Thatcher’s deal to ‘use troops to break miners’

CLASHES: Pickets and police at Orgreave in June 1984.
CLASHES: Pickets and police at Orgreave in June 1984.
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MARGARET THATCHER’S government secretly considered declaring a state of emergency during the height of the miners’ strike in the summer of 1984 and, months later, was desperate to stop cash from the Soviet Union reaching miners, according to newly released files.

Amid fears that union action by dockers and miners across Yorkshire and nationwide could destroy her government, the PM considered mobilising the military and commandeering trucks to move food and coal.

It was probably the closest she came to defeat in her battle with the miners but the scheme was never implemented after the dockers’ action petered out.

In November 1984 Mrs Thatcher faced another problem when ministers were alerted by MI5 that cash from the Soviet Union was reaching striking miners. Ministers believed hundreds of thousands of pounds were being channelled to the National Union of Mineworkers from Moscow.

But even though the union’s assets had been sequestered by the courts, government officials admitted there was little they could do to stop the flow of roubles.

Mrs Thatcher was told the best they could hope for was that a NUM courier might be picked up by Customs trying to enter the country with “a suitcase full of bank notes”.

It was reported that £500,000 had been raised in Russia to support the strike but Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong was forced to admit to Mrs Thatcher there was little the UK authorities could do.

The newly-released files also reveal that Mrs Thatcher had 118 hair appointments in just 12 months.

Last night Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the NUM, said: “These files highlight the lengths Mrs Thatcher would go to. It wasn’t an industrial dispute, it was a political dispute.”

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