Monday, 15 April 2013

Did Thatcher destroy the British coal mining industry?

Following the death of Margaret Thatcher last week, commentators on both the left and the right have been compiling lists of myths about her time in office. Here, I examine the widespread claim that she destroyed the British coal mining industry. In particular, I assemble three graphs for the period 1950-1994: one depicting the trend in coal mining output; one depicting the trend in total number of coal mines; and one depicting the trend in coal mining employment. Evidently, the decline of the British coal mining industry began in the late 1950s, and then continued through both Labour and Conservative governments up until the mid 1990s. Moreover, the decline was not unusually rapid during Thatcher's time in office. The data are from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.


  1. I am told that Labour governments closed mines at much the same rate as Thatcher, but I don't have the figures for it. I was around at the time and supported the miners, because of the extreme brutality with which they and their communities were treated, but even then part of me could see that the nationalised mining industry was a complete loss-making shambles and would have to go. Now I can see that however badly Thatcher's government handled the task in terms of 'PR', it had to be done, as it was primarily about stopping mad Stalinists like Scargill from using the NUM as the 'revolutionary vanguard' in his quest to overthrow the state and institute Soviet-style state socialism in the UK. This may sound fantastic now, but at the time there was a real possibility of that happening, and those who were not around cannot begin to conceive the industrial chaos and open 'class war' that was the norm in this country in the 1970's.

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