England: After the Miners’ Defeat

England: After the Miners’ Defeat

LONDON — It was never just a strike, but a confrontation between two Britains: the Labour and union strongholds of the decaying industrial north and of the increasingly postindustrial south, which provided Mrs. Thatcher with her electoral majority. In symbolic terms, it was a battle between the London of Covent Garden shops, burgeoning software and advertising companies, skyrocketing house prices and full restaurants, and the poor, closed, and proud coal-mining communities like Cortonwood in Yorkshire where the strike began in March 1984. For most of the south of England the scenes on television of the tiny miners’ cottages, crammed with meetings of women’s support groups, the marches with their ancient banners, and the harsh and sometimes incomprehensible accents of the tough men stoking up the fires burning in the jerry cans in front of colliery gates—all this belonged to life on another planet, or to another age. Mrs. Thatcher and her ministers did not have much trouble isolating the miners even from the rest of the trade union movement. The miners’ isolation, at least from the south, was already inscribed in the new facts of economic life in England.

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Lima