Monday, November 30, 2009

Does Labour Need A Compass?

Steve Yem and Alex Sobel are convenors for "Compass" which seeks to provide direction for the Democratic Left. At the next meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group at 8pm on Sunday 13 December at the Dronfield Contact Club , they will lead a discussion entitled "Does Labour Need A Compass?". Discussion meetings are open to all Labour Party members, all Dronfield Contact Club members and others by invitation.

"Compass" states that it " is building the ideas and organisation for a new progressive consensus based around our core values of democracy, equality and sustainability - instead of silos we know you can't have one without the other two. As the planet gets hotter and the poor get poorer we're campaigning collaboratively with progressive politicians of all parties, pressure groups, trade unions, think tanks, NGOs, academics, activists, campaigners and across civil society. We're building a coalition for a radical 21st century politics the country needs now."

For fuller details of the views and values which come from "Compass" see their web-site here.

Anyone can start the debate now on this thread. Why not get your tackles in before the kick off? The debate can start via our comment box.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Labour to use ‘Against the Odds’ film in election fight

The New Statesman reports that the Labour Party is to use the short ‘Against the odds’ film as part of its effort to fight the next election after a campaign by bloggers.
It’s a short history of the Labour movement and is stirring stuff. It begins with the words: “It’s the fighters and believers who change our world” with nods to party hero’s like Nye Bevan; a mention of Cable Street and the fight against fascism; the formation of the NHS; the fight against Apartheid; and the creation of the minimum wage. All those moments are in there right up to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The film goes onto say that “this history of Britain is the story of fighting for the right thing against the odds”.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

See You At The Crucible

A group of ten of us are booked in to see the play "The Enemies Within" at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on 20 December. It is about the Miners' Strike. Nine of our group are from the Dronfield Labour Party, seven of whom attended our Discussion Meeting on the Miners' Strike on Sunday (see this thread).

"The Enemies Within

Remembering 25 years since the 1984 miners' strike, most of the original cast of David Thacker's groundbreaking 1985 production return to present The Enemies Within.

Using real-life accounts assembled from interviews with striking miners and their families, this pioneering work represents a unique period of the 20th century. Communities were changed forever and this piece tells the real stories behind a scar that has refused to heal.

'There are chilling scenes of faces bloodied, accounts of heads cracked open and impressions of an almost universally unsympathetic outside world of housewives, directors and television producers. The acting is reverberatively fine.' The Guardian, 27 July 1985."

Back on Sunday 20 December.
Tickets: £15.00 - £10.00.
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

For Booking details see here. Book in and look out for us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We Are Women, We Are Strong

This was the logo of Women Against Pit Closures during the 1984-5 Miners Strike. It is in the colours of the Suffragettes.

To mark the 25th Anniversary of the Miners Strike, Barbara Jackson addressed a packed meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group on Sunday to outline both the nature of the strike and her and her colleagues' roles within it. Not only did she work with Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures, but she was also on strike herself with others who were members of the Unions' White Collar Section, COSA. They were employed at the NCBs Regional Administrative Office at Queen Street in Sheffield and picketed the site (see below).

The title of her talk was "We are Women, We are Strong" which was the anthem of Women Against Pit Closures. Here are the words -

We are women, we are strong
We are fighting for our lives,
side by side with the men
who work the nation's mines.
United by the struggle,
United by the past.. and it's
Here we go, here we go
For the women of the working class.

Don't need government approval
for everything we do,
We don't need their permission
to have a point of view.
Don't need anyone to tell us what to think
or what to say
We've strength enough and wisdom of our
own to go our own way.

They talk about statistics, about the
price of coal; the cost is the communities,
dying on the dole.
In fighting for our future, we find ways to organise;
Where women's liberation failed to move,
this strike has mobilised.

Ours is a unity that threats could never
breach; ours an education
that books could never teach.
We face the taunts and violence of Maggie's
thugs in blue;
When you're fighting for survival, you've got
nothing, nothing left to lose.

Barbara (left) pointed out that the NUM had to struggle against the full power of the State. The Thatcher Government prepared its ground by building up coal stocks, having already picked off the Print Unions and the Steelworkers in conditions of mass unemployment. Under what was known as the "Ridley Plan" it had introduced a set of anti-trade union laws, which it went on to use to the full against the Miners.

Whilst the NUM had imposed an overtime ban to counter the building up of coal stocks, during the strike 11 people were killed including 3 miners and numbers of young people mainly picking coal, 11,312 were arrested, 7,000 injured, 5,600 placed on trial, 200 imprisoned and 960 sacked.

