Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x5gtn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-23T01:35:30.266Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Implementing the Ridley Report: The Role of Thatcher's Policy Unit during the Miners’ Strike of 1984–1985

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2018

Phil Rawsthorne*
Affiliation:
Edge Hill University

Abstract

The Conservative Party has long faced concerns that in regard to the great British miners’ strike of 1984–1985, senior Tories had, in fact, planned the confrontation as early as 1977, when still on the opposition benches. Historian John Savile pointed to the existence of the Ridley Report—a Conservative think-tank paper produced in 1977, which appeared to include a detailed blueprint on how to provoke, and secondly win, a battle against Britain's powerful miners’ union. After Margaret Thatcher's second election victory, and her first landslide, in 1983, the Prime Minister populated the Downing Street Policy Unit with private-sector allies who looked to implement aspects of the report. Some of these allies had clear economic incentives in running down British coal. Nevertheless, the Policy Unit members were instrumental in determining government policy concerning all aspects of the strike, including preparation, policing, the law courts, financial concerns and the portrayal of the strike in the media. The campaign by Thatcher's Policy Unit resulted in a shattering blow for Britain's trade union movement from which it has yet to recover—just as the Ridley Report had predicted.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

NOTES

1. For opposite polemics, see D. Sandbrook, “Murder, rape threats, nail-studded cudgels and a mad Marxist set on destroying democracy—what inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave SHOULD probe,” The Daily Mail, 15 September 2015, and D. Conn, “We were fed lies about the violence at Orgreave. Now we need the truth,” The Guardian, 22 July 2015.

2. Thatcher, M., The Downing Street Years (London, 1993), 345–71Google Scholar.

3. Ottey, R., The Strike: An Insider's Story (London, 1985), 48Google Scholar.

4. Ibid., 2.

5. Smith, N., The 1984 Miners’ Strike: The Actual Account (Whitstable, United Kingdom, 1997), 154Google Scholar.

6. Vinen, R., Thatcher's Britain: The Politics and Social Upheaval of the 1980s (London, 2009), 154–78Google Scholar.

7. See Milne, S., The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners (London, 2014)Google Scholar.

8. Report of the Nationalised Industries Policy Group 1978 (the Ridley Report), Margaret Thatcher Foundation Online, http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/110795. All subsequent references as “RR.”

9. Saville, J., “An Open Conspiracy: Conservative Politics and the Miners’ Strike 1984–1985,” Socialist Register 22 (1985): 295329Google Scholar.

10. Allen, V., “The Year Long Miners’ Strike, March 1984–March 1985: A Memoir,” Industrial Relations Journal 40 (4, 2009): 278–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11. Harvey, D., A Brief History of Neoliberalism (St. Ives, United Kingdom, 2007), 12Google Scholar.

12. Allen, “The Year Long Miners’ Strike,” 278–91.

13. Gamble, A., “Neo-Liberalism,” Capital and Class 75 (2001): 127–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14. Rollings, N., “Cracks in the Post-War Keynesian Settlement? The Role of Organised Business in Britain in the Rise of Neoliberalism Before Margaret Thatcher,” Twentieth Century British History 24 (4, 2013): 637–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15. Gamble, “Neo-Liberalism,” 127–35.

16. Ridley, N., My Style of Government: The Thatcher Years (London, 1991), 12Google Scholar.

17. Ibid., 2.

18. Ibid., 4.

19. Gilmour, I., Dancing With Dogma: Britain Under Thatcherism (London, 1992), 14Google Scholar.

20. Ridley, My Style, 7.

21. Ibid.

22. Beckett, A., Promised You a Miracle: Why 1980–1982 Made Modern Britain (St. Ives, United Kingdom, 2015), 47Google Scholar.

23. Saunders, R., “Crisis? What Crisis? Thatcherism and the Seventies,” in Making Thatcher's Britain, ed. Jackson, B. and Saunders, R. (Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2012), 32Google Scholar.

24. Ibid., 33.

25. Ibid., 40.

26. Tomlinson, J., “Thatcher, Monetarism and the Politics of Inflation,” in Making Thatcher's Britain, ed. Jackson, B. and Saunders, R. (Cambridge, United Kingdom), 62Google Scholar.

