Strike: When Britain Went to War

Submitted by on 6 February, 2004 - 12:00

Channel 4

"Thus were the working-men forced once more, in spite of their unexampled endurance, to succumb to the might of capital. But the fight had not been in vain ..."
- Frederick Engels, 'The Mining Proletariat', The Condition of the Working Class in England

In 1984 Channel 4 was in its infancy and looking to bring a new seriousness to British television. Already it had screened a series analysing the Spanish Civil War. Its prime-time news programme had depth, thoughtfulness, integrity.

Twenty years on its two-hour chronicle of the great miners' strike of 1984 and 85 demonstrated how debased are the values that govern the channel now.

One of this country's longest and hardest lessons in the realities of class-war was so packaged and processed as to be for the most part little more than entertainment for the chattering classes.

The agonising contortions of miners fallen into the hands of the police morphed oh-so-cleverly into the movements of contemporary ice-skaters Torvill and Dean.

One-time editor of The Sun Kelvin McKenzie mocked in words and gestures the printers whose solidarity action prevented his newspaper from likening Arthur Scargill to Hitler.

A student's account of sleeping with a miner was given not only air-time but a coy "reconstruction" ...

In keeping with the visual trivialisation, the voiced political slant was hostile to the strikers, reflecting the imbalance in the line-up of contributors. Scargill, we were thrice reminded, was a Marxist, while then-time boss of the National Coal Board, Ian McGregor, needless to say, was not dubbed a capitalist. Tony Benn appeared very briefly and was allowed to say nothing of substance on the issues while the likes of Tim Bell, eminence grise behind the plan to humble the miners, had lengthy footage.

Most notable (and risible) moment of all, was seeing Neil Kinnock humming along to Torvill and Dean's Bolero theme and regretting his failure to condemn the strike from the outset.

Something of the pain and brutality of the months of picketing and police-action could not be prevented from emerging through the testimony of striking miners and their partners, including Ann Scargill, but for the most part this was dross, not documentary.

Score: 2/10
Reviewer: Patrick Yarker

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.