12 April 2024

The Strike to End All Strikes 

A legend in the world of marketing, entrepreneur Andrew Wood is also a prolific author, with his new novel, gripping thriller Death of a Union, set against the backdrop of the UK’s iconic 1984 miners’ strike. Here, he explores the lasting legacy of “the strike to end all strikes”. 

By Andrew Wood

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike of 1984-5, and few events in British history have stirred as much passion. 

Launching on 6th March, 1984, it was a clash of titanic proportions that shook the very foundations of society. It was a battle not merely between organised labour and the Conservative government but a struggle for the heart and soul of the nation. 

As economic storms raged across the land, PM Margaret Thatcher’s government, armed with its fervent belief in free-market reforms, set its sights on the coal mining industry. With the stroke of a bureaucratic pen, plans were unveiled to shutter 20 money-losing pits, casting tens of thousands into the abyss of unemployment.  

The National Union of Miners (NUM), led by the indomitable Arthur Scargill, rose to meet the challenge. 

A Clash of Ideologies  

The announcement of the closures was the spark that ignited the flames of resistance. Across the country, picket lines sprung up with defiant banners manned by men and women prepared to fight for their livelihoods. The miners faced off against the forces of law and order, with clashes erupting in violent crescendos that echoed through the valleys.  

It cumulated in the Battle of Orgreave, the infamous pitch battle involving 10,000 strikers, over a thousand heavily armed police, and a mounted charge at the Orgreave coke plant near Sheffield.  

The strike was more than an industrial dispute; it was a clash of ideologies, a battle for the essence of what it meant to be British.  

The miners saw themselves as the vanguard against a government intent on dismantling the fabric of society, while Thatcher’s administration viewed the strike as a necessary step towards economic progress. 

Comradery and Corruption  

Amidst the chaos, solidarity emerged as trade unions and supporters from all walks of life rallied for the miners’ cause, sending millions in cash donations. These included hundreds of thousands of pounds in questionable donations from the Soviet Union and Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi, much of which just vanished. A famous quip after the strike was that Arthur Scargill ‘started the strike with a small house and a big union and ended it with a small union and a big house’. 

For months, the struggle raged on; a relentless battle of attrition that tested the resolve of all involved. As the economic hardship for families increased, fissures appeared in the miner’s solidarity as some chose to break ranks and return to work – betraying the cause for which their comrades fought and causing scars in personal relationships that would never heal.  

The government’s strategy of stockpiling coal, changes in the law, and aggressive policing proved effective. As the months dragged on, the inevitable became clear: the strike was doomed to failure.  

In March 1985, with dreams shattered and hopes dashed, the miners laid down their arms and returned to work, defeated but unbowed. 

With its intricately woven plot and richly drawn characters, Andrew Wood’s latest novel is a tour de force that will keep readers guessing until the very end. A timely reminder of the enduring impact of history, Death of a Union is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a riveting tale split between the 1980s and the present driven by intrigue, suspense, and the relentless pursuit of justice.

Seismic Repercussions 

Economically, the repercussions were seismic. The closure of coal mines, once the lifeblood of countless towns across the country, sent shockwaves through the industrial landscape. Unemployment soared, leaving behind hollowed-out shells where vibrant mining towns once stood. 

The strike accelerated the coal industry’s decline, leading to widespread pit closures. It weakened the power of trade unions and emboldened the Conservative government’s agenda to curb union influence. The strike’s legacy left bitterness among miners and their communities, shaping political and social dynamics for years. 

Did Thatcherism Work? 

Assessing whether Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies ultimately benefited the UK is a contentious subject. Her economic agenda, referred to as ‘Thatcherism’, involved a series of neoliberal reforms aimed at reducing the state’s role in the economy, privatising state-owned industries, deregulating markets, and curbing the power of trade unions.  

These policies did help to revitalise the British economy and promote growth. The deregulation of markets and privatisation of industries increased efficiency and productivity, driving economic expansion.  

Additionally, they helped curb inflation, reduced government debt, and attracted foreign investment. During Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, the UK experienced periods of significant economic growth, particularly in the later years of her premiership.  

Indeed, many of my friends from that era, then in their early twenties, did very well under her policies, which shifted the British economy away from traditional industries towards services and finance. 

The North-South Divide  

However, critics argue that Thatcher’s economic policies had significant negative consequences.  

Closing the mines and other traditional industries led to widespread job losses and financial hardship in many communities, particularly in Scotland, the North of England, and Wales.  

These areas experienced long-term unemployment, poverty, and social deprivation, with lasting consequences for generations. The Scottish miners’ hatred of Whitehall undoubtedly helped sow the seeds of discontent for the independence vote decades later.  

What Have We Learned from the Past? 

Today, we stand on the brink of another transformative upheaval driven by robotics and AI.  

Both are poised to render many traditional occupations obsolete virtually overnight, only this time it will be white-collar jobs.  

