I'd like to tell you a story, if you will permit me. Two things have made me decide to do this:
- the fact that the Miners' Strike was discussed in another thread [on the Facebook group's page]
- the ever increasing indications of corrupt electoral practice by the Tories.
Many will be aware that miners used to receive part of their pay in the form of an allowance of coal. It was not "free coal;" it was a means of depressing wages.
But, as a result, and certainly in South Yorkshire where I was, most miners' homes were heated entirely by coal, with a back boiler to heat the water. Even in midsummer a small fire would burn in the hearth, so as to provide hot water.
During the strike, of course, the coal allowance stopped. There was no way to heat your house or provide hot water. The strike lasted a year, including a cold Yorkshire winter ( or Scottish winter etc.) No heating. No hot water.
I recall visiting one home and seeing the eleven-year-1old son trying to do his homework while dressed in outdoor coat, scarf, gloves and wrapped in a blanket.
At every pit, however, there was one or more huge heaps of, essentially coalish muck, commercially useless, just dumped in mini-mountains. Many will remember how, at Aberfan in South Wales, one such "mountain" collapsed, burying a junior school and many children.
However it was possible to go on the heap and collect, from the muck, tiny bits of coal which might provide a brief fire in the hearth. Of course, the miners did this, for their families' sake. They risked their lives in doing so but, then, that was normal in their job anyway.
Now, Grimethorpe Methodist Chapel was a pretty ugly building, I have to admit. To prevent vandalism all our windows were protected by metal mesh. One Sunday we discovered the mesh had disappeared, been stolen. Not a single member complained, because we knew why. Miners had removed the mesh because it made an excellent sieve to sift the coal bits from the muck on the heap! Solidarity!
But, once the Coal Board realised what was happening, they suddenly declared that these useless piles of muck were Coal Board property. Removing bits of coal was theft! And the next time miners went on the heap, they found the police, waiting for them.
A few days later I visited a local primary school to take an assembly. The staff, still distressed, told me how, the day before, their field and playground had been the scene of a running battle between miners (many of them fathers and brothers of the schoolchildren) and baton wielding police! To protect the children from seeing what was happening, they gathered them all in the hall and sang songs!
It was not just the miners that the government attacked, but their wives and children.
I tell you this partly to remind us all of the realities of prolonged industrial action, but mainly, with our present political situation in mind, to say this:
Whatever you do, never underestimate the capacity of the Tories to plumb the depths in their determination to get their own way. There is nowhere so low that they will not go if they deem it necessary.
When David Cameron smiles at you, make very sure someone is watching your back.
Corbyn 50years + Supporters group
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