Going on strike should be regarded as “an individual human right” and not be subject to a trade union vote, Wansbeck MP and former president of the mineworkers’ union Ian Lavery has said.
The Northumberland MP, who considered standing for the Labour Party leadership, predicts mass “civil disobedience” in the UK if the Government presses ahead with radical changes to trade union law.
The Conservatives want to bring in a 50% threshold that would see half of a union’s membership having to vote for a strike to be legitimate.
But former NUM chief Mr Lavery said pushing it through the legislation was a risk, adding: “This is a pure and utter attack on the trade union movement and an attack on workers.
“If the legislation proceeds through Parliament then I can see the trade unions ignoring it.”
He added: “I can see industrial action on a huge scale.”
Asked if he foresaw an era of wildcat strikes, he said: “I think it could be more serious than that. I think we could see civil disobedience.
A gathering to mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike was held in the North-East over the weekend.
Durham Miners’ Association staged the event at its headquarters at Redhills in Durham City on Saturday, three decades on from the bitter industrial dispute.
It was held at the weekend to tie in with the 30th anniversary of the infamous clashes between pitmen and police at Orgreave, near Rotherham, on June 18, 1984.
The union invited friends, supporters and miners who took part in the strike to ‘to renew old friendships and celebrate the spirit that endured a year-long battle for the preservation of jobs and communities’.
The eight-hour celebration started at 2pm and included a bar, buffet, films and music as well as speeches.
General secretary Dave Hopper said: “A lot of people who have not see each other for quite a while were there.
“It was nice to get together, reminisce a bit and look back at the situation and just think how unlucky we were not to achieve what we set out to achieve.
“Society would have been far better, certainly in the Durham area and a lot of coalfield communities. It is always important to keep issues like this in the public eye.”
Source – Durham Times, 23 June 2014
Statue to honour village’s miners
Work has begun on a memorial statue to honour men and boys killed in the pits.
A turf-cutting ceremony took place on Friday (June 20) ahead of the creation of a life-size statue of a miner, his wife and child for Esh Winning, in County Durham.
The statue will honour people who died in the collieries of Esh Winning, Waterhouses, Hedley Hill and East Hedleyhope.
Work on the memorial is expected to take three months, followed by an unveiling ceremony.
A long-running community campaign raised £65,000 to pay for the statue.
That included donations from the County Durham Community Foundation, Esh Winning Community Association, Hargreaves, Durham Rural Community Council, the Co-operative Society and others.
Councillor John Robinson, chairman of Durham County Council, was part of Friday’s event.
He said: “This will be a wonderful memorial to the local community and the families of those who worked in the mines.”
Hargreaves, a mining firm which is based in Esh Winning, is the main commercial supporter of the project.
Development director Ian Parkin said the company was honoured to be involved.
Bob Heslop, a devoted leader of the memorial group, sadly died last year, before the campaign reached fruition.
Source – Northern Echo, 22 June 2014
A reunion aims to bring together former picketing pitmen as they remember the strike 30 years on.
Durham Miners’ Association is inviting its friends and supporters, particularly those who took part in the industrial action, to gather at its headquarters in Red Hill, Durham, to “renew old friendships and celebrate the spirit that endured a year long battle”.
The gathering will be held on Saturday.
Three decades on, the hostilities generated between the miners and the authorities remain an issue.
Its general secretary Dave Hopper said: “The recent release of the Thatcher Government’s Cabinet papers has exposed the falsehoods and deceit used to defeat the miners’ strike of 1984/85.
“Now everyone knows that Thatcher deliberately lied about the full extent of her pit closure programme and was so determined to butcher the coal industry and smash the National Union of Mineworkers that she was even preparing to use the army to break the strike.
“None of this, of course, will shock our mining communities, which fought so bravely to resist the Tory onslaught.
“We thank those unions and members of the labour movement and all who gave us unstinting and invaluable help.
“At the same time, these revelations should shame those trade union and Labour Party leaders who did not support our cause.
“Those who refused to come to our aid bear a huge responsibility, not just for our defeat, but also for weakening the whole trade union movement.
“They will be remembered in the former coalfields of Britain just as we remember those so-called leaders who betrayed the 1926 General Strike.
“The refusal of ‘New Labour’, during 13 years of government, to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which was used to defeat us, only compounds their shame.
“Now we have to fight, with a weakened trade union movement, against draconian Tory-Liberal austerity measures which are impoverishing working people while the rich, who caused the economic crisis, have doubled their wealth since 2008.
“We need the fighting spirit which sustained us through that year-long strike more than ever because the fight for our communities which started in 1984 is still ongoing.
“I hope everyone will come on Saturday 21st and have a great time.”
The event will include refreshments and folk music performances, with a marquee to be set up in the grounds of the association’s base.
For more details visit http://www.durhamminers.org
Source – Sunderland Echo, 19 June 2014
Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic on its 150th anniversary.
It took place at Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, and the crowds enjoyed a packed programme of entertainment to mark the special celebration, including Glenn Tilbrook from chart topping band, Squeeze.
Also in the line up were local folk legend Johnny Handle, as well as traditional music and dance, street theatre and entertainers, the Ashington Colliery and Bedlington Youth brass bands, Werca’s Folk, and the Monkseaton Morrismen.
The day started with a memorial service and wreath laying.
Woodhorn’s own comedian-in-residence Seymour Mace added a touch of humour to the day as he, his fellow comedians John Whale and Andy Fury, and staff from the museum who have been working with the project, put their own entertaining twist on a guided visit to the museum.
Extracts from the Pitmen Painters were read out as Woodhorn is the home of the Ashington Group’s main collection of paintings and has a close bond to the story.
