) is OK. It is not saying 69.2% of all miners were against a strike, which would indeed be wrong.


      • Albaman says:

        Your comment would be valid except that below the table Alan says: “Pretty clear…..69.2% against strike action in these area ballots.”


      • Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

        Hello span, i am not some maths wizard, so you wont crash and burn right here.
        At the risk of being labelled a pedant, and consigned to pedants corner, ( or perhaps pedants’ corner) the maths is clearly explained in the link.
        You simply can not average the percentages since they represent % of different numbers.
        Now if the source data was available, we could put it right, and at the end of the day, when all is said and done ( thats enough bloody expressions like that…Ed) there may only be a miniscule difference between the 69.2 and the real figure.
        However i seek only to clarify and not to criticise.
        Knowing that the maths is suspect yourself, perhaps you ought to have stayed off that one?
        Just saying.


        • Span Ows says:

          So, actually, the bottom line is I have a lot on my plate but lessons will be learned; I will double down on my efforts to make this a win-win…plus me being a fussy cynical barsteward is far stronger than any wish to stay off 😉


          • Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

            Thank you span, but pick something next time to fuss over that is not an open and shut mathematical basketcase.
            I remain in awe of Alan’s posts, but if I hadnt pointed out an error there are usually plenty who flock in.
            We have an uphill struggle here against a 4 billion a year protection racket.
            Thank you for your observations.


  9. Framer says:

    Scargill’s NUM was also being funded and assisted by Libya as was the IRA.


  10. Trefor Jones says:

    These “revelations”were pointed out at the time – so nothing new there then. Where the BBC are totally correct is that it was a political strike and Thatcher was set on avenging the Joe Gormley Defeat of Ted Heath and the three day week. I took part in the fund raising for the striking miners in south Wales since I lived there then and still do. The colliers were on triple time prior to the outbreak of the strike since Thatcher did not want the power stations to run out in the winter.

    Scargill was unpopular in south Wales, since he had failed to back the sit in at Lewis Merthyr Colliery ( now a museum) and it was sheer loyalty to the old values of the SWMF that kept the vast majority on strike, they knew privately that it was heading for disaster, especially as the strike was called without a ballot in the first instance. so failing to gain the crucial backing of the overmen of NACODS.

    To find out that the hapless general Scargill had been telling the truth is no surprise, but I presume that I will have to wait another thirty years to find whether soldiers with unmarked police uniforms were actually on the picket lines. The apocryphal tale of striking miners meeting their soldier sons at Orgreave is surely true.

    The memories of the strike and the dying embers of a noble industrial society thoughtlessly destroyed is something of which its social consequences, both good and bad, are still with us today.


    • chrisH says:

      Well written Trefor, and your experiences of it all at the literal coal face trumps mine.
      Takes two to fight of course, and maybe the psychotherapists may now wonder why the Tories were so set on avenging Heaths humbling, despite the economic sense of a gradual decline-and (now) the renaissance we could be getting in coal production.
      But Mrs Thatcher was lucky-she chose the inept vainglorious Iain McGregor to remove the mining industry…but the miners elected and chose to keep the equally venal and incompetent Arthur Scargill. They could not have been worse served had they cut out the middleman and gone straight to Gadhaffi and any Chernenko puppet from the previous years.
      That was then-and this is now however.
      Labour began the decimations. Scargill chose to strike through the spring when Lawson etc had been building stockpiles since the Tories last climbdown a few years earlier-so Arthur was the cause of the collapse. Gormley would have slaughtered the Tory plots and plans, and history would now be so different.
      Thatcher however got other things right, and had principles that eventually proved her right in key arguments…ones that I had no words for back then, and the useless Left/Liberal BBC media clones still don`t have.
      Hence the vile bile and fleck-spittled abuse of a dead granny last April…same evil spirit that kills taxi drivers from motorway flyovers with cinder blocks I`s imagine.
      Good post-you were there-happy to stand correction on anything above.


      • Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

        Chris H ,
        ‘Mrs Thatcher……chose… remove ….the mining industry.’

        In all honesty, is that what the well researched figures and graphs above here tell you?
        Alan has gone to a lot of trouble to present solid facts, and you read it that way?


        • chrisH says:

          No I didn`t actually Dysgwr.
          I was only responding to Trefor,and my own views based on 80s thinking back then.
          I resolve to read it soon_it`s a failing of mine to stick to my hobby horses.
          Now-I`ve quickly read it.
          1. Was right about Labour and foreign influences I guess.
          2. The facts as set out are irrefutable…but I was there at the time, and think I`m right in saying that it was an ambush…and that only a fool like Scargill would fall into such a trap.
          3. Still think that the Tories were viscerally averse to mining based on how Heath had lost out…and many of the Tory Ministers at the time were keen to get a reckoning. So it appeared to me at that time at least.
          4. Still think that Thatcher took full advantage of nuclear, CEGB and others to bin the mining industry-clearly from a low base after Labour had all but destroyed it.
          Apologies for not reading the figures first(Alan put enough work into them, and deserves better)…but %wise, it does appear that Thatcher at 70% closed down more mines than Wilson(55%).


          • Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

            Oh ChrisH, ChrisH, you were doing so so well. So good I wrote it twice, sorry.
            If Wilson had left only 2 mines open and Thatcher shut them both she would have achieved 100% !
            The comparison of percentages you did there was somewhat misleading. Not that the figures are necessarily wrong, but to equate percentages of a shrinking total is a bit false, and in fact is the tactic the left use when discussing mine closures, and I know you better than that.
            I can accept that some may want to argue that simple closures are not the full picture: perhaps tonnages? Or manpower losses? May be better i dont know.
            But please dont use that false accounting lol.
            Pob hwyl i chi !


