Sunderland MP vows to fight for communities that had ‘hearts ripped out’ by Thatcher

A march held in Mowbray Park on April 14, 1984
A march held in Mowbray Park on April 14, 1984
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A WEARSIDE MP says she will continue to fight for justice for coalfield communities after politicians accepted a motion which said Margaret Thatcher’s government “misled the public” about pit closure plans during the 1984 miners’ strike.

The motion, tabled by the Labour Party for an Opposition Day debate in the Commons this week, was not opposed by Government MPs when Speaker John Bercow called it to a vote.

Sharon Hodgson MP Labour Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West

Sharon Hodgson MP Labour Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West

It meant the Commons accepted the terms of the motion, which also said the government of the day had sought to “influence police tactics”, without a division of MPs.

The claims are made on the basis of Cabinet papers released under the 30 year rule earlier this year and on which Labour MPs had previously claimed demonstrated untruths.

Cabinet papers from the 1980s released by the National Archives indicated the late Baroness Thatcher’s government had secret plans to close 75 pits at the cost of 65,000 jobs and considered sending in troops to break the 1984/85 strike.

As she helped launch the Justice for the Coalfields campaign earlier this year, Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson and colleagues wrote to Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude demanding a formal apology from ministers for the actions of the Government during the time of the strike.

After the motion was passed, she said: “We now have proof of what we always knew in our hearts: that the miners’ strike was not simply an industrial dispute, but the consequence of deliberate government policy decisions, motivated by an economic ideology which sought the destruction of a way of life.

“Countless communities and individuals across the North are still suffering 30 years on because of those decisions.

“Justice for coalfield communities therefore means full disclosure of all government papers relating to the tactics of Ministers and the police at the time, as well as a renewed commitment to bringing proper jobs back to the towns and cities which had their hearts ripped out when the pits closed.”

Members of the Durham Miners’ Association were among a delegation which travelled to Westminster to hear the debate on Tuesday.

Alan Cummings, chairman of the DMA and former lodge secretary in Easington Colliery, said the next stage in the fight for recognition would come with a Labour government.

He added: “The debate was good and MPs from the north took prominence.

“When the Blair Government got in in 1997, we thought it would mean a major change for this community after the Tories had been in, but the ex-mining villages here, in Wales and all over, felt disgruntled and it’s going to take a lot of money and investment for them after what happened.”