Thatcher secretly met leaders of blackleg UDM 3 times in years after ’84-85 strike
MARGARET THATCHER personally met the leaders of the scab Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) at least three times in the years following the miners’ strike.
Classified Downing Street files, which are released by the National Archives today, expose the extent to which the Thatcher government actively assisted the UDM, formed when strikebreaking Nottinghamshire miners broke away from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1985.
Analysis of the files by the Morning Star shows that Thatcher had secret tete-a-tetes with UDM general secretary Roy Lynk in 1986, 1988 and 1989.
The union is already known to have advised ministers on weakening the collective power of miners in the early 1990s, when it was taking part in a bid to buy up privatised pits.
But the newly released files suggest Thatcher took a personal interest in repaying the scab union for its members’ refusal to take part in the NUM’s 1984-85 strike, a courageous stand against Thatcher’s plans to dismantle Britain’s coal industry and break the union’s power.
A briefing prepared for Thatcher ahead of the 1988 meeting says she should stress to Mr Lynk that British Coal (formerly the National Coal Board) had “leant over backwards” to continue coal production at closure-threatened pits “with a UDM majority.”
Another document is annotated in Thatcher’s handwriting: “We have to keep the UDM satisfied. We (and the country) owe a lot to their members.”
NUM general secretary Chris Kitchen told the Star: “These documents confirm what we already knew.
“The UDM was set up by the Tory government to try to weaken the NUM, and it supported the Tory government all the way through.
“We’ve always known it was a Tory trade union, and that’s why they weren’t in the TUC.”
The meetings were not publicised by either side at the time.
“Roy Lynk has asked that, if possible, the meeting tomorrow should be kept secret, because, I think, in terms of their recruitment and retaining of members the UDM do not wish to be seen as being close to either the government or the employer,” then energy secretary Peter Walker wrote ahead of the first soiree.
Another memo was given a “strictly limited circulation to named individuals only.”
The files, which were closed in 1990, the year Thatcher left office, also show that members of the Cabinet clashed over coal policy.
Mr Walker raised concerns when Cecil Parkinson, who had taken over as energy secretary, announced the government would “press ahead” with privatisation in his speech at the 1988 Conservative conference.
And John Major, who was chancellor at the time, objected to Mr Parkinson’s offer of a wage rise to UDM members outside agreed public-sector pay parameters.