I attended the National Miners Support Group Conference in Camden Town Hall. It was so well attended that over 1,400 people turned up and an overflow meeting had to be set up in the nearby University of London for 500 people. Tony Benn said nothing but spoke for 15 minutes, and Scargill never even turned up. I was asked to speak at the overflow meeting and did. I got a good reception. It was encouraging to see so much support and more money for the soup kitchen, £101, from the bucket collection.
Posts Tagged ‘scargill’
Scargill addressed a big support rally in Sunderland this morning and survived an ‘assassination’ attempt from a crazy old woman armed with a tin of cat food. After interrogation by the police it has been disclosed that she has no connection to the strike whatsoever and her only motive was a dislike of dear old Arthur, and a liking for seeing herself on telly.
The rally itself was the usual affair, quite well attended but not by the people who needed to be there, the thousands sitting on their arses at home. If we can’t get the message across to those men that passivity doesn’t win strikes, then they are all potential scabs, and that could mean defeat. Scargill and cohorts should be speaking every day in every mining community instead of wasting their time in pointless negotiations.
Received yet another cheque for £60 from Manchester comrades. Fantastic!
We had a union meeting this morning which showed the extent of the members disatisfaction with the Lodge officials. We had to elect a member to sit on the Durham Area Executive Committee, a post traditionally filled by one of the senior officials. Accordingly both the Chairman, John Chapman, and the Treasurer, Bill Jerry, were nominated by the members of the committee. A rank and file member, Ed Malcolm, was nominated from the floor, and even though he is a soft left careerist, I voted for him along with the majority in the hall. The result was absolutely brilliant; Chapman got 15 votes, Jerry 6, and Ed got 54 votes! The lads were elated by this success and we all enjoyed the looks of utter shock on the stage. It was excellent, and a picket stood up to explain to the platform exactly why they’d been given this vote of no confidence. The fact that they never appear on picket lines, Tommy Wilson excepted, was given as the main reason, with the picket saying that you can’t lead from a comfortable office! Man after man stood up to attack them, ending with a motion proposing that every picket of Westoe men must be attended by two committee men, and their places in the office filled by men banned from picketing. The Chairman, John Chapman, got up and made a personal attack on me that was full of vitriol, probably because I was the only man he knew who was banned from all picket lines, and because he thought, wrongly, that I was behind the attacks. He refused to accept the motion, saying he would have to ask his fellow committee men if they wanted to go on picket lines!! At this all hell broke loose and without hesitation the useless bastard closed the meeting, and they all walked off the stage in a huff. We all complained loudly and bitterly, shouting for them to return, but they didn’t. The lads were furious but also jubilant at getting Ed elected.
The whole meeting was a perfect example of bureaucracy at work but at least the men now know, again, where the real power lies. Brilliant, and we must build on it at the next meeting and censure the Chairman for his undemocratic conduct.
The NUM have been fined £200,000 for refusing to comply with the Tory courts, and Scargill has been fined £1,000 for contempt.He has said that neither fine will be paid. Good for him!
This afternoon I made my third appearance at Sunderland Magistrates Court on the ‘Breach of the Peace’ charge arising from my arrest at Wearmouth on September 5th. I have been remanded on the same bail conditions until December 18th!! This is typical of what is happening to hundreds of activists who are prevented from picketing by the Tory courts. Why aren’t the NUM lawyers doing more to try and fight them? I am really pissed off and frustrated by being out of action, especially now that the NCB is piling on the pressure to get men to break the strike. I’ll just have to try and find new ways to channel my energy. Back to fundraising I expect.
The Labour Party Conference opened today and Scargill got a standing ovation. He was also served with a writ from the High Court that threatens him with jail if he won’t comply. He says he won’t, and he also criticised the pigs for their disgraceful part in trying to defeat us. Standing ovations are fine but it’s the support of the TUC we need, not bloody empty hand clapping!
The situation at home is terrible, with Kath in a deep depression because she’s lost her job. Nothing I say does any good; she just sits and mopes. Hopefully she will get over it and find another job, though with unemployment rife she is going to find it hard. At least we’re still together and perhaps now she can get more involved in the strike.
