Sunday, March 08, 2009

Should there hae been a ballot?

Arthur Scargill and the other Miners leaders have often been criticised for not holding a national ballot on whether to strike in 1984. I am fairly agnostic about this. Perhaps it was a mistake - it certainly handed the Tories a propaganda gift. But I doubt if - had a ballot been held (and even if the Miners voted to strike) - it would have made a difference to the eventual outcome. The whole might of the state was against the Miners and add to that the pusillanimity of most of the rest of the trade union leaderships and of Kinnock et al and it seems to me the Miners had a very uphill task. Scargill argues - in Saturday's Guardian - that if the pit deputies union Nacods had come out the strike could have been won (he obviously suspects that some behind-the-scenes skulldugery explains why they choose not to, and he may well be right) and he thinks that if picketing had been increased at Orgreave after June 18 the coking plant could have been closed. Maybe. But vis-a-vis the ballot Scargill has a point. The difficulty was that Miners in some areas - believing (falsely) that their jobs were safe - could vote against a strike, effectively voting Miners in other areas out of a job. Scargill quotes Peter Heathfield speaking at the time: "...a ballot should not be used and exercised as a veto to prevent people in other areas defending their jobs". As I say, I am not convinced the decision taken not to hold a national ballot was correct; but this is certainly a fair point. Very often the "recieved version" of past events is allowed to stand with insufficient scrutiny.


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