Friday, December 28, 2007

Scargill and the NUM

It's that time of year when government files are released by the National Archives and there is a drip drip of recent history in the media. Up to now we have been told that Tony Benn tried to scupper the Queen's silver jubilee by refusing to floodlight public buildings, yawn. But what interested me today was news of Arthur Scargill, memories flooded back.
In about 1987/88 I was in a lift with a colleague in a London hotel near Euston that was frequented by union people and rail staff. We were joined in the lift by Mick McGahey, Scargill's number 2, a raging Marxist. As we headed towards the ground floor my colleague turned to 'Red' Mick and asked to shake his hand. Mick beamed and held out his hand, which my colleague took and, while shaking heartily, said: "Many thanks Mick, if it wasn't for you and your ilk Mrs Thatcher probably wouldn't be Prime Minister today". That took the smile off his fat, socialist mug. The joke at that time about Scargill himself was that he had started with a small house and a big union and ended with a big house and a small union, thank God!
But what got me onto this post was the news, just released, that Scargill had been monitored by MI5, I should think so, and that James Callaghan tried to get him "warned off" after flying pickets from the NUM turned up at the Grunwick dispute.
In 1984 when the miners were on strike I worked in an inner city housing office in Manchester. I had already been 'sent to Coventry' by my colleagues for refusing to strike 2 years earlier, so I again refused to strike, this time they walked out in sympathy with the miners. This led to death threats to my family and flying pickets arriving from the soon to close Agecroft Colliery in nearby Salford. Knowing the pickets were a bit on the lazy side 3 of us beat them by getting into the office at 6-30am before they arrived, dropped off by friends as leaving our cars outside would have ended with them being vandalised. The real sign that the comrades meant business though was when they threw me out of the tea fund, true revolutionary fervour that one! Happy days.
I left Manchester City Council in Jan 1985. I had the last laugh though, despite being a 'closed shop' the incompetents at the union had never taken my union dues from my salary, a little careless of the workers' revolutionaries I thought. I have since discovered, to my immense pride, that I come from a long line of strike breakers, or 'scabs' depending on your political hue, going back at least three generations. It's in the blood!
If anybody thinks that those days are gone just remember political correctness, a bit more subtle but at least as deadly.

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