My greatest pal Ramsay Smith, who went on to edit the Scottish Every day Mail, likes to inform a narrative in regards to the first time he clapped eyes on me.
I used to be outdoors the Outdated Bell pub in Fleet Road, entertaining passers-by with my celebrated impersonation of Arthur Scargill doing his model of Adam Religion’s smash hit What Do You Need (If You Don’t Need Cash)?
OK, so that you needed to be there. It was the 80s. Drink had been taken. And regardless that I used to be no Mike Yarwood, everybody recognised my Barmy Arthur schtick.
He was a pantomime villain, the person who had simply led the once-proud Nationwide Union of Mineworkers to crushing defeat after a crippling year-long strike.
Crippling, that’s, for miners and their households, not the nation at massive. Whereas total communities have been destroyed by the strike, Scargill himself prospered.
His members couldn’t afford to pay the hire or put meals on the desk, however Arthur was shacked up in a flat in London’s upscale Barbican advanced, which he subsequently purchased for half its actual price underneath Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right-to-buy’ scheme for council tenants and was not too long ago valued at £2million-plus.
That was along with his hilltop bungalow in Barnsley, the place his late father as soon as chased me off the premises with a rolled-up copy of the small-circulation Communist day by day paper, the Morning Star.
As Eric Hammond, chief of the Proper-wing electricians’ union, later noticed: ‘Scargill went into the strike with an enormous union and a small home and got here out with an enormous home and a small union.’
Ostensibly, the dispute was in protest at plans to shut just a few loss-making coal mines. In actuality, it was a disgraceful tried putsch to make use of industrial muscle to convey down a democratically elected Conservative authorities by power.
Union barons like Scargill have been celebrities again then, though like music corridor turns their greatest days have been behind them. The Final Image Present was when the truculent print unions tried and failed to stop Rupert Murdoch dragging the newspaper business into the twentieth century by shifting his titles to a new-technology plant at Wapping.
As a younger regional official in Yorkshire, Scargill had been a driver behind the miners’ strikes within the early-to-mid Seventies which introduced down Edward Heath’s Tory authorities.
British commerce unionist Arthur Scargill arrested after becoming a member of Grunwick dispute protest, London, UK, twenty third June 1977. (Picture by Night Normal/Hulton Archive/Getty Photos)
When he turned the NUM’s president, he was decided to reprise the trick by toppling Mrs Thatcher’s administration. This time, although, Thatcher and her Cupboard enforcer Norman Tebbit — in full Chingford Skinhead mode — have been prepared for him.
They’d stockpiled coal prematurely and despatched within the Outdated Invoice to crack the heads of Scargill’s thuggish flying pickets.
The NUM was smashed, the inevitable closure of uneconomic pits accelerated, and Scargill was uncovered as a flailing dinosaur, doomed to extinction.
Barmy Arthur’s humiliation was full when an enterprising photographer snapped him opening his briefcase to disclose a can of Brut hairspray, utilized in ozone-bursting portions to maintain his trademark Bobby Charlton-style comb-over in place.
And that was just about the final anybody heard of him, till this week when he turned up on a picket line in Wakefield in help of hanging railway staff.
So once I noticed the newest images of Arthur, now 84, nonetheless carrying his signature Battle of Orgreave baseball cap, my earlier life as a younger industrial correspondent flashed earlier than me.
I assumed these Tra-La days have been over, for good. My second act, as a gentleman journalist, started after I’d spent a month on Neil Kinnock’s common election bus in 1987. When Kinnochio went right down to Maggie Thatcher’s third landslide, I concluded that Labour and the unions have been completed and I’d have to seek out one thing else to put in writing about.
The miners and printers had been hammered, the TUC was a spent power. Nobody appeared to have a lot urge for food for the category wrestle any extra. It was enjoyable whereas it lasted. The 1978/9 Winter of Discontent was my ticket to Fleet Road. I’d been engaged on the Birmingham Night Mail, chronicling the implosion of the British automobile business due to day by day disruption attributable to ludicrous wildcat strikes impressed by the likes of Derek ‘Pink Robbo’ Robinson, convener on the big British Leyland plant at Longbridge.
As an illustration, nightshift staff would take sleeping baggage with them and mattress down on the again seats of half-built vehicles sitting idle on the manufacturing line. Any try by administration to really make them do the job they have been paid for was greeted by a direct strike.
As soon as, I appear to recall, Longbridge — which employed getting on for 30,000 individuals — was introduced to an entire standstill by a dispute over the elimination of a kettle from the store stewards’ workplace.
After I landed in Fleet Road, I found that the ‘Outdated Spanish customs’ I’d discovered about in Brum have been widespread. These have been arcane working practices which dated again to Caxton, and gave the print unions a stranglehold on newspaper manufacturing.
If the Imperial Wizards of NATSOPA and SOGAT (aka Notsober and Sodit) objected to one thing written by a journalist, they merely stopped the presses and thousands and thousands of copies have been misplaced.
Most printers had second (or reasonably, first) jobs driving cabs or working candy outlets. They insisted on being paid in money, signing wage slips with fictitious names together with Mickey Mouse and the jockey Sir Gordon Richards.
Wapping put a cease to all that. Paradoxically, Murdoch’s high-tech print works was constructed on the positioning of deserted London docks, one other labour-intensive business well-known for its Spanish customs which collapsed with the introduction of recent containerisation.