27. Saunders, “Crisis? What Crisis?” 39.

28. Ridley, My Style, 11.

29. Vinen, R., “Thatcherism and the Cold War,” in Making Thatcher's Britain, ed. Jackson, B. and Saunders, R. (Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2012), 206Google Scholar.

30. Ibid.

31. Ridley, My Style, 15.

32. RR, 16, 19.

33. RR, 16.

34. RR, 1.

35. RR, 4.

36. RR, Confidential Annex, 24.

37. RR, Confidential Annex, 24.

38. RR, 16.

39. RR, 17.

40. RR, Confidential Annex, 24.

41. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

42. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

43. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

44. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

45. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

46. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

47. RR, 14.

48. RR, 15.

49. Beckett, Promised You a Miracle, 41.

50. Lopez, T., “The Winter of Discontent: Myth, Memory and History,” Twentieth Century British History 27: (1, 2016): 163–66Google Scholar.

51. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 14.

52. Ibid., 32, 61.

53. Beckett, Promised You a Miracle, 43.

54. Milne, The Enemy Within, 23.

55. Scargill, A., “The New Unionism,” New Left Review 92 (1975): 334Google Scholar.

56. Waddington, D., “Public Order Policing in South Yorkshire 1984–2011: The Case for a Permissive Approach to Crowd Control,” Contemporary Social Science 6: (3, 2011): 309–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57. Ibid.

58. Scargill, “The New Unionism,” 3–34.

59. Ibid.

60. Beckett, A., When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies (London, 2009), 62Google Scholar.

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

63. Waddington, “Public Order Policing,” 309–24.

64. Beckett, When the Lights Went Out, 146.

65. Ibid., 153.

66. Beckett, When the Lights Went Out, 86.

67. Howell, D., “Defiant Dominoes: Working Miners and the 1984–1985 Strike,” in Making Thatcher's Britain, ed. Jackson, B. and Saunders, R. (Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2012), 148Google Scholar.

68. Smith, N., The 1984 Miners’ Strike: The Actual Account (Whitstable, United Kingdom 1997), 9Google Scholar.

69. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 84.

70. Ibid.

71. Ibid.

72. Ibid., 150.

73. Ottey, R., The Strike: An Insider's Story (London, 1985), 32Google Scholar.

74. Ibid., 48.

75. Adeney, M. and Lloyd, J., The Miners’ Strike, 1984–1985: Loss Without Limit (Oxford, United Kingdom, 1988), 83Google Scholar.

76. Saville, “Open Conspiracy,” 295–329.

77. Beckett, Promised You a Miracle, p.xvi.

78. Vinen, Thatcher's Britain, 157.

79. Bloom, C., Thatcher's Secret War: Subversion, Coercion, Secrecy and Government 1974–1990 (Stroud, 2015), 44Google Scholar.

80. Kitson, F., Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping (London, 1971), 24Google Scholar.

81. Ibid., 25.

82. Ibid., 18.

83. Vinen, Thatcher's Britain, 299.

84. Beckett, When the Lights Went Out, 200.

85. Ibid., 207.

86. Ibid., 61.

87. Yergin, D., The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power (New York, 1991), 722Google Scholar.

88. Ibid.

89. Todd, S., The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910–2010 (London, 2014), 318Google Scholar.

90. Ibid.

91. Ibid., 321.

92. Ottey, The Strike, 42.

93. Beckett, Promised You a Miracle, 58.

94. Todd, The People, 326.

95. Harvey, Neoliberalism, 59.

96. Ibid., 56.

97. Beckett, Miracle, pxix.

98. Ibid.

99. Todd, The People, 320.

100. Ibid., 321.

101. Beckett, Miracle, 68.

102. Ibid., 73.

103. Bloom, Thatcher's Secret War, 10.

104. Vinen, Thatcher's Britain, 300.

105. Ibid., 296.

106. Ibid., 300.

107. See “Harry Enfield Loadsamoney,” Youtube, uploaded June 14, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtnmEBiLqx8.

108. McSmith, A., No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s (London, 2011), 188Google Scholar.

109. Beckett, Miracle, p.xxii.

110. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 243.

111. N. Fowler, “Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet was a battle of wills,” The Telegraph (April 12, 2013), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/8521277/Margaret-Thatchers-Cabinet-was-a-battle-of-wills.html.

112. Gregson to Thatcher, September 1983, The National Archives, Kew, PREM19/1330.

113. Smith, The Actual Account, 13.

114. Policy Unit to Thatcher, March 9, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1329.

115. RR, 14.

116. Saville, “An Open Conspiracy”, 295–329.

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid.

119. Obituary to Ian MacGregor, BBC News Online, April 14, 1998, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/78042.stm.

120. Ottey, The Strike, 51.

121. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 87.

122. Smith, The Actual Account, 16.

123. Ibid.

124. Minutes of Cabinet Meeting, February 26, 1984, CAB128/78.

125. N. Higham, “Cabinet Papers Reveal Secret Coal Pits Closure Plan,” BBC News (January 3, 2014), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25549596 (Accessed November 7, 2015).

126. McSmith, No Such Thing as Society, 156.

127. Ottey, The Strike, 69.

128. Ibid., 61.

129. Ibid., 69.

130. Minutes from Cabinet Meeting, March 8, 1984, CAB128/78.

131. Pascall to Thatcher, Coal Report, March 30, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1329.

132. Ibid.

133. John Redwood to Thatcher, Report, August 14, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

134. Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, 377.

135. Home Office Report to Thatcher, June 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

136. Ibid.

137. David Pascall to Thatcher, Coal Report, March 30, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1329.

138. Peter Walker, Cabinet Meeting, April 12, 1984, CAB128/78.

139. Peter Warry to Thatcher, July 20, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

140. John Wybrew to Thatcher, November 21, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

141. Margaret Thatcher cited in Minutes of Meeting of MISC101 Group, April 27, 1984, CAB130/1268.

142. Nicholas Ridley cited in Minutes of Meeting of MISC101 Group, April 27, 1984, CAB130/1268.

143. Pascall to Thatcher, June 19, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

144. Redwood, to Thatcher, July 13, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

145. Ibid.

146. Ibid.

147. Redwood to Thatcher, August 1, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

148. Ronald Reagan letter to Thatcher, July 15, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

149. Thatcher, letter to Ronald Reagan, July 18, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

150. Policy Unit report, October 3, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1334.

151. Pascall to Thatcher, May 11, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1330.

152. London Weekend Television report on economic viability of mining industry, copy found in Prime Minister's files, September 23, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1334.

153. Saville, “An Open Conspiracy”, 295–329.

154. Ibid.

155. Ibid.

156. Thatcher, Minutes of a Meeting of Cabinet Office, at number 10, December 13, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

157. Letter from Treasury to Thatcher, May 8, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1330.

158. Policy Unit to Thatcher, August 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

159. Waddington, D., “Authoritative Institutions,” in Split at the Seams? Community Continuity and Change After the 1984–1985 Coal Dispute, ed. Waddington, D., Wykes, M., and Critcher, C. (Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, 1991), 145Google Scholar.

160. Policy Unit Report to Thatcher, August 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

161. RR, Confidential Annex, 25.

162. Ibid.

163. Thatcher, Downing St Years, 347.

164. Ibid., 345.

165. Ibid., 348.

166. Cockcroft, T., Police Culture: Themes and Concepts (New York, 2013), 77Google Scholar.

167. Cited in Emsley, C., The English Police: A Political and Social History (Harlow, United Kingdom, 1996), 186Google Scholar.

168. James Anderton cited in Emsley, The English Police, 186.

169. Emsley, The English Police, 186.

170. Fine, B. and Millar, R., eds., “Introduction,” in Policing the Miners’ Strike (London, 1985), 2Google Scholar.

171. Waddington, “Public Order Policing,” 309–24.

172. Ibid.

173. Saville, J., “An Open Conspiracy: Conservative Politics and the Miners’ Strike 1984–1985,” Socialist Register 22 (August 1985): 295329Google Scholar.

