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Rose-tinted: Ben Schnetzer (centre) in "Pride" (credit: Nicola Dove)

A scene in Pride sent me back 30 years. A gay activist, Mark Ashton (played with intense conviction by Ben Schnetzer), decides to set up "Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners" from a Bloomsbury bookshop. "Who hates the miners?" he asks. "Thatcher, the police and the tabloid press — does that sound familiar?"

Hardly anyone supports him. A working-class gay from Durham wonders if those would be the same miners who beat him up every day for being queer. Ashton goes on to the streets, nevertheless, and shakes a bucket for donations. Passers-by insult him. He does not answer back in kind but shouts "Merry Christmas."

I stood collecting on the streets for the miners in the winter of 1984, not on the streets of Bloomsbury but of Altrincham, which as one of the most conservative towns in the north of England, was not, on reflection, the best venue for a fraternal whip-round. To be fair, most shoppers politely ignored me or gave despairing looks. But a few turned nasty. When they did, I shouted, "And a Merry Christmas to you too." I was not trying to convince them that business would run riot in Britain if the miners lost, but to remind them that men who had kept the country going through two world wars were being beaten by the police and starved back to work, to suggest that a touch of common humanity was in order.

From the start, Pride felt true. Indeed much of it is true. Mark Ashton was a young Communist (the film does not mention this) who died horribly young from Aids. He organised gay groups to support striking miners in Wales, and so overcame their prejudices that the 1985 gay pride march in London saw an extraordinary sight: miners and their families from South Wales leading the demonstration. I should say before criticising the film that the ensemble acting is superb, and the attempts to deal with repression and homophobia wittily and subtly handled. I do not want to put you off seeing a film which had me wiping away the tears  (although I accept that fact alone may put you off.)

Still, its moral uplift, its comfy, cheering wallowing in solidarity illustrates the contradictions of the wave of industrial nostalgia in British cinema. Pride follows Brassed Off, Billy Elliot and Made In Dagenham. They are the Ealing comedies of our day, wistful love letters to a Britain that has gone — and perhaps never was. Producers have turned them into musicals, that most feelgood of art forms. Doubtless Pride will receive the same treatment, and we will see choruses of colliers in West End theatres.

Everyone involved tries to forget that the miners' strike left contemporaries with nothing to feel good about. You get little sense from Pride that the conflict was the closest mainland Britain has come to civil war in a century. Miners filed 551 complaints against the police, 257 alleging assault. As for the police, miners and their supporters injured 1,392 officers — 85 seriously. The Wales Pride presents is a place so big-hearted it can overcome its homophobia after a couple of dances in the miners' social. In reality a taxi driver taking a strike-breaking miner to work was killed by a concrete block dropped from a bridge.

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December 17th, 2014
9:12 PM
The average price for UK coal was £44/T, the World price was £32/T; 75% of mines lost money. The development of the following 1. Large open cast coal mines in the USA, S Africa, India and Australia which were connected by canal or railways to see ports reduced transport costs. 2. The closure of the Suez Canal in the 6 Day War led to oil tankers having to go round S Africa which meant there was no restriction on size. Oil tankers increased from about 50,000T to 500,000T which meant the technology was developed which enabled bulk ore carriers to increase in size. 3. The fact that UK coal was about 33% more expensive than the World price put up the cost of steel and the cost of electricity generated with this fuel. If someone is going to talk about British coal they had better to do some research. Canals reduced the cost of coal by 50% due to reduction in transport costs. Trains were first designed to transport coal from the mine to the coastal port. If people had wanted to preserve the NCB they could have turned into a international mining company; a similar transformation happened with British Gas. However, a NCB largely controlled by Scargill would have lacked the skill to compete with the international mining companies.

john cronin
October 1st, 2014
3:10 PM
Can we get slightly real here? In 1945 there were about a million miners in Britain. In 1984, there were about 150,000. 85% of the jobs had already disappeared when Maggie Thatcher (hiss, boo, the wicked witch, ooh look, I've proved my moral superiority by saying nasty things about her) came along. Between 1945 and 1985, four times as many miners lost their jobs under Labour govts as lost em under Mrs T. It might have escaped Cohen's notice, but Labour were in power for 13 years. How many pits did they re open? The mines closed because (a) they ran out of coal, (b) cheap imports from Poland and South America (c) North Sea oil and gas and (d) nuclear power. Blaming Maggie for it is rather like blaming the undertaker for the plane crash. He is dead right about Scargill though. A nutter who led his men to catastrophic defeat, but retained the salary, the chauffeur the pension and the yuppie apartment in the Barbican.

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