Union legend Arthur Scargill returned to the Birmingham site of his most famous victory exactly 40 years to the day – and called for up to 150 UK mines to be re-opened.
The veteran NUM hardliner, whose fiery oratory helped trigger a walkout by 30,000 Birmingham engineers and ensured triumph for miners at the Battle of Saltley Gate on February 10, 1972, retraced his steps with a rallying cry for more “working-class solidarity.”
And Scargill, now 74, called for mineworkers at the region’s last remaining colliery Daw Mill, near Coventry, currently under threat of possible closure, to remain “defiant”.
He recalled the Saltley Battle, when a human blockade by 15,000 marchers brought the closure of the last remaining fuel depot still open in the UK, forcing the Government to cave in and award the miners a 21 per cent pay rise.
“To their eternal credit, the workers of Birmingham on that day turned out and demonstrated their support for miners.
“Forty years ago, I stood on this spot among 15,000 Birmingham workers who were fed up with seeing the miners battered.
“We didn’t want pound notes, we wanted them out on strike to give us physical support in a struggle which we had to win.
“Workers turned out in force and secured a victory which went down in history. On that day everything I believed in as a trade unionist and socialist crystallised.”
The former NUM leader told the Mail the UK’s plentiful coal reserves could be used to stop spending billions of pounds on imports.
“We may have to turn back to Britain’s coal reserves, of which we have got 1,000 years worth. We need a sensible energy policy and the re-opening of mines that were closed. It’s as easy as ABC – you are talking about 100 to 150 pits.”
In a message to hundreds of Daw Mill miners facing an uncertain future he said: “You will not save the mining industry by compromise. It is only by defiance that we will bring about change.”