174. Ibid.

175. Thatcher to then Home Secretary Rees, March 1979, PREM19/1329.

176. Letter from the then Home Secretary Merlyn Rees to Thatcher, March 23, 1979, PREM19/1329.

177. Thatcher to Rees, March 28, 1979, PREM19/1329.

178. Rees to Thatcher, April 12, 1979, PREM19.1329.

179. Minutes from Cabinet Meeting, March 15, 1984, CAB128/78.

180. Leon Brittan, Cabinet Meeting, March 22, 1984, CAB128/78.

181. McSmith, No Such Thing as Society, 161.

182. Ibid.

183. M. Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London, 1993), 352.

184. Ibid., 365.

185. Milne, Enemy Within, 23.

186. Leon Brittan quoted in Milne, Enemy Within, 10.

187. Fine, B. and Millar, R., eds., “Introduction,” in Policing the Miners’ Strike (London, 1985), 2Google Scholar.

188. Ibid.

189. Policy Unit to Thatcher, June 18, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

190. Waddington, “Authoritive Institutions,” 111.

191. Ibid.

192. Leeworthy, D., “The Secret Life of Us: 1984, the Miners’ Strike and the Place of Biography in Writing History From Below,” European Review of History 19 (5, 2012): 825–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

193. Graef, R., Talking Blues: The Police in Their Own Words (London, 1990), 73Google Scholar.

194. Ibid., 75.

195. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 90.

196. Leon Brittan to Thatcher, July 3, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

197. Ibid.

198. Untitled Report on proclamation of state of emergency July 14, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

199. Ibid.

200. Pascall to Thatcher, June 19, 1984, PREM19/1331.

201. Handwritten by Thatcher on Report from Home Secretary Leon Brittan, July 3, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

202. Untitled Report on proclamation of state of emergency July 14, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

203. Thatcher cited in Untitled Record of meeting at no 10, July 17, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

204. Brittan to Thatcher, December 18, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

205. Ibid.

206. Christian, C., “Restriction Without Conviction” in Fine, B. & Millar, R., eds, Policing the Miners' Strike (London 1985), 122Google Scholar.

207. Ibid., 121.

208. Redwood to Thatcher, August 29, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

209. Brittan to Thatcher, June 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

210. Attorney General letter to Thatcher, June 4, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

211. Christian, “Restriction Without Conviction,” 121.

212. Green, P., The Enemy Without: Policing and Class Consciousness in the Miners’ Strike (Bristol, 1990), 99Google Scholar.

213. Nigel Pantling private Secretary to Leon Brittan letter to Thatcher, October 1, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1334.

214. Unnamed Thoresby Picket cited in Green, The Enemy Without, 94.

215. Green, The Enemy Without, 94.

216. Ibid., 99.

217. Ibid., 107.

218. Leon Brittan to Thatcher, December 18, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

219. Ibid.

220. Ibid.

221. Attorney General to Thatcher, November 7, 1984. TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

222. Policy Unit Report to Thatcher, September 6, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1333.

223. Redwood to Thatcher, July 13, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

224. Redwood to Thatcher, September 13, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1333.

225. Peter Walker, Cabinet Meeting, September 13, 1984, CAB128/79.

226. Redwood to Thatcher, October 3, 1984, TNA Kew,  PREM19/1334.

227. Redwood to Thatcher, October 19, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1334.

228. Untitled Report on endurance in event of NACODS strike, October 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

229. Warry to Thatcher, November 22, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

230. Wybrew to Thatcher, October 23, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

231. Untitled briefing on industrial action from the Department of Employment, August 17, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

232. Warry to Thatcher, November 28, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

233. Ibid.

234. Margaret Thatcher, Cabinet Meeting, October 25, 1984, CAB128/79.

235. Wybrew to Thatcher, February 22, 1985, TNA Kew, PREM19/1579.

236. Allen, “The Year Long Miners’ Strike,” 278–91.

237. Policy Unit report to Thatcher, January 28, 1985, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

238. Thatcher to Secretary of State, transcript of telephone call, January 20, 1985, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

239. Smith, The Actual Account, 154.

240. Untitled Letter to NUM General Secretary Heathfield, February 8, 1985, TNA Kew,  PREM19/1579.

241. Ridley Report, Confidential Annex, Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

242. Ibid.

243. Saville, “An Open Conspiracy,” 295–329.

244. Thatcher's Secretary's Reply to letter from House of Lords, July 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

245. Untitled government advisor report to Thatcher, October 19, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1334.

