Monday, 6 January 2014

Memo to the BBC regarding the Miners’ Strike: your side lost - just get over it, comrades

Man with a dead fox on his bonce
Last week, the declassification of official documents under the 30-year rule produced yet another wave of revisionist BBC coverage of the events surrounding the 1984/5 miners’ strike. The dispute left deep wounds in the psyche of the corporation’s news and current affairs department, which hadn’t even begun to heal when I joined the BBC in 1986, a years after the strike ended in gloriously abject defeat for the National Union of Mineworkers.

Those wounds will never heal properly, because the BBC regularly picks open its psychological scars by endlessly re-examining what was in effect a war between, on one side, a democratically elected government, and, on the other, union bosses determined to subvert democracy in their quest to impose a proletarian dictatorship on this country.

Being subjected to BBC coverage of the miners’ strike is like observing some obsessed sports fan rewatching the same recording of an ancient football match which his team lost, in the hope that either the result will eventually change, or that he’ll unearth definitive proof that his team were cheated of a deserved victory (last week’s brouhaha concerned the Thatcher government being economical with the actualité over how many pits it wanted to close, which means, apparently, that Scargill was in the right all along). The fact that the BBC’s current director-general wrote a history of the NUM, King Coal, published by Pelican in 1981, suggests that pressure on journalists to stop mourning Mrs. Thatcher’s great victory may not be coming from the top any time soon.

Of course, not everyone at the BBC was in love with the miners. One exceptionally honest, left-wing colleague who’d produced many reports from South Yorkshire once admitted that striking South Yorkshire miners were “the most horrible people I’ve ever met”. However, the corporation’s loathing for Mrs. Thatcher trumped any doubts it may have had about the miners’ deplorable manners.

Here are ten straighforward simple facts that the BBC really needs to accept about the miners’ strike of 1984/5:

1. Mrs. Thatcher closed fewer coal mines than either of her two Labour predecessors, Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.

2. Coal-mining was costing British taxpayers an absolute bloody fortune, in return for which we were being regularly held to ransom by the recipients of our largesse.

3. By dragging the miners out on strike without a ballot, Scargil was in breach of his union’s constitution. He did this because he knew his members wouldn’t vote to strike. The strike was therefore illegal. The BBC vigorously disapproves of illegal behaviour when it comes to people not paying the license-fee.

4. Scargill begged Moscow to finance the strike, and has subsequently come out as a Stalinist – “the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin explain the real world" (not, obviously, the real world the rest of us inhabit). The strike was a battle between democracy and totalitarianism. Why does the BBC persist in portraying the miners (and their wives, who’ve been sanctified) as doughty defenders of Freedom, when – whether they knew it or not – they were its enemies?

5. Even the TUC didn’t support the strike.

6. Polls at the time demonstrated that the general public overwhelmingly didn’t support the strike. Mrs. Thatcher’s government was doing exactly what the people wanted.

7. The miners were hopelessly split: 26,000 of them went on working during the strike. Much of the BBC’s coverage - and the lies enshrined in fictional works such as Billy Elliot - give the impression that the strike was solid, when it was anything but.

8. The defeat of the NUM was a victory for the majority of British voters and taxpayers. Rewriting history – as the BBC has been doing for years now – to make it look as if the British people were basically sympathetic to the striking miners, or that the public was somehow fooled into accepting the government’s actions represents a disservice to the truth. (This is the way the Left routinely deals with defeat – it’s what Labour’s unfeasibly posh education spokesman, Tristram Hunt, is currently doing by playing down Germany’s role in causing the First World War.)

9. To borrow Martin Amis's comment about darts referee Russ Bray's voice, if Arthur Scargill didn’t sport the silliest comb-over ever, he certainly sported the silliest comb–over yet. If a man is willing to lie about the current position of his hair-line, we must assume that he’s willing to lie about more important matters. When that man’s attempts to cover up the truth about his hair-loss prove to be ludicrously unconvincing, our national broadcaster should assume – along with the rest of us – that they’re dealing with a deluded solipsist, dangerously divorced from reality.

10. The miners’ strike represented a crushing defeat for the anti-democratic Far Left rather than the pseudo-democratic mainstream Left. Unless the BBC actually believes that Far Left fascists would have been better for this country than Mrs. Thatcher's government, it really needs to de-sentimentalise future coverage of the strike.


  1. Your Point 9 - "If a man is willing to lie about the current position of his hair-line, we must assume that he is willing to lie about more important matters."

    Spot on. I was once called up by an American executive who had just been put in charge worldwide of a piece of business I was working on. He was coming to London and could I get him an electrical adaptor for his 110 volt hair dryer and have it sent round to his hotel? This I arranged. When he eventually appeared I noted that he sported a coiffure like Scargill's plus side-boards like Mungo Jerry. He looked and spoke like a TV Evangelist. He then went down to visit our Australian agency. In Sydney, three local executives were driving him back to his hotel when in a fit communal madness they stopped in a disreputable area called King's Cross and physically threw him out on the pavement.

    Males who take an abnormal interest in their tonsorial [and sartorial] arrangements tend to be wrong 'uns. It's a form of narcissism. We have gone from hair-pieces [remember Frank Bough?], the comb-over [pioneered by Robert Robinson], hair transplants from the intimate regions of Tunisian men [ Graham Gooch, Wayne Rooney to name but two] to the current completely shaved dome look [Chukka Umuna and the unspeakable Toby Young, for example. What are they thinking?]. Both Julius Caesar and Napoleon suffered from premature baldness and it worried them in spite of their genius. They both came a cropper. David Cameron beware! As Clive James says, there is nothing wrong with being an "own-up" baldie.

    Now the cultivation of nostril-hair growth...well, that's another subject. And seems only to appeal to certain types of Englishmen?

  2. I've always been taken aback to meet elderly Englishmen who seem proud of the fact that their nasal passages are blocked by luxuriant thickets. What happens when they sneeze? How can they smell anything? A battery-operated Remington nasal hair-trimmer would take care of the problem in a trice. Similarly, I was recently watching some old black and white comedy based on Stephen Potter's "One-Upmanship" - "School for Scoundrels"(starring Ian Carmichael and Terry Thomas, inevitably). Alastair Sim did a piece-to-camera in which it looked like he'd stuffed a toupée down each ear. It looked absolutely disgusting. Like "bugger-lugs", I presume excessive nasal and ear hair must have been acceptable once, but it fair turns my stomach.