6. Thursday March 15th.

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Did picket duty at the pit for a few hours but nothing happened, we all just chatted about the strike. I went round to visit a mate of mine and fellow miner, Dave Farham. He is an inspirational man who, despite suffering from MS, does as much as he can to support the strike. It was nice to sit in front of his coal fire and have a hot cup of coffee. I told him about yesterdays events but he already knew because he only lives a few hundred yards from the pit. Anyway, when I took a pause for breath he told me that he had been invited to speak to a student meeting at Newcastle Poly and he wanted me to go with him for moral support. I agreed because my daughters were in school and Kath was at work so I had the day to myself. We were going with one of his mates, Phil Turner, who is a student at the Poly, and he soon arrived and we caught a bus to Newcastle.

On the way Phil told me he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and that immediately put me on my guard because since Monday all kinds of political activists had begun to show up,SWP,WRP, Communist Party, and Militant. As a member of the Labour Party I tended to veer towards the latter and they had warned me that the SWP were extremists. I liked Phil straightaway and he made no secret of his beliefs as we talked. He told us that a General meeting of the Students Union had been called to discuss a motion that would give full support to the NUM and allow us to use their facilities. Phil asked if Dave and I would speak in support of the motion and we agreed, though he was worried that not enough people would turn up to constitute a quorem. Dave and me weren’t worried about that because at least we would get the chance to raise awareness of the strike.

The crowded room we saw when we arrived gave us both a panic attack and we were all for going straight back home but when we were led to a table of students we calmed down a bit. I stupidly thought that these were the students we were to talk to but that was soon corrected when Phil led us up onto the stage in front of about 500 noisy students and we sat down.My legs were shaking and so were Dave’s. I drew the short straw and had to speak first. I had nothing prepared so I told the meeting that they would have a better future if we could win the strike, and I also told them that we had been forced into taking a stand now and I explained exactly what we were on strike for, and why it was so important. I got a good round of applause. Dave came forward to speak but had to wait while a Tory student spoke against the motion, making lots of provocative remarks about the miners, and Scargill in particular.

Dave was brilliant! Not only did he answer the tory criticisms but he also attacked the Thatcher governments stated goal of smashing the unions. He warned the students that the Tories would force the students to pay for their own education if they beat us. He got a deserved standing ovation and everyone felt confident that we would carry the motion.

The last speaker was a fat posh Tory who was so right wing he made Thatcher seem like a communist! He tried to convince the meeting that miners were a highly paid group of workers and that it was only a small group of left wing agitators led by Scargill  who were against the closure of uneconomic pits. At the mention of wages Dave leapt to his feet and offered to show his last payslip for the princely sum of £67 for a 42 hour week! Predictably the tory refused to look at it, despite a noisy majority of students calling for him to read it out, and the rest of his speech went unheard under a chant of,’Read it out.Read it out!’

A vote was called for and the Tories made constant interruptions to try and prevent the vote being taken. The bastards even set off the fire alarm, but to the students great credit the vote was taken and the motion was passed. Phil gave us £23 from a collection and we both felt very humble that students, not the richest members of society, could be so generous. It was a very memorable day.

The media are generally speaking against the strike and are supporting the Notts miners who are refusing to come out, despite heavy picketing from Yorkshire. We need to go down there and join them.

  1. Make students pay for their own education! hmmm
    Im still paying for mine 10 year later
    Great idea for a blog!

  2. I remember that day well Norman, especially the fact that both you and Dave were physically trembling at the prospect of speaking to that many people. Thought you did a great job of it tbough!

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