The march of progress ultimately spelled the top of rule by store stewards, epitomised by the ‘All people Out’ working joke within the traditional comedy collection The Rag Commerce. In all places, that’s, besides within the public sector the place the established order survives unscathed.
Former President of the Nationwide Union of Mineworkers from 1982 to 2002 Arthur Scargill joins the picket line outdoors Wakefield Railway Station
Frankly, I used to be astonished — though I shouldn’t have been stunned — by the Outdated Spanish practices nonetheless current on the railways, revealed in excruciating element by my colleagues on the Mail over the previous few days.
Strolling allowances, trebles all spherical for engaged on the Sabbath. A few of these are relics that ought to have gone the best way of Stephenson’s Rocket.
Man Adams reported on a weird rule that permits workers to restart a scheduled break from scratch in the event that they occur to bump right into a supervisor who bids them a well mannered ‘good day’.
Overmanning is so rife that it takes as many as 9 individuals to alter a light-weight socket. What number of? Appears like a type of whiskery outdated jokes about what number of feminists it takes to alter a lightbulb.
In Scotland, drivers had to be told of shift adjustments in letters delivered by taxi. I’m reminded of Kinnock lamenting that in Liverpool, underneath Degsy Hatton’s Militant Tendency, a Lay-ber council was sending out redundancy notices through an area cab agency.
I spent the early Eighties overlaying limitless disputes on the railways for London’s Night Normal. One of many daftest and longest-running was the cussed refusal of the prepare drivers’ union ASLEF to permit British Rail to take away stokers from electrical trains.
Having stopped paying shut consideration to the economic relations panorama over 35 years in the past, it by no means occurred to me that this type of insanity was nonetheless occurring.
Within the age of ubiquitous cell, hand-held computer systems extra highly effective than the spaceships which first took males to the moon, it seems the railway unions are nonetheless resisting efforts to make their members reply the phone.
You couldn’t make it up.
To be trustworthy, I’d by no means heard of Mick Lynch till not too long ago. He clearly fancies himself as this yr’s reply to Arthur Scargill and is decided to make use of his management of the railway union RMT to convey the sort of industrial chaos to Britain not seen because the common strike of 1926.
Lynch and his ludicrous pro-Putin acolytes appear to suppose they will succeed the place Scargill failed and convey down an elected Conservative authorities. Say what you want about Barmy Arthur. He could have taken Moscow Gold throughout the miners’ strike and hosted Russian delegates at TUC conferences, however I don’t keep in mind him flying to Ukraine or posing in a fur hat with an assault rifle, like a few of Lynch’s lieutenants.
I can’t think about former rail union leaders like Sid Weighell and Jimmy Knapp sucking as much as the Russians, both, particularly in the midst of an unlawful warfare.
Lynch and his ludicrous pro-Putin acolytes appear to suppose they will succeed the place Scargill failed and convey down an elected Conservative authorities. Pictured: Richard Littlejohn in his youthful years
The brand new breed of RMT leaders doesn’t give a rattling, like Scargill, about the truth that the gravest hurt will probably be brought about to the hard-pressed working individuals they declare to champion. Neither does Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, both, judging by the truth that a few dozen Labour MPs joined Scargill on the rail staff’ picket strains this week.
Keir Starmer’s mealy-mouthed response is pathetic. He needs to be focusing his wrath on the unions, not the Authorities. In spite of everything, he grew up in Guildford, Surrey, commuter belt heartland. Thoughts you, Guildford’s most likely Working From Dwelling heartland nowadays.
It’s instructive that every one the unions lining up for the so-called Summer season of Discontent are within the monopolist public sector, which has grown fats and lazy over the previous couple of years regardless of the financial havoc attributable to Covid. If the civil service does go on strike this summer season, will anybody truly discover?
The railways, too, have had billions thrown at them by a authorities in full drunken sailor mode. If Boris is in any approach liable for our present issues, it’s as a result of he has spent his political profession stoking the present tradition of self-entitlement which is ruining the nation.
The ‘cash for nothing and your chips without cost’ furlough scheme went on far too lengthy.
As for the railway unions, even when he was London mayor Boris caved in far too simply to the unions’ pay calls for reasonably than endure mainline trains and the Underground being dropped at a standstill. That craven angle has to cease, now.
There’s just one technique to defeat this type of industrial blackmail. It needs to be confronted down, unflinchingly.
I’ve been urging ministers for greater than a yr to challenge an ultimatum to public sector workers nonetheless wedded to WFH. Get again to your desks otherwise you’re sacked.
The identical ought to apply to the rail unions, who’re cynically staggering their strikes to trigger most disruption. If it takes six months to coach a brand new workforce, or import one, it is going to be a value price paying. We’ve already been by two years of lockdown.
In 2022, the nation can’t afford to be held to ransom by a bunch of Left-wing gangsters hell-bent on toppling a authorities with a close to 80-seat majority.
Lynch considers himself a Marxist. Through which case, he will probably be acquainted with his hero’s well-known quote: historical past repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
This so-called Summer season of Discontent accommodates each parts, tragedy and farce. It gained’t finish nicely for anybody, particularly Lynch and his Commie co-conspirators.
The rail unions might imagine they’re invincible. So did the printers, the dockers, the automobile staff and the miners.
Simply ask Arthur Scargill.