Thirty years ago, Arthur Scargill was idolised by Britain's coal miners. Yesterday at the High Court he lost a legal action against the union he once headed.
There were two very newsworthy cases decided at the High Court yesterday: a controversial medical case regarding the fate of a seven year old boy, and the Pakistan drone case, which will ultimately decide the fates of many people of all ages. Twenty-five years ago, Arthur Scargill at the High Court would have been equally big news, but now, aged 74 and out of flavour if not fallen from grace, he warranted far less coverage, although the BBC managed to find space to cover his trials and tribulations.
No champagne socialist or academic, Arthur Scargill has proud working class roots; his miner father was a Communist, and Arthur himself was born and bred at Barnsley, rising to the Presidency of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982 when he replaced the moderate Labour Party supporter Joe Gormley. Arthur Scargill had no time for moderate anything, his brand of socialism being more in line with that of the then Soviet Bloc, but as Margaret Thatcher once said, the problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money. In 1984, Mr Scargill was elected Lifetime President of the NUM, and became Honorary President in 2002. With that post came the perk of a rent free apartment in the City of London. At the time of his presidency, the NUM had a membership well in excess of 150,000. Today it is down to four figures and can no longer afford such extravagances as providing free accommodation for former miners, even former presidents, especially as Mr Scargill also has a home in Barnsley.
After the judgment, the NUM's current General Secretary said "I would say it's time to walk away, Mr Scargill. You've been found out", adding "The NUM is not your personal bank account and never will be again."
In that statement there is absolutely no reverence for a man who was said once to be loved or loathed but never ignored.
At the time of the 1984-5 miners' strike, Scargill predicted that the government of the day would decimate the coal industry. That prediction came true, but in retrospect who cares? Dignity of labour aside, mining is a filthy, unpleasant, dangerous, horrible, unhealthy job. Why but for a fat pay packet would anyone work down a mine voluntarily?
The British Government is now investing heavily in clean, renewable energy, but not nearly as much as it should.
After his career in the mining industry was over, Arthur Scargill formed a new political party, the Socialist Labour Party, in revolt against New Labour. It was and remains an abysmal failure. Sadly, that organisation, such as it is, and this court case, are likely to be what Arthur Scargill is most remembered for.
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