Arthur Scargill: Sheffield rail strike picket line joined by former leader of miners' union

The leading figure of the miners’ strike surprised demonstrators when he joined the picket line at Sheffield Railway Station yesterday.

Friday, 24th June 2022, 8:15 am

Arthur Scargill arrived to support the RMT national rail strike on June 23 wearing the same cap he wore when he was arrested at Orgreave coking plant 38 years ago.

Now 84, Mr Scargill was joined by his 21-year-old grandson Thomas Logan, who he told reporters was “more militant than I am”.

“It feels normal [to be back on a picket line], but don't forget I've been on picket lines before,” he told ITV.

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Sheffield Railway Station.

“I think they [the strikers] are absolutely right, they have got my total support and I would urge all other unions to join with them.

“If they have any sense now is the time to take strike action in order to justify their right to have decent working conditions, working pay.”

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It comes as the UK is seeing the most widespread RMT strike in 30 years, with train services reduced by around 80 per cent nationwide on Tuesday and Thursday. The strike, which is being held over pay disputes and labour conditions, resumes on Saturday.

Superintendent John Nesbit arrests Arthur Scargill, NUM President at Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners strike 30 May 1984...© Martin Jenkinson.

It comes after the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, told his party's frontbench MPs not to take part in demonstrations with striking workers.

Mr Scargill said it showed “absolute contempt for the very people who formed the Labour Party”.

He said: “I couldn't believe any leader would come out and say we're unable to speak to or join a picket line. Even past leaders like Harold Wilson supported the miners' strike.

“I’ve nothing but utter contempt for the leadership of the Labour party, particularly [Keir] Starmer.

“Quite frankly, the Labour Party has blown it completely. It does not represent the working class of this country.”

And he said he believed further strike action was inevitable.

“This should be the summer of building a trade union movement and getting a socialist movement building in Britain,” he said.

“I’m here because I’m a trade unionist and a socialist. When people have to take strike action in order to get a living wage and stop unnecessary redundancies, it’s time that workers come together,” he added.

“I would call on every railway worker to come out on strike and force this government into retreat.”

He added: “We wouldn’t be here today if our forefathers had not taken action against the laws of the land at the time. They knew that they had to take action in order to get justice. Think about the suffragettes, think about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, think about the Jarrow marchers … it is an ongoing struggle.”

Mr Scargill was the former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, who confronted Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the miners’ strike of 1984-85, ending in their defeat.

He remains the titular leader of the Socialist Labour party, which he set up in 1996 in protest of Tony Blair.

Mr Scargill's appearance is his second in Yorkshire this week, after he joined a picket in Wakefield on June 21 for the widely reported by-election.