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Arthur Scargill in Birmingham, 6 May 2006

S Hewitt | 14.05.2006 18:40 | Birmingham

On Saturday evening 6 May 2006, Arthur Scargill, the former President
of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spoke at the Faircroft Hotel
in Rookery Road, Handsworth, Birmingham in a meeting to celebrate the
tenth anniversary of the Socialist Labour Party.

The only publicity I saw for this event was an article in the local
paper the day before ("Scargill to rally in Brum", Birmingham Mail, 5
May 2006, "central city final" edition, page 8). Yet Birmingham Trades
Union Council had held a public meeting ("International workers day",
Saturday 29 April 1-5pm, Carrs Lane Church Centre, Birmingham), at which I
did not notice any flyers or hear any announcement for Scargill's rally
which was to take place one week later.

I took along my copy of the book which describes in careful detail a
deceitful campaign against Arthur Scargill. ("The enemy within M15,
Maxwell and the Scargill affair", Seumas Milne, Verso 1994) What, I
wondered, did Arthur Scargill think of this book? In the event, there
was no need to ask him (although I did) because while I was browsing the
leaflets of the Socialist Labour Party, he appeared next to the table,
and I saw him signing a copy of it. This was to be a prize in a raffle.
He was happy to sign my copy too, but he recommended the later, paperback
edition which I had seen him signing. This updated edition, he told me,
has two extra chapters documenting the court cases which have been found
in his favour since the first edition.

When I referred to an article in the Guardian in which former
Mirror editor Greenslade wrote that he had apologised to
Scargill for the false allegations he had printed about
him in the Mirror. (Roy Greenslade, Guardian May 8, 2003 -,9115,951457,00.html ),
Scargill confirmed that Greenslade had indeed apologised.

In his speech later, Scargill said (amongst other things) that we have a
thousand years of coal beneath our feet. He said that oil, gas and other
products can be extracted from coal, and that in World War 2 aeroplanes
flew on aviation spirit extracted from coal. Referring to the European
Union, he said that it costs £12 billion to stay in it, that it
is building a European army, and the sooner that we get out of the EU
and back into the world, the better for all of us.

He also gave a vivid account of the famous picketing of the coke depot
at Saltley. At a meeting somewhere near the Bullring he had given a
speech requesting solidarity from other workers. Workers came marching
to the Saltley depot along all five of the roads that lead to it.
The police wanted to keep them moving, but over 12,000 men and women
stopped outside the coke depot and the gates were closed, and they had
to sign an agreement with the workers.

Given that a few years after the destruction of Britain's historic
coal industry, the price of oil is the highest that it has ever been, I
wondered whether the economic arguments for using coal, rather than oil
or natural gas, were not now stronger than ever. After the statements
about coal in Scargill's speech, I asked him a question along these lines.
He referred me to the work of Andrew Glynn of Oxford University and a
paper "The case for coal". By then he was leaving, but if I understood correctly, Scargill told me that ALL the mines were economically viable even at the time they were destroyed.

S Hewitt