Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Local residents and ex-mining families were outraged when news came through that Dewsbury Conservative Association was intending to have their annual dinner at the National Coal Mining Museum at the former Caphouse colliery in Overton near Wakefield.
It was planned for 10 March, just days after the anniversary of the end of the 1984-5 miners’ strike. Given the role of the Tory party under Thatcher in running down the mines and forcing the 1984-85 dispute in order to break the power of the miners – then the most combative and best organised union – many local people saw this as an insult to the whole point of a museum commemorating the industry.
But also, the last deep coal mine in Britain at Kellingley on the other side of Wakefield, closed by the Tory-led coalition, is a more recent reminder of the contempt the Tories hold the industry in. They are prepared to bring coal in from places such as China to fuel local power stations.
In a matter of days almost 2,000 people joined a Facebook group set up to protest the event and e-mail and ring the museum demanding they withdraw the event.
At first museum management put up a defiant statement that they would be going ahead as they had to be ‘politically neutral’! But just a day later they were forced to cancel the event after the catering company withdrew.
This is a victory for local working class communities and groups such as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign which had planned to picket the dinner if it went ahead.
But it also raises questions around why the museum management thought accepting the booking was a good idea.