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History, like life, seems to go round in circles. On 12 March 1984 thousands of mineworkers went on strike. The trouble started when the Coal Board, who ran the mines, announced that 20 mines that were not making money would close. Miners at Cortonwood colliery in Yorkshire, which was listed to close, walked out at midnight on 5 March in protest at the plans.

You may remember the strikes of 1974 which eventually saw pay rises for miners and this was followed by an oil crisis so coal was still a very important source of power. In 1957 there were about 700,000 employed in the coal industry but by 1970 it was down to 300,000. By now, 1984, it was 180,000.

As you will see soon (1986), the Conservative government had a long-term plan to make the energy industry privately owned and no longer a nationalised industry owned by the government. This required major changes and many pit closures and loss of jobs.

The whole thing was on the news every night and lasted until March 1985. There were battles between police and miners. Pickets tried to stop working miners from getting to work. The leader of the mineworkers union, Arthur Scargill, became famous and the PM, Mrs Thatcher, the subject of intense dislike by those who had worked, or did work, in the mines.

During the strike 11,291 people were arrested, including Arthur Scargill who was arrested during a protest at Orgreave colliery in the summer of 1984. Some groups supported the miners, including an organisation called Women against Pit Closures but the TUC (Trade Union Council) didn't really offer full support as it had in 1974.

In March 1985 the Mineworkers narrowly voted to return to work, some had already done so, and the strike was over. It was an important defeat for the trade union movement, a bit like the general strike of 1926 but over a longer period. The pit closure programme continued and another effect was that in the mining communities there was now an even greater dislike of the conservatives. In 2002 there were only 13 deep mines in Britain where once there were 170. The mineworkers union now has 5,000 members as against 187,000 in 1984. Also, in 2002, Arthur Scargill retired as the mineworkers union president, outlasting his arch enemy Mrs Thatcher by some 10 years.

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