The full power of the State was used against the Miners by a Conservative Government who resented the Miners Victory in the 1973 strike which led to the defeat of the Heath Government in the subsequent General Election. They turned Police Forces into a centrally controlled operation; whilst Power Stations were taken out of mothballs, Gas from the North Sea was squandered and Nuclear Power was used to the full.

The ability of the Miners to hold out for so long was a result of their own determination and their communal strength, supported by the international trade union movement in nations such as Australia, Russia and France.

This source explains something of Barbara's role in the strike, stating -
"She had a white collar job at the National Coal Board offices on Queen Street near Sheffield Cathedral. Although she had no family mining connections, Barbara felt so strongly about the Miners Strike that she was one of a handful of women who went on strike for the whole year. Nine people from her office picketed the National Coal Board building for the duration of the year-long strike, and Barbara quit work there within 24 hours of the strike ending in March 1985. Barbara had one teenage daughter at the time of the Strike. She is now retired and lives near Graves Park in Sheffield."

In Barbara's own words - "We welcomed all women and supported 30 support groups throughout South Yorkshire, we met weekly from May 84 to 87 when we closed the group at the point where we had our book published "We are Women , We are Strong" about our experiences during the strike. We raised hundreds of pounds through collections, jumble sales, benefit concerts, selling tee shirts, badges, Christmas cards, calendars. We talked to groups all over South Yorkshire, Belfast, Manchester and Germany. We picketed at the local pits with local women and tried to support other workers in dispute as well as the Greenham Common Women. We regarded ourselves as supporting the miners and their families but equally importantly making the political arguments and links about state power in all its forms. We were proud that South Yorkshire women and children were invited to the Soviet Union by the Soviet miners in the spring of 85 for a 5 week holiday in Moscow and the Black Sea coast."

Amongst the efforts Women Against Pit Closures undertook locally was the support they gave to Miners taken before the Sheffield Magistrates Court. When the strike was over, the Miners marched back to work behind their Colliery Bands and NUM Banners. But this wasn't an option at the Queen Street Office. Barbara decided not to return to work and was instead accepted as a Mature Student onto a Degree Course although she lacked the paper qualifications. As with many of the women who supported the strike her experiences were positive and life changing. A sentiment that came to be expressed by many Miners themselves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

More Mining Memories

Here is a notice of a significant meeting

Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society

Miners at University

The Derbyshire Area NUM day-release course 1952-94

Saturday 21 November
Hurst House, Abercrombie Street, Chesterfield (see this map)
2 pm (Doors open 1.30)

John Halstead, one of the course tutors, will explain briefly
- How and why the course began
- Its main features
- Impact of the day-release programme

Then those present who attended the programme will be able to share their experiences.

All welcome

Please note that there is parking for disabled people only at Hurst House.
Long-stay parking is available nearby at Holywell Cross surface car park or the multi-storey car park.

From : NDLHS 22 Boythorpe Avenue Chesterfield


This is a group of Derbyshire Miners who completed their three year Day Release Course in 1960. The photograph appeared in the Derbyshire Times on 7 May, 1960. They are presenting Miners' lamps to two of their tutors, who are the men wearing glasses. On the left is Noel Williams of the Workers Education Association who taught economics and on the right is the politics tutor Royden Harrison from Sheffield University Extramural Department who was a leading Labour Historian and whose final book was to be "The Life and Times of Sidney and Beatrice Webb : 1858 to 1905 the Formative Years". From left to right the students on the course are (1) Les Ralley who became a leading figure on the Chesterfield Rural District Council, the North East Derbyshire District Council and the North Wingfield Parish Council, (2) a 27 year old Eric Varley who four years later was to embark upon his parliamentary career, (3) W. Whitaker, (4) E. Lawrence presenting the lamps, (5) E. Bradbury and (6) N. Wade. Further information about Whitaker, Bradbury, Lawrence and Wade would be welcome.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

25 Years Ago

Here is a worthwhile follow up to our discussion meeting on 8 November as shown in our right hand column -

Get your tickets now – if you can’t attend, let others know – this will be the only other 25th anniversary event in Derbyshire !


25 Anniversary of the Strike Celebration

Saturday 28 November 2009

Speakers -

NUM National President - Ian Lavery

Notts Area NUM Secretary - Keith Stanley

Dennis Skinner MP .

Venue .....
The Arkwright Community Centre
Hardwick Drive
Arkwright Town

19.30 – to midnight

Tickets £5 (includes Pie and Pea Supper)

No ticket – no entry.

All proceeds from ticket sales and the raffle to

The National Justice for Mineworkers Campaign


the NSPCC.

For tickets, please contact Toni Bennett:

Toni’s contact details are:

Phone: 01246 826 032


For directions etc, see: