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1984: Scargill vetoes national ballot on strike
Miners' leader Arthur Scargill has ruled out a national ballot of miners on whether to continue their five-week strike.

The miners' dispute began on 6 March after the head of the National Coal Board, Ian McGregor, announced plans to cut production, the equivalent of 20 pits or 20,000 jobs.

Mr Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers called on miners to strike as they had done - successfully - in 1972 and 1974.

A veto on a national ballot marks a serious escalation of the dispute, as well as a growing rift between hardline unionists and moderates representing miners in the North West who want to work.

This is yet another example of police state 1984
Arthur Scargill, NUM leader
The motion for a ballot had been pushed forward by Jack Jones, the Leicestershire leader.

During a meeting of the NUM national executive headquarters in Sheffield, Mr Scargill's decision was challenged. He had to leave the room and his deputy Mick McGahey chaired a debate among the 24 union members present.

The ruling was upheld by 13 votes to eight with three abstentions.

About 2,500 miners, some of whom had arrived in the early hours, cheered Mr Scargill when he addressed them using a loud-hailer from the eighth-floor window of the building.

He shouted down to the strikers, who were surrounded by 1,500 police officers from seven forces, "This is yet another example of police state 1984."

The situation turned ugly when some miners attacked and hurled verbal abuse at moderate union leaders leaving the meeting and members of the media. There were 53 arrests and and 11 officers were injured.

Mr Scargill later told a news conference the NUM was determined to continue "the fight against Thatcher and MacGregor on pit closures".

He said a national ballot would conflict with last month's executive decision to allow each area the chance to call individual strikes.

Instead of a ballot, a special delegates conference will be held on Thursday. One of its tasks will be to decide whether or not to accept a change in NUM rules that a simple majority would be accepted in a strike ballot instead of the current requirement of 55%.

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Arthur Scargill
Mr Scargill announced the ruling to miners outside NUM headquarters



In Context
Within days of the decision to rule out a national ballot, hundreds of police were bussed to picket lines around the country. There were many violent confrontations, especially outside steel plants where miners tried to halt production.

In September 1984 a judge ruled the strike to be illegal because there had been no national ballot after Yorkshire and Derbysire miners took their case to court.

After the Coal Board launched a pre-Christmas ad campaign promising bonuses a third of miners were back in the mines.

The return to work accelerated as it became clear the strikers had failed even to restrict power supplies when the Central Electricity Generating Board met its highest ever demand for power on 8 January 1985.

On 3 March Mr Scargill announced the end of the longest-running industrial dispute in Britain.

The Treasury estimated the strike cost the country 1.5bn in funds used to supply power stations with oil rather than coal, extra policing, as well as money lost by the steel industry and rail network.

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