Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady

By John Blundell | Go to book overview

15. BEATING THE MINERS

“We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands and now we
have to fight the enemy within
, which is much more difficult but just
as dangerous.”

“These few men are the wreckers in our midst.”

Arthur Scargill’s flying pickets, supported by most of organized Labour, had twice defeated Ted Heath (see Chapter 6) and they held a special place in the political landscape. They had an aura of invincibility. They could bring down a government, and indeed they had done so only a decade earlier. Prime Minister Thatcher’s massive 1983 victory (144 majority) outraged the Left, in particular Arthur Scargill, the Marxist leader of the NUM who was soon talking about not needing to wait until the next election to get rid of her. I think it possible that her defeat of General Galtieri emboldened her to take on the mineworkers with a robustness she may otherwise not have shown.

As early as September 1981 Energy Secretary Nigel Lawson — a brilliant man — quietly began building up what became massive coal stocks, not at the pit heads but rather at the power stations. Then in the fall of 1983 two key moves were made. Peter Walker became Energy Secretary and Ian MacGregor1, who spent most of his working life in the US, became Chairman of the National Coal Board.

1 Ian MacGregor was born in Scotland but had immigrated to the USA. In 1976 the then Labour government had brought him back to try to sort out a nationalized

-121-

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Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • List of Acronyms ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Protocol xiii
  • Table of Contents xv
  • Preface 1
  • Introduction 11
  • 1- Childhood 17
  • 2- University 25
  • 3- Launching 35
  • 4- Elected 45
  • 5- Opposition I 53
  • 6- Education Secretary 63
  • 7- Reflections 71
  • 8- Leader 77
  • 9- Opposition II 83
  • 10- Power 89
  • 11- Liberating the Economy 93
  • 12- Privatizing the Commanding Heights 99
  • 13- Selling off Public Housing 107
  • 14- Going to War 113
  • 15- Beating the Miners 121
  • 16- Reforming the Unions 127
  • 17- Battling the I.R.a 131
  • 18- Befriending America 137
  • 19- Kicking Down the Wall 141
  • 20- Dealing with Brussels 147
  • 21- Resignation 155
  • 22- Retirement 165
  • 23- Family 173
  • 24- Men 181
  • 25- Her World 191
  • 26- Ten Lessons 197
  • Postscript- What Remains to Be Done 207
  • Appendix I- Table of Margaret Thatcher’s Elections* 209
  • Appendix II- General Election Results from 1945 -2005 210
  • Further Reading 211
  • Index 213
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