ITV’s film, The Miners’ Strike and Me, was told from the victim’s point of view rather than the victor’s. The film captures a time when tough political decisions had to be made and Margaret Thatcher was at the helm of the British government. Not all agreed with her decisions but in hindsight, I believe she did what was best for the country.
The Miners’ Strike and Me (ITV) was a vivid account of history, told by those who lost out in Thatcher’s Britain, says Terry Ramsey
Sometimes the simplest approach is the best. To mark 30 years since the Miners’ Strike, programme makers could have decided to examine the political arguments, the economic arguments and the social arguments with a studio full of talking heads.
Instead the producers of The Miners’ Strike and Me (ITV) talked to people who were involved and – bingo! – the political arguments, the economic arguments and the social arguments were right there. But with a human face. This was oral history on the small screen. People telling the stories they tell to their children and grandchildren, and to each other in clubs and pubs. So, of course, it wasn’t perfectly balanced. But as a living, breathing, reminder of the passions, the hurt and the damage caused by the strike, it was vivid.
Perforce, there was little from the government. Principal figures – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and National Coal Board boss Ian MacGregor – are no longer with us, but they would never have appeared anyway. Michael Heseltine, a member of Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet, relayed the official line: “The issue was the rule of law.”
But the bulk of the film belonged to the miners’ stories. And it was impressive how the programme makers skilfully allowed those stories to emerge.
We first met Stephen Wyles talking warmly about camaraderie among the miners. “You’re scrubbing each other’s backs in the shower, you’re watching each other’s backs down the pit.” Only later did we discover that Wyles was one of the miners who went back to work – a “scab” to the others – who had subsequently lost all his mining friends. Even his own father refused to speak to him. Suddenly his memories of pit camaraderie seemed very poignant.
And Russell Broomhead appeared, seemingly a fringe participant, talking fretfully about the politicisation of the miners’ wives. Then it was revealed he was the striker famously filmed by TV cameras being beaten by a police officer at Orgreave. “He attacked me with his truncheon – in fact, he broke it on my head,” Broomhead said, remarkably deadpan.
The strike centred on fears that Britain’s coal mines would be closed down. Miner Jimmy Johnson, from Easington, Co Durham, was shown in footage from the time saying: “I’d rather fight now for, say, a year and have hardship for a year as close the pit and have hardship for the rest of our lives.” Unfortunately, he had both.
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ITV’s The Minder’s Strike brought back many memories for those who went through those trying times. It was a vivid account of how politics and economics don’t always seem to flow in the public’s interest.