, LONDON, Apr 8 – Britain’s coal miners were among the biggest of Margaret Thatcher’s foes – and for one senior mining official marking his birthday on Monday, the former premier’s death is the icing on the cake.
“I’m having a drink to it right now,” David Hopper, regional secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in north-east England, told AFP.
“It’s a marvellous day. I’m absolutely delighted. It’s my 70th birthday today and it’s one of the best I’ve had in my life.”
Thatcher’s government crushed a year-long coal miners’ strike in 1985. The miners were forced to accept sweeping pit closures, in one of the bitterest episodes in British industrial history.
Speaking from his home in the northeastern English city of Durham, Hopper said he and colleagues would organise a party to coincide with Thatcher’s funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, on a date yet to be announced.
“There’s not going to be many tears for her up here,” said Hopper, who joined the NUM when he was 15 and was among the tens of thousands of miners who joined the strike in 1984-5.
“I don’t think there’ll be many people watching the funeral on telly either – they’ll probably be watching the football.”
He added: “Thatcher perpetrated more evil in the north-east than anyone before or since. It isn’t just about the coal mines. She set out to destroy unions. She decimated the industry, she destroyed our communities.”
Britain has just a handful of working coal pits left, and the National Union of Mineworkers – once a powerful force in national politics – is today primarily occupied with looking after retired miners.