Scargill, Thatcher, May, and Europe

The question was asked,

I lived through it but wasn't really aware of politics at the time, but… How does May's stubbornness and seemingly blinkered approach compare to Thatcher's drive against the unions and miners in the 80s? Are the situations comparable?

The short answer: the government approaches are not really comparable. Thatcher was bringing in a policy that commanded broad support, that made economic sense, and made an effort to ameliorate the impact. May has deliberately chosen her policy, has never made a compelling argument to prefer it to the alternatives, and she appears to have no care for popular opinion.

(More: A long analysis of the mid-80s strikes, and present Euro-crisis)

There was stubbornness on both sides. Scargill saw it as his mission to bring down Conservative rule. Thatcher believed that coal mining was a net drain on society, and needed to be exposed to a free market. We can believe that, had the NUM been led by someone more pragmatic, the industry would have been wound down more gradually, without such damaging conflict, and with a much more helpful settlement. We can believe that, had the Conservatives been led by someone less headstrong, that the miners would have won most of their claim, and kicked the problem down the road for a later government to pick up.

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