This country of ours bears a history rife with conflict and war, events which have cemented our ethos as a warrior nation. It is a reputation preceded with contention not just with other nations, but also with ourselves, for when we weren’t busy smashing seven bells out of our overseas opponents, we sought to fill this gap by doing so with our own people instead.
On four occasions this occurred; the War of the Roses, the English Civil War, the American War of Independence and, controversial as it sounds, the Miners Strike of 1984.
The War of the Unions
The title of this article, along with that previous statement, will undoubtedly conjure up all manner of emotions, so let me make one thing clear. This is not an attempt to link Thatcher solely with the destruction of our industry, the decline of UK coal mining was in full flow way before Thatcher’s time; 326 mines were closed between 1964-79, whereas ‘only’ 154 mines were closed between 1979-90.
But where my point lies and what I will go on to explain is that this isn’t just about the reduction in jobs and industry, it’s about the methods put in place for causing it, for what distinguished the predating Labour governments with that of the Conservative government of 1979, was that they did not declare all out war on the Trade Unions (quite the contrary, Labour completely capitulated to the Trade Unions), and thus commence the fourth civil war of our time.
To describe the struggle between Thatcher and the miners as a civil war is not a connotation I use lightly, but to use any other term would be bereft in highlighting just exactly what took place in that year long strike; Thatcher put into use all the resources available to her, from employing MI5 to encroach on the demonstrations, the use of National newspapers to unapologetically smear Arthur Scargill and his henchman with questionable accusations (much in the same manner they do with Nigel Farage and UKIP today), to setting up a crack team of Police Officers to directly and violently engage the demonstrating miners, pitching brother against brother, sons against fathers, and wives against husbands.
Civil it undoubtedly wasn’t, only in terms of a state in conflict with itself, but a war it undoubtedly was.
This war, as we know, was won by Thatcher. She didn’t simply defeat the Trade Unions, she mercilessly crushed them, in a manner which befits her title as the ‘Iron Lady’. Thus began the declination of the workers movement, the commencement of the anti-Trade Union laws and the free for all privatisation of the nation.
What was lost? As Beth Butler, a teacher during the 70s, puts it “A zest; a get-up-and-go; an optimism. People seemed to become gradually more passive under Thatcher, as though the colour had gone out of their lives…People were interested in what they had for themselves, rather than doing things together”.
But not only that, what we now see today, are the once prosperous and united industrial cities now divided and in many areas reduced to abandonment and dilapidation, where crime, drugs and alcohol are a normal way of life. We see a country which is now dangerously close to breaking apart as Scotland, once a Conservative stronghold but now decisively anti-anything Conservative, puts to vote a referendum on independence this September in order to try and break away from the Tory legacy.
I will not sweepingly state that this is all the work of Thatcher; but the continuous work of Government since Thatcher left, both Conservative or Conservative-lite (i.e. New Labour), has added to this feeling of ‘Thatcherisation’ through out of touch policies for the working class, including and especially ever deeper integration with the EU.
But not all is lost…
How can this all be reversed? Well, one of the solutions to me is mind bogglingly obvious and is staring us in the face as we speak; shale gas.
It is estimated that we are sitting on 170 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, for which the economic aspects are too vast to include in this article and will be illustrated another day, so we will focus on the human aspect for now.
Fully exploiting the shale gas industry will unquestionably begin the re-birth of our industry, the growth and development of jobs and working communities and in turn reverse decades of decline and depression.
But most importantly of all, it will reverse decades of lost faith in government; our citizens will feel respected once more and quickly realise our government can have the ability to make our lives more prosperous and fulfilling. This in turn will lead to the conclusion that voting can bring in real change. Before you know it, people will flock back to politics once more and voting numbers will skyrocket to previous historic levels, we will truly become an active nation once again and a united one at that.
This is crucial, for what we do not need is any more Russell Brand type characters jumping on the anti-political band wagon, screaming for anarchy and revolution before driving off in their Range Rover to the next Green Peace conference and settling down for the night in their $2 million abode.
So what does it mean to un-Thatcherise the North? How do we do it? It means abolishing the North-South divide once and for all which arguably initiated under her reign, and applying the most effective medicine known to us which for many people has been lost; hope.
The hope that there is a community out there to tear the unemployed away from the dependence on the state, the hope that we will be able to provide our families with the quality of life they profoundly deserve, and the hope that, for those who are not academically inclined, there is a genuine alternative to University in the form of a soaring industry and all the apprenticeships and trade that come with it.
Unlike your local cardboard wearing looney, I wholeheartedly believe that the end is not nigh and there is hope for our country yet; the shale gas industry is not the be all and end all, but we must not let this opportunity go to waste, as it will set us on the right path to becoming a booming and wealthy nation once more for all of its inhabitants, citizen and immigrants alike. Can you imagine being in a position of having both a strong financial sector AND industrial sector? For most countries this is the stuff of dreams, but it could be a stark reality for the UK.
To make it a reality, we must re-industrialise, we must un-Thatchertise, and we must become a country of labour once more.
Photo by Chris.,