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Title: The Thatcher Government and the decline of the National Union of Mineworkers, c.1985-1990
Author: Daniels, Steven
ISNI:       0000 0005 0288 0440
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2020
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In 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was unquestionably the single most powerful trade union in the county and the ‘tip of the spear’ of the trade union movement, a position held comfortably since the Second World War. Within a decade, its once unquestionable power base was broken, the coal industry privatised, and the trade union movement within it deeply divided and marginalised. Today, the NUM is barely a shell of its former self, and lives on in name only. The trade union movement as a whole never recovered from the NUM’s decline, barely able to influence their own industries, never mind wider governmental policy within British politics. How did the NUM, and the wider trade union movement, arrive at this point? This PhD thesis explores how, following their victory in the 1984-5 miners’ strike, the Thatcher Government, alongside the taxpayer-owned National Coal Board (NCB)/British Coal (BC) and the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM), collaborated to ensure the gradual weakening and marginalisation of the NUM as a force within both British politics and the trade union movement. It uses newly released archival material to demonstrate how these three actors, each with their own motivations, sought and achieved the weakening of the NUM for their own gain. It reveals the ethically, morally, and legally questionable actions taken to achieve this; including lying to Parliament, arranging secret meetings, the covert funnelling of money and resources, and openly discriminating against the NUM. The theoretical framework is informed by, and advances, Jim Bulpitt’s statecraft thesis, and allows for motivation and institutional change to be ascribed to the main actors. It demonstrates that the Thatcher Government, at the Centre of British politics, sought to achieve ideological hegemony over the trade union movement, and saw the NUM as the major trophy to be won in achieving this. To do this, the Government recruited as peripheral players the NCB/BC and UDM, both of whom desired a weaker NUM. For the NCB/BC, it sought to reassert the ‘right of management to manage’. For the UDM, it wished to replace the NUM as the major trade union force within the coal industry, and to move away from the confrontational Scargillite style of trade unionism. This thesis reveals the extraordinary lengths these three actors would go to in achieving their goals, and also explores how the NUM struggled to fend off these attacks, increasingly unable to conduct an industrial relations policy. It demonstrates how the Thatcher Government achieved total success in its aims, and achieved hegemony over the trade union movement. The NUM’s decline is one from which the trade union movement never recovered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral