Thursday 9 April 2020

Day 24 of self-isolation

I can't remember World War 2, I'm not old enough. But I remember the Three Day Week, the Winter of Discontent and the Scargill miners' strike.. 

The Three Day Week happened during the winter of 1973/74, when the coal miners went on strike, leading to a coal shortage, and an electricity shortage, and to conserve coal, the Tory PM Edward Heath, ordered industry and commerce to go to a three day week. The impact on the domestic sector, was periodic blackouts.

We used hurricane lamps, and a Tilley lamp for lighting. Television was restricted, pubs were closed and we huddled under blankets, and hoped that something would make this end. What ended it, was Heath calling, and losing, a General Election in February 1974. Harold Wilson formed a minority government, and gave the miners 35%, and another 35% the following year.

These pay rises, and other factors, let to the great inflation of 1974/75. Each time you went to the shops, week by week, the price of everything had gone up.

The  Winter of Discontent was in the winter of 1978-79. James Callaghan's Labour government made a "Social Contract" with the trades unions, whereby they wouldn't ask for big pay rises. I can't remember what they got in return, probably nothing, which is why they called it the "Social Con-trick".

The idea was that pay rises would stay below 5%. It didn't work. Unions went on strike for more, and each union that got more, became an argument for the next union.

When it fell apart, the gravediggers were on strike, so bodies were piling up. Waste collectors went on strike, and Leicester Square become a rubbish dump - and a very attractive food source for rats.

The general election in 1979 was won by the Conservatives led by Margaret Thatcher.

The final part of this trilogy, happened in 1984/85. The miners went on strike again, expecting the same result. That didn't happen. Arthur Scargill (the miners' leader) called the strike without the support of all the mineworkers, and many of them didn't strike. That, plus the large coal reserves in place, broke the strike. The main reason for the failure of the strike, was Scargill's failure to do a national strike ballot.

The broken miners' union never seriously threatened the country again.

Of course, the fight against Covid-19 is a completely different thing.

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