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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The more they learn the less they understand, 20 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Marching to the Fault Line (Hardcover)
This is an attempt by two journalists to add to the understanding of the strike and it is a step forward. It confirms 'secret' deals done by Kinnock, The UDM with the NCB and even McGahey with Whitelaw. It gives us access to key documents so goes beyond spin of the time. To be fair the authors wanted to speak to Scargill but he refused. They also make clear they do not think Scargill just a fool, p249. It also reads better than The Times snobbish offering or even 'Loss Without Limit' which is seen as the definitive work.

Where it fails is the usual lack of empathy with miners and Scargill. As usual with outsiders it applies 'common sense' without context or cultural understanding e.g. you don't just tell tens of thousands of spontaneous strikers to go back to work and wait for the ballot papers! Like many it concludes that Scargill should have taken one of the deals on offer so it could at least look like victory. In other words a betrayal dressed as victory. That would have been truly egotistical of Scargill. To tell miners a review procedure was in place that was worthless and protected nobody would have fooled nobody. Another example of the authors lack of empathy is their sympathising with Gavin Lightman QC in asking why Scargill hid secret accounts from the rest of the NUM Executive. At least Lightman was ignorant about Joe Gormley having been a Special Branch informer! Let me spell it out gentlemen, Scargill couldn't trust anybody. Its well known there were MI5 agents and SB informers around so he didn't broadcast it lest it get seized. Funny that eh?

As for Scargill himeslf, yes he was vain and egotistical, like all big time people, union leaders, politicians, actors etc. The leaders of ordinary men and women had to be as strong and confident as those they opposed since those they opposed had the state and media carrying them along. One things for sure, Scargill scared Thatcher and the establishment in a way 'sensible' Kinnock and Willis or any number of anti capitalist riots simply did not.

This book has actually reinforced my belief in Scargill in a strange way in that I always rolled my eyes at Scargills declaration that the strike was a victory. However Ken Capstick sums up that point perfectly on p247. In short when a more powerful enemy wants to break you there is dignity in fighting back, win or lose. The meek inherit nothing. Scargill knew the union movement was about to be hit by the Thatcher juggernaut and like the bravest in a team stepped forward to take the fight to the enemy and asked his side to follow but... Anyone streetwise knew that Thatcher could not be wheeled and dealed with. Look what happened to the naive Notts men who had a letter thanking them from the lady herself and were assured they had bright futures.

As for the personal stuff, leave the gossip to the Daily Mail harpies. Scargill is not a lonely old man, he has been seen out and about with his grandchildren at an Arsenal match and a store opening in Barnsley so we can assume he is friendly with his daughter! The tiresome comparison with a WW1 general is plain wrong since WW1 generals did not lead from the front or get hospitalised. They were many miles behind their men in chateaus. A bit like Eric Hammond and John Lyons incidentally.

So with hindsight and key documents proving the review procedure and promises offered by the NCB were worthless and confirmation that state informers were around these authors still ask the same cliched questions. 10 out of 10 for fresh research gentlemen, 2 out of 10 for new answers.

What is really needed is a comprehensive book by an insider or journo with greater understanding, step forward Seumas Milne, Dave Douglass or Arthur himself. Why he has written and said so little is beyond me, he is 71 after all. If he or his friends read this I suggest he gets a move on.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Mar 2009 07:45:00 GMT
Parihaka says:
This is a fair review, I would say, without having read the book, or seen how any comments I made to the author's have been used. The simple fact is, all of us in the NUM simply did our best to get a result but in the circumstances we were deafeated by a more powerful opponent, who was better prepared. That was not our fault, either! All the ifs and buts will be debated until the end of time (many, we debated them at the time - but as this review comments, in the heat of battle.....); for this was a real turning point in the history of modern Britain. We can see this even better today, in the effect that the diastrous neo-liberal economics, so savagely practised aganist the miners in 1984-85 (and against all those who worked throughout the strike after it) have nearly brought the whole country to its knees. Poor Britan, poor British people!

Posted on 23 Nov 2010 14:10:58 GMT
Elizabeth says:
You said that "The tiresome comparison with a WW1 general is plain wrong since WW1 generals did not lead from the front or get hospitalised." The claim that WW1 generals did not lead from the front or get hospitalised is untrue. According to this link at the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1998/10/98/world_war_i/197586.stm) "78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the First World War while a further 146 were wounded."

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2011 21:08:13 BDT
Mr Neville says:
Thanks for the history lesson, however I was answering the charge against Scargill based on the oft repeated joke. It's always been the comedy image of WW1 generals that they were miles behind lines e.g. Oh What a Lovely War and Blackadder Goes Forth. This in turn was used against Scargill who was hospitalised on the front line while his critics in the union movement really did stay in smoke filled rooms leaving the 'troops' to do the picketing.
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