My greatest good friend Ramsay Smith, who went on to edit the Scottish Every day Mail, likes to inform a narrative concerning the first time he clapped eyes on me.
I used to be exterior the Outdated Bell pub in Fleet Road, entertaining passers-by with my celebrated impersonation of Arthur Scargill doing his model of Adam Religion’s smash hit What Do You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 Do not Need Cash)?
OK, so that you needed to be there. It was the 80s. Drink had been taken. And despite the fact 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 complete communities have been destroyed by the strike, Scargill himself prospered.
His members could not afford to pay the hire or put meals on the desk, however Arthur was shacked up in a flat in London’s upscale Barbican complicated, which he subsequently purchased for half its actual price beneath Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right-to-buy’ scheme for council tenants and was lately 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 every day paper, the Morning Star.
As Eric Hammond, chief of the Proper-wing electricians’ union, later noticed: ‘Scargill went into the strike with a giant union and a small home and got here out with a giant home and a small union.’
Ostensibly, the dispute was in protest at plans to shut a number of 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 drive.
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 forestall Rupert Murdoch dragging the newspaper business into the 20th century by shifting his titles to a new-technology plant at Wapping.
As a younger regional official in Yorkshire, Scargill had been a driving force behind the miners’ strikes within the early-to-mid 1970s which introduced down Edward Heath’s Tory authorities.
British commerce unionist Arthur Scargill arrested after becoming a member of Grunwick dispute protest, London, UK, 23rd June 1977. (Photograph by Night Customary/Hulton Archive/Getty Pictures)
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 upfront 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 putting railway employees.
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 believed these Tra-La days have been over, for good. My second act, as a gentleman journalist, started after I might spent a month on Neil Kinnock’s normal 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 might have to search out one thing else to write down about.
The miners and printers had been hammered, the TUC was a spent drive. 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 might been engaged on the Birmingham Night Mail, chronicling the implosion of the British automobile business due to every day disruption brought on by ludicrous wildcat strikes impressed by the likes of Derek ‘Pink Robbo’ Robinson, convener on the big British Leyland plant at Longbridge.
For example, nightshift employees would take sleeping luggage with them and mattress down on the again seats of half-built automobiles 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 an instantaneous strike.
As soon as, I appear to recall, Longbridge — which employed getting on for 30,000 folks — 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 might realized 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 moderately, first) jobs driving cabs or working candy retailers. 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. Sarcastically, 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 contemporary containerisation.
The march of progress finally spelled the tip of rule by store stewards, epitomised by the ‘Everyone 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 exterior Wakefield Railway Station
Frankly, I used to be astonished — though I should not have been shocked — 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 enables 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 ‘whats up’.
Overmanning is so rife that it takes as many as 9 folks to vary a lightweight socket. What number of? Appears like a kind of whiskery previous jokes about what number of feminists it takes to vary a lightbulb.
In Scotland, drivers had to learn of shift adjustments in letters delivered by taxi. I am reminded of Kinnock lamenting that in Liverpool, beneath Degsy Hatton’s Militant Tendency, a Lay-ber council was sending out redundancy notices by way of a neighborhood cab agency.
I spent the early 1980s masking limitless disputes on the railways for London’s Night Customary. One of many daftest and longest-running was the cussed refusal of the practice drivers’ union ASLEF to permit British Rail to take away stokers from electrical trains.
Having stopped paying shut consideration to the commercial relations panorama over 35 years in the past, it by no means occurred to me that this sort of insanity was nonetheless occurring.
Within the age of ubiquitous cellular, 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 could not make it up.
To be sincere, I might by no means heard of Mick Lynch till lately. He clearly fancies himself as this yr’s reply to Arthur Scargill and is set to make use of his management of the railway union RMT to convey the type of industrial chaos to Britain not seen because the normal strike of 1926.
Lynch and his ludicrous pro-Putin acolytes appear to assume they will succeed the place Scargill failed and convey down an elected Conservative authorities. Say what you want about Barmy Arthur. He might have taken Moscow Gold in the course of the miners’ strike and hosted Russian delegates at TUC conferences, however I do not bear 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 not think about former rail union leaders like Sid Weighell and Jimmy Knapp sucking as much as the Russians, both, particularly in the course of an unlawful battle.
Lynch and his ludicrous pro-Putin acolytes appear to assume 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 would not give a rattling, like Scargill, about the truth that the gravest hurt can be brought on to the hard-pressed working folks 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 employees’ picket strains this week.
Keir Starmer’s mealy-mouthed response is pathetic. He ought to be focusing his wrath on the unions, not the Authorities. In any case, he grew up in Guildford, Surrey, commuter belt heartland. Thoughts you, Guildford’s in all probability Working From Dwelling heartland as of late.
It is instructive that every one the unions lining up for the so-called Summer time 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 brought on by Covid. If the civil service does go on strike this summer time, 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 means accountable for our present issues, it is 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 spending a dime’ 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 moderately than endure mainline trains and the Underground being delivered to a standstill. That craven perspective has to cease, now.
There’s just one method to defeat this sort of industrial blackmail. It must be confronted down, unflinchingly.
I have been urging ministers for greater than a yr to situation 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 will likely be a value price paying. We have already been by means of 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. During which case, he can be accustomed to his hero’s well-known quote: historical past repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
This so-called Summer time of Discontent incorporates each components, tragedy and farce. It will not finish properly 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 employees and the miners.
Simply ask Arthur Scargill.