I had intended staying at home today with Kath but we had a blazing row so I went to Doncaster for an SWP miners meeting instead. I’m glad I did because it gave us the opportunity to discuss how the strike is going in our respective areas. There was general agreement that the strike is now firmly on the defensive, with all of us mainly concerned with stopping scabs breaking the strike. To ensure this we need to get more men out onto the picket lines, and as Ian Mitchell from Silverwood told us from his own experience, the way to do that is to ‘go on the knocker’ and visit every striking miner we can to argue why they should be active. At the very least it could prevent men from scabbing, which will be important if we are to go on the offensive in the winter.
There was also agreement that there is a big danger of the new talks between MacGregor and Scargill leading to a sell out, and further demoralisation if they break down,which seems inevitable because the NUM has nothing to bargain with. We haven’t got the bastards by the balls, nowhere near it.
The importance of us selling Socialist Worker was stressed again because that is how pickets can be kept informed of exactly what is happening in the strike. We must always try to sell the paper on picket lines, inminers welfares and strike centrex because it’s vital we are identified with the paper. That’s how we get our ideas across and we can have important arguments at the same time. At Westoe, Gary, Ian, John, Keith and myself have built a good reputation as active militanys and we need to continue being identified with the SWP and put forward constructive suggestions at union meetings. The first one is to get a list of addresses and use all the men banned from picketing to go out and visit men who are not active and try to persuade them to join us.
When I got home I had a phonecall asking me to meet the journalist at the bus stop near our house and I set off in the dark, expecting to meet some hippie type with long hair and flares because I used to read the NME regularly up until a few years ago and that’s how I imagined he would look. I was shocked when a tall skinhead with a red Harrington jacket, jeans and red boxing boots loomed out of the darkness. He introduced himself as Chris Moore and we walked back to my house. I was relieved to hear he’s an SWP member and not in the National Front, as I’d always irrationally thought about skinheads.
We sat up talking about the strike and about music. He’s in a band himself called ‘The Redskins’, whom I’ve never heard of, but he’s brought me a record and a tape of their stuff which I’ll listen to tomorrow.
I’m actually writing this diary on Saturday September 8th after having spent the last 3 days in Durham prison.
The day began at 7am when I left the Armstrong Hall in Neil Tate’s car to go picketing at Wearmouth as usual. I told the lads I was with that we shouldn’t just stand around being passive but needed to take some positive action.They all agreed.
We arrived at Wearmouth at 7.30 and joined the fifty or so men already in the car park. I had a chat with Dave Hopper, the Lodge Secretary of Wearmouth, and asked him why the fence hadn’t been removed because it was a real hindrance to us having a proper push against the pigs. Dave agreed with me but said there was nothing he could do because the pigs were at the pit 24 hours a day. He also told me that Sunderland Magistrates were taking a really hard line with arrested pickets. Two of his lads had been remanded in custody to Durham prison. I know one of them really well, Alan Margham, and I asked Dave to pass him my regards when he saw him. Little did I know that I would see him before he did!
By 7.45 there were at least 250 of us in the car park facing a line of about 200 pigs directly in front of the main pit entrance, only seperated by the bloody metal fence. a group of us began moving around the pickets because we were really pissed off with the passivity. After having had men lifted on a daily basis the hard core activists were also being reduced, and the picket had become really stale. We couldn’t allow it to continue because a passive picket would just encourage more scabbing. We started telling the lads we were going out onto the road on our right to form a push and asked everyone to join us. Accordingly about twenty of us moved onto the road and began shouting for everyone to join us. We soon had about a hundred men but the majority refused to move, even when we yelled at them and called them ‘plastic pickets’ and worse. I have a very big gob and my throat hurt with the effort of shouting but it did no good.
The scab bus was due so we formed up into a solid mass and started to move towards the pigs, who had rushed to form a reinforced line in front of us. We chanted our battle cry of, ‘Zulu,Zulu,Zulu’ and then crashed into the pigs. Initially we made progress, forcing the pigs back a little until more reinforcements joined their lines. We could have broken through easily if the ‘plastics’ watching from the sidelines had joined us. As it was the push was broken by a group of pigs attacking us from the side and splitting off the front two lines from the rest of the lads. I was roughly grabbed around the throat by a pig and struggled to fight back and keep my feet. The bastard was choking me and he dragged me through the police lines. He threw me to the ground, and as I struggled to get my breath he leapt on me with his knee across my chest. I could see he was an inspector by his flat hat and he said”Got you at last, you big mouthed bastard. That’s your picketing days over’.I wondered if I’d been singled out as I was roughly dragged backwards and thrown into the back of a police van. Within minutes the van was full, with 8 pickets and six pigs and we were driven the short distance over the bridge to the same police station we had stoned the week before.
