Earlier this month saw the 35th anniversary of the end of the longest strike action in British history. For nearly a year, coal miners of the UK were out on picket lines in an attempt to save their industry.
Along with their families, the miners were pushed to the brink by a government which wanted to put an end to the industry.
Thirty-five years on from the dispute, times have changed to the point that ex mining communities, with many people who felt the full force of the Conservative Party pit closure campaign of the eighties and nineties, took to voting blue rather than traditional Labour red. The current political climate a side, the impact of the strike of 1984–85 is still being felt across many parts of the UK.
The strike showed the absolute determination of the state to crush the spirit of one of the biggest and proudest unions in the UK. The miners were mocked and beaten on the picket lines and in the streets as well as being demonised by the national press.
They were labelled as ‘the enemy within’ by the Thatcher government which couldn’t wait to start closing the mines at an alarming rate once the miners voted to return to work.
Society has changed and now acts of kindness and support, which were the backbone of the strike, are rare and therefore treated as so. Families were forced to survive through food banks and the minimal strike pay provided to those miners out on the pickets. The use of food banks is one aspect of everyday life which has not changed since the eighties, and it feels as though it could be a long time before we as a nation are even close to resigning food banks to the history books.
The strike of 1984–85 changed the face of Britain. It showed that community spirit and helping your fellow man was frowned upon. It was, to some extent, literally beaten out of some communities.
Coal mining was always going to become an outdated industry, with the world needing to move away from fossil fuels. Yet the brutal way the government made a point of the NUM was tantamount to that of a police state. The heart and soul was ripped out of mining communities across the UK, and in many of these it may never be replaced.