Margaret Thatcher branded the leaders of the 1984-85 miners strike "the enemy within." With the publication of this book, the full irony of that accusation became clear. Seumas Milne revealed for the first time the astonishing lengths to which the government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain's miners' union. There was an enemy within. It was the secret services of the British state, operating inside the NUM itself.
Milne revealed for the first time the astonishing lengths to which the government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain's miners' union. Using phoney bank deposits, staged cash drops, forged documents, agents provocateurs and unrelenting surveillance, M15 and police Special Branch set out to discredit Scargill and other miners' leaders. Planted tales of corruption were seized on by the media and both Tory and Labour politicians in what became an unprecedentedly savage smear campaign.
In this new edition, published for the twentieth anniversary of Britain's most important postwar social confrontation, new material brings the story up to date – and, in the wake of the Iraq war intelligence scandals, highlights the continuing threat posed by the security services to democracy today.
The virulence of the denunciations of Scargill and the miners during and long after the 1984–5 strike went far beyond the established boundaries of modern-day mainstream British politics. It reached a peak in the summer of 1984, when the Prime Minister compared the struggle with the miners to the war against the Argentine junta over the Falklands/Malvinas islands two years earlier. ‘We had to fight an enemy without in the Falklands,’ she declared at a gathering of Conservative back- bench MPs. Now the war had to be taken to ‘the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty’. A few months later, Margaret Thatcher would return to her theme in the Carlton Club, the clubland temple of High Toryism:
At one end of the spectrum are, the terrorist gangs within our borders and the terrorist states which finance and arm them. At the other are the hard left, operating inside our system, conspiring to use union power . . . to break, defy and subvert the laws.
Her senior ministers were no less extreme. Thus Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary responsible during the strike for overseeing Britain’s largest and longest-running police mobilization ever, fulminated:
Mr Scargill does not just hate our free and democratic system and seek to do everything he can to discredit and damage it; he also feels equal hatred and contempt for those miners whose servant he is meant to be but whose tyrant he has become.
The message conveyed by these remarks by Thatcher and Brittan was unmistakable, down to the use of the words ‘conspiring’ and ‘subvert’: this false prophet and his bands of untamed red guards and coalfield sans-culottes should be treated as outlaws. They were enemies of the state. By branding the miners ‘the enemy within’, the Prime Minister was giving a calculated signal of unambiguous clarity to all government agencies that the gloves should come off in the war with the NUM.
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