Inside Monkwearmouth police station, which was so small it didn’t have any cells, with my ‘arresting officer’, a young PC, we were told to stand against the wall to have our photograph taken by an obese sergeant(is there any other kind?) with a polaroid camera. He told me the photo was for ‘official’ records,ie the photo albums they used to identify activists. The sergeant pressed the button and all four flash cubes went off and unexposed film shot out the front. I laughed out loud and so did the young PC but the segeant wasn’t amused. Cursing, he fitted new flashes and loaded new film. We composed ourselves, with me trying to look defiant and the PC smiling broadly. The same thing happened, flashes and film spewing out the front. I was laughing madly when an angry inspector burst into the room and demanded to know what the hell was going on! The fat sergeant said he couldn’t understand it because it had never happened before. He tried one more time with exactly the same results. The inspector grabbed the camera and threw it in a bin and ordered the sergeant to go and get a replacement.
Finally I was photographed and then taken into another room where the angry inspector was waiting impatiently. He said to the young PC,’What kind of abusive language did this scum use?’ The young lad was either very naive, very stupid, or a mixture of the two because he replied,’Sorry sir, but I didn’t actually hear him saying anything’. I thought the Inspector was going to explode. He yelled for the fat sergeant to take me away. As I was being taken out I heard the Inspector say,’Now what did you hear the bastard say?’ No doubt that cleared the young lads memory.
I was taken outside and locked into a tiny cell on one of them pig buses you usually see parked at football grounds. An uncomfortable hour later there were 12 of us in the cells and we were driven to Gill Bridge police station in Sunderland and locked into two cells, six to a cell. I was with three Westoe lads, one of whom had only been doing picket duty for a fortnight! I grew up in the same street, Chaucer Avenue, as one of the lads,Davy Larsen, and we spent the time chatting about our experiences over the past six months.
During the morning we were taken out to be photographed, again, fingerprinted and questioned, and finally charged. I was charged with,’Foul,insulting and abusive behaviour liable to cause a breach of the peace’. The officer charging me asked if I had any outstanding charges against me and he grinned when I told him about Bilston Glen last month.
We were allowed to see a solicitor provided by the NUM and he told me we would probably be bailed and banned from going within two miles of Wearmouth, which is what I was expecting.
We had dinner of soya pie, potato and turnip which was bloody horrible but I ate it anyway. We were then let out of the cells and told to wait at the foot of the stairs that led up into the courtroom. We whispered amongst ourselves. I recognised one of the lads, Bob Robson, who had been one of the most voiciferous supporters of of going to jail in Bishop Auckland but had bottled out and phoned the TV instead. He got me worried when he told me the solicitor who had seen him had warned him he might be refused bail and be remanded in custody because of his previous arrest. This had happened to men who appeared before the bench previously. It wasn’t looking good. I was feeling a bit pissed off because he had seen a woman solicitor, as had most of the other lads, with only a few of us seeing the man. I suspected he must be a trainee or something because he told me I would probably be bailed.
It was 3pm when the first six lads were led up into the courtroom, and when they came back they told us they’d been bailed and weren’t to go within 2 miles of Wearmouth, as they’d expected. We were called up and I was a bit surprised when the magistrate called the first four lads to the bench and left Bob and me to one side. The four lads were all released on the same bail conditions as the other six.
We were ordered to face the magistrate and he glared at us as if we were two lumps of shit. Bob was dealt with first, and despite the pleas of the female solicitor, was remanded in custody to Durham Prison until September 14th. Bob was led down looking totally shocked. I faced the magistrate and received the same sentence, with the magistrate saying I was being remanded because of my disgraceful past record and that he believed I would ignore any bail conditions imposed upon me. He also said something about me being a danger to public order but I was too gobsmacked to take it all in. What evidence did the bastard have that I would ignore bail conditions? He ordered me to be taken down and the guy who led me away said the time would soon pass. Easy for him to say. He wasn’t on his way to Durham Prison!
After being held in a cell for half an hour we were taken up to a yard and handcuffed together before being put into a van. It was an uncomfortable journey, made worse by the gobshite sergeant who accompanied us. He was one of those ‘ some of my best friends are miners’ types and was constantly trying to be friendly. I ignored the bastard but Bob chatted happily with him. The pig was condemning Scargill and picket line violence, and Bob was agreeing with him! I couldn’t believe it and wondered why he’d been on the picket line in the first place. Bob said he couldn’t wait to get back to work and that it would happen soon because there was no way we could defeat Thatcher. It made an already depressing journey worse and I worried about what Kath would say when she found out, and how Jen and Sasha would react. I was also angry that none of our lodge officials had been in court so how would Kath find out? I hoped Keith or Gary would call round to tell her. I felt as if I was about to start a life sentence instead of a few days on remand and resolved that in future I would content myself with being an ‘indian’ and leave being a ‘chief’ to others.
Once inside the prison gates the handcuffs were taken off and we were taken into the Search Tank, which is a room beside the main gate where incoming prisoners are taken to be searched. They searched everywhere, even the soles of my feet, and it was a humiliating experience. After the usual jokes about my surname we were taken into the reception area, and after another lengthy wait we were taken into another room full of men waiting to be admitted into the prison. One of these men was a long term prisoner waiting to be transferred to a prison in Scotland. He told me he’s been in Wakefiels Prison for seven years and this was the first time in all those years he’d been outside. He told me he was doing life for murder yet despite this I felt sorry for him. The other men were burglars and con men who passed the time by bragging about all the crimes they’d gotten away with before being caught for something trivial. When they heard what Bob and me were in for they were very sympathetic and gave us loads of advice on what to expect and what we could get away with. Bob said he’d done some time as a younger man and started talking and telling tales of his exploits as a criminal, trying to be the equal of the other men, daft bastard. He’s a bit of a know all is Bob. Anyway, I was glad for the advice and felt a bit easier in my mind.
We were examined by the prison doctor before being forced to have a bath in cold water full of disinfectant. The towel I dried on was like sandpaper! We were then issued with our uniform; one pair of underpants, one vest,a pair of socks with holes in the heels, a blue striped shirt, a pair of brown trousers that were too big, and a brown jacket stamped with ‘HMP Durham’ in case anyone tried to steal it. The whole outfit was completed by a pair of battered black slip on shoes, with mine having holes gouged in the heels, making it uncomfortable to walk, not that I expected to be doing a lot of that!
Washed, dressed and given a number, all we had to look forward to was prison food. I was bloody starving but when I saw what was on offer I almost lost my appetite. I was handed a plate with a blob of mashed potato, shrivelled up peas and a solitary hot dog sausage. A plastic mug of unsweetened tea was provided, presumably to wash away the horrible taste of the food which I gulped down with a minimum of chewing in the hope that my taste buds wouldn’t be irreparably damaged.
After our meal we had another long wait. I passed the time chatting with a con man who was on a three year sentence, and if he was to be believed, had £30,000 stashed for his release. He entertained me with stories of his many criminal exploits and the time passed quickly. He also gave me some cigarettes, which was great because I’d finished the few I’d been arrested with. I am grateful to the ‘screw’ who gave me the fags because prison rules stated that only sealed packets were to be given to prisoners. He told me he supported the miners, which came as a pleasant surprise because I had expected the screws to be bastards like the pigs are. In fact, all the screws we had contact with were great, with one in particular, being an ex – miner himself, doing all he could to make our stay less uncomfortable.
Bob and I were to be kept together, which came as a relief because I’d heard all the tales of homosexuality in prisons. Not that I’ve anything against homosexuals. I just didn’t want to experience it myself at first hand! At 9pm we were given a sheet, a pillowcase and a blanket. We carried theseinto B Wing because the remand wing was full. We climbed the metal staircase and I thought of the prison in ‘Porridge’. There was thick wire mesh strung beneath the landings to stop men throwing themselves off to escape the food! We were on the second floor, in cell B2 – 30, and it was really depressing when we went in and the door was locked behind us.
