In a civilised society men working in deep mines in dangerous and unhealthy conditions hacking at a seam of coal is unacceptable. Taking the coal produced and burning it in a boiler to generate electricity whilst polluting the atmosphere and damaging the climate is unacceptable as well. But let’s be clear. Prime Minister Thatcher’s attack on the traditional mining industry had nothing to do with Health and Safety and even less with concerns about the Environment. It was all about political power.
In 1974 Edward Heath took on the miners and failed. Later in the decade James Callaghan failed as well. They both asked the nation “Who governs Britain?” They were told “Not you”. Thatcher was not going to make the same mistake.
The decline and fall of deep mining and then of coal-fired power stations was indisputably a good thing. The way it was done was scandalous. There was no coherent strategy to the pit closure programme. Mining towns lost their raison d’être, their employment and their self-respect. As the pits closed nothing opened to replace them. It was largely left to the market, and the market failed.
It may be that working with the National Union of Mineworkers to implement a strategy to run down coal mining was never going to be possible. That there was no room for compromise and that Binary Britain had its origins among the coalfields. But working at a higher level with the TUC to co-jointly put in place a strategy could have been possible. Who knows?