Much like the seismic shifts witnessed during the miners’ strike, this impending disruption underscores the profound human toll of economic evolution and the critical importance of government policies to safeguard the welfare of industry, workers, and communities alike.  

A recent paper by Goldman Sachs shows that IT, financial, and legal jobs are most at risk. The legal profession could see 40% of its roles rapidly replaced by AI. Magazines, newspapers, and ad agencies are already laying people off in droves. While AI will untimely lead to the creation of new jobs, that is unlikely to match the job loss.  

Today, there is no powerful union representing these various professions, but what if tens of thousands of individuals take to the streets as they did in the miners’ strike?  

Thatcher planned to beat the miners but never planned what to do with them afterward. Despite her economic success, this forever tarnished her reputation.  

What will today’s government do? I don’t profess to have the answers, but history is always a good place to start looking for them. 

Death of a Union by Andrew Wood is out now on Amazon, priced £14.20 in paperback and £7.88 as an eBook. An audiobook version is coming soon. For more information, visit www.AndrewwoodInc.com. You can read more from Andrew on his blog, www.LifeWellLived.expert, and about his strategic marketing advice at LegendaryMarketing.com. 

Q&A Interview With Andrew Wood 

We speak to Death of a Union author Andrew Wood about his new geopolitical thriller, set against the backdrop of the UK’s iconic 1984 miners’ strike and the contemporary fervour for Scottish independence.

Q. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind choosing the UK miners’ strike as the backdrop for your geopolitical thriller, Death of a Union 

A. Over the last year there have been several articles in the national press about various aspects of the miners’ strike. There was also a full-scale public inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave. All this piqued my interest and sent me down a rabbit hole!  

My interest was also piqued by the continuing saga of the hapless SNP and I put the two separate corruption scandals, the other concerning the missing millions donated to the National Union of Miners back in the 1980s, together, adding in a populist Trump-esque female leader to head the SNP.  

Q. How much research went into writing Death of a Union 

A. I did a great deal of research: hundreds of hours, books, articles, and videos. Pretty much everything in the book is historically accurate as it relates to the key events in the strike.  

Q. What was the most surprising fact you discovered about the miners’ strike?  

A. Just how much corruption there was going on and the fact that Arthur Scargill was being  watch by MI5. The funny thing was it was not Margaret Thatcher who initiated surveillance but the previous Labour PM, James Callaghan.  

Q. What are your own memoires of the miners’ strike? 

A. In 1984, I had a golf scholarship in Florida, I was back in the UK all summer, playing the amateur golf tour. It was to be the best season of my short career. I even made it to the final qualifying of the Open at St Andrew’s.  

Everywhere you went that summer, you had to dodge coal trucks thundering down the backroads to avoid the pickets on the main roads while delivering coal to the power stations or steel plants. The strike was front-page news every day – you could not avoid it. I had a couple of narrow misses. Driving a tiny MG, I would have been crushed.  

Q. How challenging was it to balance historical fact with a fictional present day? How do you see these two different time periods connecting? 

A. History repeats so it was easy to blend the past with the present. The miners’ strike was a seismic shift away from our traditional industries such as coal and manufacturing. AI is going to produce another game-changing shift and that is going to cause similar social problems. I doubt the current government is any better prepared to deal with them.  

Q. What do you think readers will enjoy most about your novel?  

A. There are two completely different stories going on: one historical, one present day. I think reader will really enjoy trying to figure out how and why they are connected. Plus, it deals with very up-to-date issues such as AI in elections, Scotland’s quest for independence, and China’s global plan. So, all very topical.  

Q. Death of a Union is your eighth novel. How does it depart from your previous books?  

A. My other novels, like Career Change, where a middle-aged accountant from Birmingham becomes a gigolo in Monaco, or Confessions of a Golf Pro, where the manager has to deal with all the modern ‘woke’ social issues, are satire. This, by contrast, is a thriller with a far more intricate plot.  

Q. The vast majority of your books are non-fiction business guides. Which has been your most popular, and why do you think it has resonated with audiences?  

A. I did a series of marketing bibles on golf, hotels, restaurants etc. They were practical, actionable guides that any business owner could execute and generate results. I also wrote The World’s Best Sales Book after reading over one hundred sales books! 

Q. You are famed as a global marketing expert in the golf industry. How did you come into this sector and what is your career highlight to date?  

A. At one point I had a business with 400 martial arts schools, but I got bored with it. I sat down and thought, ‘What you are good at?’ and ‘What do you love?’. The answers were marketing and golf. So, I started Legendary Marketing as a golf-marketing company. At one point we had over 250 clients and 40 employees. One of my highlights was speaking at my friend Mike Sebastian’s Asia Pacific Golf Summit several times, which gave me the opportunity to spend time touring Asia.  

Q. What one writing principle, and what one business principle, do you swear by? 

A. Write every day; just write and don’t worry too much what other people think of your work.  

I’m a huge believer in content marketing. Engage, Educate, and Entertain, then – and only then – try to sell them something.  

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