Our cell was bloody horrible. It was filthy, with fag ends on the cracked concrete floor. The arch window had thick glass panes that were filthy, and six of them were missing, causing a chill breeze to waft around the cell and circulate the stink from the plastic bucket full of piss and shit that stood in the middle of the floor. The decor was post – holocaust,damp grey walls and cobwebbed ceiling. We each had a metal frame bed with a thin ‘white’ matress that was full of stains, and mine was decorated with a schoolboy – ish drawing of a naked woman. We also had a blue plastic mug each, an orange plastic washing bowl and jug, and a plastic razor with no blade. Two wooden tables completed the furniture, all crammed into a cell no more than six foot wide and twelve long.
The screw, who Bob kept calling ‘Boss’, told us to make a final trip to the bog. The first thing I saw on entering was a contorted face behind a half door, complete with sound effects as he strained to shit. He put me right off and I was determined to hold my bowels as long as I could.
Back in the cell Bob was the first to spot two books and immediately grabbed the cowboy story. I was relieved until I saw the other book was a biography of Martin Luther. I skimmed it and quickly decided it wasn’t for me. I would happily have swapped it for the cowboy book.
At 10pm the light went out and we settled down to sleep. I was knackered but it took me a long time to drop off. I worried about Kath and the girls, and for me that is the worst thing about being locked up,not being able to communicate with your loved ones, and not knowing what is happening to them.
TheTUC Conference opened in Brighton today and was lobbied by a large crowd of miners and their supporters, despite fears of a massive back to work movement in the coalfields.
Scargill was given a tremendous reception when he took to the stage to speak to delegates. he gave his usual fiery defiant speech which got a great reception. The rest of the TUC Mafia gave him verbal support, but rhetoric is one thing, and action is another. They’ve promised to support us but I’ll only believe it when I see it, if I see it!
The picket at Westoe was very quiet and no one tried to go in. A lot of men are getting pissed off with the regular Monday picket but I think we have to keep it going to put off any potential scabs.
Kath has been told by her bosses that if she wants to stay in her job as Warden of the Women’s Aid Refuge she must take her chance with other people and reapply for her job. She is very upset at this because she’s done a great job. I think she’s being picked on because one of her bosses on the Board that runs the place just happens to be a policewoman, and Kath’s the wife of a striking miner. I hope I’m wrong because it’s not helping our marriage. Whatever happens we’ll manage. We’ll have to!
The bloody fence was still there when we arrived at Wearmouth this morning so someone suggested we blockade the nearby Wear Bridge to highlight what is happening at Wearmouth. We all started to march off up the road to cut off the rush hour traffic into Sunderland at 8.15am. As we set off the pigs stayed where they were, hundreds of them, probably because they thought it was a tactic to draw them away. Just before we reached the bridge two motorcycle cops tried to block our progress. Someone lobbed a brick which hit one of the pigs on his crash helmet, causing the stupid bastard to lunge himself into a crowd of pickets in a vain attempt to nick the culprit. Unfortunately for him he tripped over an outstretched leg and crashed heavily to the ground where he lay apparently unconcious until someone stubbed their toe against his crash helmet, causing him to jump to his feet. When he saw he was on his own he fell down unconcious again. We marched past him, content that he had been given a small dose of his own medicine.
We stopped all the traffic but then men began to drift off towards the shipyards, enjoying the freedom to roam, stoning any police vehicle foolish enough to get too close. A car driver wound down his window and warned us there was a large body of police waiting for us up the road so we cut off down a side road that brought us out opposite the police station and the DHSS. Within minutes there wasn’t a pane of glass left in either building. Unfortunately the pigs got organised and charged at us, splitting us into two groups. I was lucky enough to stay with the largest group and avoided capture. The other group was not so lucky, with 13 arrests being made. One of the Westoe lads was chased down by the river by 3 pigs and was overjoyed when shipyard workers came out and started pelting the pigs with nuts and bolts, forcing them to retreat! Now that’s solidarity for you, and it DOES work.
The media have had a field day, calling us thugs and hooligans, and reported that, ‘A brave motorcycle policeman was dragged from his bike and beaten unconcious by violent thugs’. We know the truth and people should realise that what happened this morning was a reaction to all the shit miners and their families have been suffering for months.
The dock strike is on and already the media are trying to undermine it by calling it a set up job between Scargill and the TGWU leaders, and calling on ‘responsible’ dockers to scab. Bastards!!
MacGregor has offered the scabs a 5.2% pay rise if they agree to work overtime. I expect they’ll take it.