246. Untitled Report from Department of Health and Social Security, November 3, 1984,  PREM19/1335.

247. Discussion between Margaret Thatcher and Norman Fowler, Cabinet Meeting, November 15, 1984, CAB128/79.

248. Redwood to Thatcher, July 13, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1331.

249. Matgamma, S., Class Against Class: The Miners’ Strike 1984–1985 (London, 2014), 38Google Scholar.

250. Bloom, Thatcher's Secret War, 126.

251. Ibid.

252. Smith, N., The 1984 Miners’ Strike: The Actual Account (Whitstable, United Kingdom, 1997), 177Google Scholar.

253. Letter from Thatcher to Ministers, October 20, 1984, PREM19/1335.

254. Bloom, Thatcher's Secret War, 126.

255. Howell, “Defiant Dominoes: Working Miners and the 1984–1985 Strike,” 158.

256. Ibid.

257. Ibid.

258. Untitled Report discussing phone-call with Hart, October 20, 1984, PREM/1335.

259. Redwood to Thatcher, August 29, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1332.

260. Matgamma, Class Against Class, 38.

261. Warry to Thatcher, October 26, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

262. Ibid.

263. Margaret Thatcher, Cabinet Meeting, November 15, 1984, CAB128/79.

264. Report on Justice Nicholls’ Statement, December 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

265. Pantling to Thatcher, October 11, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

266. Ibid.

267. Matgamma, Class Against Class, 38.

268. Norman Lamont, letter on Soviet assistance to the NUM, to Thatcher, November 21, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

269. Untitled Report from Foreign Office on Soviet Assistance to NUM, November 20, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

270. Norman Lamont, letter on Soviet assistance to the NUM, to Thatcher, November 21, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

271. Handwritten by Thatcher on report from Lamont on Soviet assistance to the NUM, November 23, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

272. Untitled Report from Foreign Office, January 18, 1985, Norman Lamont, letter on Soviet assistance to the NUM, to Thatcher, November 21, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

273. Attorney General to Thatcher, November 14, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

274. Ibid.

275. Untitled Letter from Law Officers to Thatcher, February 18, 1985, TNA Kew, PREM19/1579.

276. Ibid.

277. David Hart, Report to Thatcher, February 11, 1985, PREM19/1579.

278. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 89.

279. Smith, The Actual Account, 225.

280. Ibid.

281. Pascall to Thatcher, March 20, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1330.

282. Waddington, “Authoritive Institutions,” 118.

283. Ibid.

284. Green, The Enemy Without, 166.

285. Waddington, “Authoritive Institutions,” 131.

286. Ibid.

287. Green, The Enemy Without, 157.

288. Warry to Thatcher, December 7, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

289. Ibid.

290. Emphasis handwritten by Thatcher on copy of advertisement in Daily Mirror, April 24, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1330.

291. Policy Unit report, April 18, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1330.

292. Margaret Thatcher, Cabinet Meeting, June 28, 1984, CAB128/79.

293. Redwood to Thatcher, September 13, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1333.

294. Warry to Thatcher, October 26, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1335.

295. Pascall to Thatcher, May 25, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1330.

296. Bernard Ingham to Thatcher, November 21, 1984, TNA Kew, PREM19/1578.

297. Redwood to Thatcher, February 1985, TNA Kew, PREM19/1579.

298. Policy Unit report to Thatcher, March 6, 1985, TNA Kew, PREM19/1580.

299. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 155.

300. Vinen, R., “Thatcherism and the Cold War,” in Making Thatcher's Britain ed. Jackson, B. and Saunders, R. (Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2012), 212Google Scholar.

301. Williams, G., “Thirty Years On,” in Settling Scores: The Media, the Police & the Miners’ Strike, ed. Williams, G. (London, 2014), 20Google Scholar.

302. Ibid., 19.

303. Leeworthy, “Secret Life of Us,” 825–46.

304. Smith, The Actual Account, 226.

305. Ibid.

306. Gilmour, Dancing With Dogma, 91.