Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Such was the divisive nature of so much of the news reporting of the 1984-85 miners’ strike – and media concentration on picket line violence – that there was often little coverage of the remarkable solidarity shown by the international trade union movement.

Pit Props, a new book examining the strength of international support during the dispute, seeks to put the record straight. Editor Granville Williams says it tells the story of the magnificent response of fellow trade unionists around the world.

Nicholas Jones, a former labour and industrial correspondent, who reported the strike for BBC Radio, compiled a diary of news reports of help and assistance from overseas during the miners’ year-long struggle.

For the first time for 30 years he re-opened his file marked “miners’ international solidarity”, and it took him straight back to the events surrounding the largely under-reported, but totally unprecedented action by other mining unions and the wider international trade union movement.

 

Two pressing concerns for journalists were addressed head on by the Home Secretary, Mrs Theresa May, in a speech at the Journalists’ Charity’s annual reception at the Embassy of Ireland in London.

She gave an assurance that action was being taken to guard against the identification of journalists’ sources, and that there would be new safeguards on the length of time accused people could be held on pre-trial bail without charge.

Mrs May, welcomed by the Ambassador of Ireland Mr Dan Mulhall, was on fine form, complementing the charity on all the work it did to look after journalists who had fallen on hard times or were in need of help.

MPs at Westminster recognised the problem, and the House of Commons shared the concept of helping colleagues in distress, “but we just call it the House of Lords”.

She raised another laugh when describing how gripped she had been by Sunday television viewing on the BBC, “watching all those characters in War and Peace coming out in support of Mother Russia, and not least of all, Andrew Marr interviewing the Labour leader”.

While the ability of pro-Conservative newspapers to manipulate and often dictate the news agenda far outweighed the political impact of a burgeoning online discourse during the 2015 general election, there was no doubt that the power and reach of social media did have a profound effect on the conduct of the campaign.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and host of other inter-active services became the top destination for instant news and comment.

Political journalists complained that they had been deprived of the chance to question politicians with the thoroughness of previous elections, but in many ways they had been complicit in allowing the internet to become a pivotal channel of channel of communication.

All too often correspondents and presenters had themselves become slaves to social media, jostling with each other in cyber space in their clamour for attention.

Electioneering via the internet had led inexorably to a reduction in the opportunities for journalists to hold politicians to account.    

Corbyn ElectedComing to terms with the trials and tribulations of leading the Labour Party is proving a steep learning curve for Jeremy Corby, but he has had plenty of training for the media onslaught that he is having to endure.

I know from personal experience as a former BBC political correspondent that Corbyn’s durability under fire should not be underestimated.

His criticism in his acceptance speech of the unacceptable level of media intrusion being experienced by politicians was heartfelt – and something of a premonition given that five days later he was subjected to a frenzy of revelations about his relationship in the 1980s with Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary.

But Corbyn has remained steadfast and resolute for the last 30 years in the face of sustained denigration at the hands of Conservative-supporting newspapers and their erstwhile allies in New Labour.

Nicholas Jones at Hatfield pit, near Doncaster, which ceased production in July and is currently being dismantled and its shafts sealed.“If only”…if only there had been a deal in the 1980s the coal industry might have survived, says Nicholas Jones, who was a BBC labour and industrial correspondent during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

I returned to Yorkshire for BBC Newsnight to report on the industry’s final demise, and to visit the UK’s very last deep mine that is still producing coal, but only for another few weeks.

Deep mining of coal will cease by the end of the year when the Kellingley pit near Castleford closes in early December.

As I stood in the yard, looking across as coal poured from the pit shaft conveyor, I was almost lost for words, sensing that an historic moment was only weeks away.

“I can hardly believe it…” were my opening words as I described the imminent demise of the Big K, the Yorkshire super pit that once employed 3,000 men, and was the biggest deep mine in Europe.