Yvette Cooper MP: Forty years on from the miners’ strike and the scars are still felt

Forty years on from the miners’ strike, the memories run as deep as the coal our communities are built on.
Pickets at Kellingley Colliery.Pickets at Kellingley Colliery.
Pickets at Kellingley Colliery.

Yvette Cooper MP writes: Whether it be the deliberate damage done to coalfield towns and villages by the Thatcher government or the unanswered questions and injustice around Orgreave, the scars are still felt and our communities are still being let down by a Conservative government today. We deserve better than this.

At Queen’s Mill in Castleford this month, the “Backbone of the Nation” exhibition recounts powerful stories about what happened 40 years ago. Many people have been telling their own stories too – from Prince of Wales, Fryston, Wheldale, Kellingley, Glasshoughton and more, from the women who organised the community support and later set up the Castleford Women’s Centre, and from those who were children in the 80s and remember going hungry and missing Christmas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

My grandad was a miner, my dad a trade unionist. So like mining families across country, “backbone of the nation” is exactly what I believe our coalfield communities have been for generations.

But the coalfields have still been denied answers or the truth about what happened 40 years ago. At Orgreave, where miners were injured, arrested and faced many months threatened with prosecution, until the evidence against them collapsed, we still have no proper answers about what happened and why. I have long called for answers on Orgreave.

If Labour is elected to government, we have pledged an independent inquiry or investigation into what happened at Orgreave that day.

Our coalfield towns also need a better future after another Conservative government has spent 14 years running our Yorkshire economy down. Families and pensioners are worse off. Wages have been hit, while taxes are at a record high. Apprenticeships and training have been cut and our public services feel broken. We can’t carry on like this.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That’s why Labour has set out plans to boost the Yorkshire economy. We urgently need a proper industrial strategy to deliver the jobs, apprenticeships and opportunities we need to grow the economy and support the next generation.

And we need a new deal for working people – including a proper living wage, ending dodgy hire and refire practices – to protect them in those jobs too.

And we need support for our public services – including West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin’s plan to bring buses back under public control so we can improve local transport for our communities.

The Budget was such a missed opportunity. Where was the vision for the future? Where was the plan for new green jobs? Or support for our NHS and public services?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All the government did was give a little bit with one hand and take back much more with the other so families are worse off.

But if Conservative ministers think they are right, why don’t they ask the country? Let people vote on whether they want to carry on with this Tory chaos or not in a general election. Rishi Sunak could have called an election on May 2 but has chickened out.

The trouble is that the government is now in such chaos that every month which goes by makes things even worse.

We need a general election now and the chance of a new government and a better future for our coalfield towns.