          • Dysgwr_Cymraeg says:

            I have had the dubious pleasure of discussing Thatcher with someone who told me tne highlight of their day was to read the guardian from cover to cover.
            No prizes as to what that person thought of Maggie.
            I have outlined this strory on biased previously, so wont repeat.
            And it’s not apocryphal.
            But from someone who was in the public sector to try and lecture me on the deprivations of the Welsh mining valleys of the 50’s and 60’s totally pissed me off.
            From their ivory, gold plated pension , tower, they attempt to tell me what life was like where i grew up the son of a miner.
            By the time of the strike I was 15 miles away working where jobs didnt depend on the mines, but luck didnt decide that move.
            I take my hat off to any that were involved, and it really was a dirty fight.
            This fight here is about our country being sold from within, and both Labour and Tories are as empty as a vacuum. No clue, no idea, no guts. If we are not careful, we are fuck’d


    • Span Ows says:

      Thatcher was set on avenging the Joe Gormley Defeat of Ted Heath and the three day week.

      Despite the interesting anecdotal stuff in your comment this sentence is simply wrong; if may be what it felt like but there were clear and genuine reasons for what she did and avenging anyone wasn’t part of those reasons.


    • TPO says:

      “The apocryphal tale of striking miners meeting their soldier sons at Orgreave is surely true.”

      You’re right in saying that the tale is apocryphal.
      I spent 7 months on the strike and was at both Orgreave battles. At no time were any members of the armed forces present. This was an old wives tale circulating at the time because most of the pickets, believing that it was all going to be a re-run of the Saltley got the shock of their lives.


    • Baldnunn says:

      “The apocryphal tale of striking miners meeting their soldier sons at Orgreave is surely true.”
      Just to add further doubt to the apocryphal tale, during the strike I was a young PC and attended the mines on ‘Mutual Aid’ on several occasions. At least twice we were accommodated on military sites and, speaking to locals in local pubs, had this presented to us as indisputable evidence that we were squaddies!
      I can’t say that no squaddies were ever used in that way but if that had been the case I am sure that we would have had a Panorama programme before now.


  11. Wild says:

    “it was a political strike”

    Yes Soviet backed


    He was not unlucky he was defeated

    “I presume that I will have to wait another thirty years to find whether soldiers with unmarked police uniforms were actually on the picket lines.”

    Why wait when you can make things up in the meantime

    “The apocryphal tale”

    Well you said it.

    “a noble industrial society thoughtlessly destroyed”

    There is nothing noble about mining, the sooner the whole process is replaced by machines the better. Nor is there anything noble about people holding the rest of the Country to ransom because they demanded that everybody else to subsidise them.


    • johnnythefish says:

      Well said, Wild. The miners had become a law unto themselves, not just throwing their weight around to keep themselves top of the pay and perks league but also as flying pickets to fight (literally) at any dispute where a confrontation with capitalism/the government was at the core of the dispute. Remember Wapping? If the print unions had won that one computerisation of the press might never have happened and our papers etc would still be produced by type-setting with hot metal moulds. It was a prime example of the closed shop/Luddite union mentality – barely credible when you look back (and never ever revisited by the BBC, of course).


    • TPO says:

      “There is nothing noble about mining, the sooner the whole process is replaced by machines the better. ”

      During the strike, myself and a number of colleagues were given the chance to go down Bevercotes pit in Nottinghamshire which was one of the deepest and most modern in Britain at that time.
      I was amazed at how large the tunnels were, both in height and width.
      When we got to the coal face you had to stoop, but to my surprise there were no miners with picks chipping out the coal, just engineers resetting the hydraulic jacks as an automated coal cutter went up and down the seam.
      I sure not all mines were like this at the time though.


  12. phil says:

    The writing was put on the wall for the future of mining by the sixties Wilson government by the clean air act, forcing millions from coal onto gas to heat their homes. In 1960 just about everyone used coal, by 1979 the majority used gas. Secondly railways were converted from coal to diesel power. Thirdly oil and gas fired power stations were built. Of course the selling of these changes was based on the environmental advantages, (cleaner, more efficient, which it was), but the real reason was that massive oil and gas deposits were found in the north sea, which could be produced so cheaply that it was worth laying new pipelines across the whole country and converting every domestic gas appliance. Obviously, for this investment to work people had to be persuaded to use the maximum of this ‘new’ cheap energy. Add to this that before ‘natural’ gas, all ‘town’ gas was produced from coal, at coking plants, most of which were gone by the mid ’70s. Taken together, a MASSIVE loss of market for coal. Actually a sound economic decision, north sea gas and oil produced energy at a vastly cheaper price than coal, with a much smaller environmental impact, not to mention transport costs. The writing was on the wall for the coal industry long before 1984, and was kept going with government subsidies, simply for the fact that governments shied away from the massive industrial unrest that would have resulted. When Scargill was elected industrial confrontation became inevitable. He saw the miners strike in 1972 as being instrumental in bringing down the Heath government, and wanted to repeat the feat. The die was cast, it was inevitable that there could (not would) only be one winner. The rest, as they say, is history.


  13. George R says:

    Christopher Booker, ‘Telegraph’ (£):-

    “Sorry, BBC, Scargill was wrong”


    “‘Scargill was right”, the BBC reported gleefully on Friday, after the release of papers covering the 1984 miners’ strike. But has any episode in recent history been more comprehensively mythologised?”

    (scroll down)-


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