Original cast members, Chris Connel and Phillippa Wilson, recreated scenes from Lee Hall’s award-winning play.
The first Picnic was staged at Blyth Links in 1864 and over the years it has moved around the county – from Blyth to Morpeth, Bedlington to Ashington, Newbiggin, Tynemouth and even Newcastle’s Town Moor.
Keith Merrin, Director of Woodhorn, said: “150 years on and this event is still about bringing the whole North East community together, to strengthen bonds and have fun. It’s not just about Ashington, but about the whole region as so many have a link to coal.
“The Picnic is the perfect opportunity to come together to remember and celebrate an industry and the people that helped shape the North East and create the proud communities that exists today.”
This year’s special Picnic has been made possible thanks to Northumberland County Council, Ashington Town Council and the NUM working with Woodhorn to develop a fitting tribute to the event’s history.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 June 2014
A village is proudly displaying a newly-restored reminder of its coal mining heritage.
The Marsden Lodge Banner, which represents all those pitmen who worked at Whitburn Colliery (also known as Marsden Colliery), was returned to South Tyneside in January last year after it had been in storage for more than two decades in the Miner’s Hall in Durham.
Since then, the banner has been lovingly restored by the Marsden Banner Group, a team of enthusiastic local volunteers dedicated to preserving the area’s mining heritage.
The colourful silk banner, which features the iconic image of Marsden Rock with the adage ‘Firm as a rock we stand’, has now been put on permanent display at Whitburn Library much to the delight of Whitburn and Marsden ward members, councillors Tracey Dixon, who is on the Banner Group committee, Peter Boyack and Sylvia Spraggon.
Speaking on behalf of the ward members, Coun Boyack said: “We’re all very proud of our rich mining heritage and it’s wonderful to see the Marsden Lodge Banner restored back to its former glory and put on display in the Borough for the public to view.
“It is a treasured memento, which marks Whitburn Colliery’s contribution to the once-thriving coal mining past, and up until now, it had remained hidden from sight since 1983.
“We’re delighted it now takes pride of place in the village and is helping to keep the spirit and culture of the local mining community alive.”
Coun Dixon added: “The vibrant colliery banners are icons of mining communities but the Marsden Lodge Banner was in a poor state of repair when it was returned to the Borough.
“The restoration project has taken many months to complete but we are delighted with the finished article.
“We’re really pleased that by displaying this symbol of mining life we can remind our younger generation of the significant role this industry played in the lives of their communities.”
The community-led restoration project has been supported with £500 funding from the East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum and the skills of young apprentices from South Tyneside Homes Property Services Team who created the display case.
The intricate repair work was carried out by banner restorer Billy Middleton, a former blacksmith at Thornley and Easington collieries.
Whitburn Colliery opened in 1879 and was part of the South Tyneside coalmining industry until its closure in 1968.Before it went on display in Whitburn, the banner had not been seen on display since 1983 when it was carried at the centenary celebration of the Durham Miner’s Gala.
Source – Newcastle Journal 09 April 2014
Northumberland MP Ronnie Campbell was one of a small number of Labour rebels to vote against Conservative proposals for a welfare cap in the Commons
Other North East MPs expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it, in some cases because they were unable to attend the debate.
Only a handful of Labour MPs defied orders from the party leadership and voted against Government proposals set out in the Budget to introduce a cap on overall welfare spending, set to be £119.5bn in 2015/16.
The measure, in the Charter for Budget Responsibility, comfortably passed the Commons 520 to 22, a majority of 498, after the Labour front bench backed the plan.
Conservatives had hoped to embarrass Mr Miliband by giving him a choice between opposing the cap, allowing them to claim he opposed plans to cut the welfare bill, or supporting it and potentially provoking a rebellion among backbench MPs.
But the Labour Party largely united around the leader and only a small number rebelled. They included Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell. Other high-profile rebels included former shadow health minister Diane Abbott and Tom Watson, who was Labour’s campaign chief and deputy chairman before resigning last year.
Labour MPs who expressed opposition to the cap but did not vote against it included Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who is in the US looking at the American schools system in his role as a member of the Commons Education Committee.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery and Easington MP Grahame Morris also said they opposed the cap. They were attending the funeral of former Durham mineworker Stan Pearce, from Columbia, Washington, an activist known for his work with the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), who died aged 81.
> I wonder if Stan Pearce, as a DMA activist, might have rather they had got their arses down to Westminster instead, and actually voted instead of just talking about it.
In a message on Twitter, Mr Lavery said: “Just left the funeral of NUM & DMA legend Stan Pearce. For the avoidance of doubt I totally oppose the benefit cap and would vote against it.”
> Yeah, right…
But Newcastle MP Nick Brown said the cap would not affect people who are out of work, and voted for the move.
He said: “The vote is symbolic rather than real. The cap set in the Government’s motion is higher than the previously forecast outturn and it leaves out pensions and Jobseekers Allowance. The principle of controlling this budget as well as other Departmental Budgets is right and therefore I agree with the Labour Party Leadership’s position and will be voting with the Labour frontbench. The proposed cap does nothing to actually reduce the welfare budget. The best way to do so would be to create well-paid private sector jobs here in the North East of England.”
> Yeah, but since no-one actually is… hitting the poor is the next best alternative ?
Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 March 2014
Those Labour rebels …
Diane Abbott, Ronnie Campbell, Katy Clark, Michael Connarty, Jeremy Corbyn, Kelvin Hopkins, Glenda Jackson, John McDonnell, George Mudie, Linda Riordan, Dennis Skinner, Tom Watson, Mike Wood.
All North East Labour MPs, with the exception of Campbell, either did what Red Ed told them or really, really would have voted against, if only they conveniently hadn’t arranged to be elsewhere.