Former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers Arthur Scargill has been spotted on the picket line for a second day – standing in solidarity with Mick Lynch’s mass rail strikes.
The far left firebrand was previously seen with strikers from The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) at Westgate Train Station in Wakefield on Tuesday, as 80 per cent of train services came to a grinding halt.
Today, he joined RMT picketers in Sheffield for a second day of industrial action as they railed against the government, demanding a pay rise of at least seven per cent in line with the cost of living crisis.
Speaking to ITV today, Scargill said: ‘I think it should be the summer for the start of building a trade union and getting a socialist movement going in Britain.
‘It’s time that workers came together. As far as I’m concerned, I would call on every railway worker to come out on strike and force this government into retreat.’
The former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers Arthur Scargill, 84, told ITV’s Martin Fisher: ‘I think it should be the summer for the start of building a trade union and getting a socialist movement going in Britain’
Scargill joined picketers for a second day of strike action in Sheffield today
Scargill’s appearance on the second day of rail strikes was applauded by striking workers
Former President of the National Union of Mineworkers from 1982 to 2002 Arthur Scargill joins the picket line outside Wakefield Railway Station on Tuesday, June 21
Ardent communist Arthur Scargill has joined Mick Lynch’s mass rail strikes today in solidarity with the ‘greedy’ union barons who have paralysed Britain. Above: The former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers is seen on a picket line in Wakefield
Arthur Scargill was head of the National Union of Mineworkers for 30 years and famously led the 1984 miners’ strike
Scargill remains a controversial figure on the left and famously led the National Union of Mineworkers’ strike in 1984.
Unlike previous strikes in 1972 and 1974, the industrial action failed to bring down the government – which had prepared by stockpiling coal.
In June 1984, one of the most infamous episodes occurred, when police clashed with picketing miners in Rotherham.
In what became known as the ‘Battle or Orgreave’ between 10,000 policemen and 5,000 miners engaged each other.
Police said they had acted in self-defence, but miners said the violence had been sparked by officers.
Ninety-five pitmen were arrested, but none successfully prosecuted. Some 39 cases of unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution were settled without an admission of liability by police.
From the start of 1985, the number of workers choosing to break strikes increased, as miners struggled to pay for food and union pay ran out.
The industrial action finally came to an end on March 3, 1985, as miners voted to return to work.
Scargill pictured in 1986, speaking through a megaphone as President of the National Union of Mineworkers
Ardent communist Arthur Scargill is pictured addressing a rally in 1984, the year the infamous miners’ strike began
Scargill as he is assisted by riot police after he was injured outside the Orgreave coking plant near Rotherham in 1984
Pit closures continued gradually throughout the 1980s and 1990s and the UK’s last working coalmine – Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire – closed in 2005.
After the miners’ strike, Scargill was controversially elected as lifetime president of the NUM, before being accused of financial impropriety in the 1990s.
In 1996, he founded the obscure Socialist Labour Party and remains its leader to this day. He finally stepped down from the NUM presidency in 2002.
In 2016, Scargill was accused of hypocrisy after it emerged he had bought his London council flat using Margaret Thatcher’s flagship Right to Buy scheme.
He had initially applied to buy his then £1million home at a knock-down price in 1993 under the scheme but was turned down.
He failed to mention in the paperwork that he did not pay rent. Instead, the NUM paid £34,000 a year to the Corporation of London for it.
Scargill eventually succeeded in buying the home in January 2014.
Lynch, whose union represents 40,000 striking rail workers, told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast: ‘I’m nostalgic for the power that we had and more nostalgic for the control and values that we had. People talk about the Winter of Discontent and the excesses of the trade union movement as it was styled and characterised.
‘They had good reason for that because they had very powerful unions. I’m nostalgic for the balance we were creating. I think society was becoming rebalanced in the 70s.’
Scargill’s reappearance in Britain’s biggest rail strike in decades caught the attention of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who alluded to it an a fiery exchange with Labour leader Kier Starmer in the House of Commons yesterday.
Johnson, noting Scargill joined the pickets on Tuesday, said that Labour were ‘literally holding hands’ with the man who tried to bring Britain to its knees in the 1980s.
He said Labour was now ‘worse than under Jeremy Corbyn’, adding: ‘This is a government who are taking this country forward; they would take it back to the 1970s.’
Sir Keir, who took a vow of silence during yesterday’s strike, again refused to condemn the activists staging the biggest strike for 30 years.
But shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the RMT were ‘perfectly entitled’ to shut down Britain’s rail network.
‘Of course we don’t condemn the RMT for going out on strike,’ she said. ‘They are perfectly entitled to take industrial action in order to try and get themselves a better settlement.’
She said the Labour leadership was sitting on the sidelines in the dispute because ‘we aspire to be the party of government’.
Sir Keir claimed the Government was responsible for the strikes and told the PM: ‘Rather than blame everyone else, why does he not do his job, get round the table and get the trains running?’