Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

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.

Jeremy Corbyn has given a flawless demonstration of a politician’s ability to seize a once in a lifetime’s opportunity to ignore all the demands of political packaging, and yet soar in popularity.
Seemingly without even trying he has dominated the campaign to elect a new leader of the Labour Party.

Rarely a day has gone by without him announcing yet another new policy initiative, challenging the legacy of the Blair and Brown years, sweeping away all the control freakery of New Labour.

Corbyn has been the beneficiary of a heady cocktail of political support: Labour’s political opponents have given him every encouragement; he has been egged on by the massed media; he has re-awakened and re-united the broad left; and to his credit has succeeded in attracting the support of previously disillusioned young and radical potential voters.

The Election A to ZSelfies with the party leaders were the breakout craze of the 2015 general election – and the must-see location was definitely the kitchen!

A post-election thesis might well seek to establish what proportion of the thousands of people who took selfies actually voted for the political party of the candidate with whom they had chosen to photograph themselves.

Judging by the way the leading contenders were photobombed by a sea of mobile phones and tablets, onlookers obviously had an overwhelming desire to capture their moment with a celebrity politician.

Was the rush for selfies a passing fad? Did it – and will it – have political dividends? The same can be asked about kitchens: why were photo-opportunities all the rage? Were politicians taking advantage of the great popularity of shows like the Great British Bake Off or MasterChef?

All these trends – and many more – are addressed in The Election A-Z, my latest book reflecting of 50 years’ of political reporting.

 

Margaret Thatcher’s 1985 cabinet papers about the 1984-85 miners’ strike were a revelation for Nicholas Jones, as he explained when giving the annual lecture at the commemoration meeting to mark the death of two Yorkshire miners killed while on picket duty.

After a wreath laying ceremony, Jones told the gathering at the Barnsley headquarters of the National Union of Mineworkers that he had been misled and that an award winning programme was based on inaccurate information.

Jones, who was named the 1986 Industrial Journalist of the Year, asserted in his BBC Radio 4 programme Codename Tuscany that it was confidential advice from European banks that allowed the courts to seize the miners’ missing millions.

But Mrs Thatcher’s papers have revealed that in fact it was tip-offs from the Security Service MI5 – based on telephone taps and surveillance – that enabled the sequestrators Price Waterhouse to take control of £8.7 million deposited in banks in Luxembourg, Zurich and Dublin without the NUM’s knowledge.

Jones said his experience in being misled during the strike – as had also happened over denials of a secret hit list for pit closures – had made him all the more determined to unlock the secrets of the strike.

 Two events to celebrate milestones in the campaign for freedom of information were coupled with a stiff warning that the United Kingdom’s hard-won rights to know might be restricted in the future due to expenditure cuts in Whitehall and local government.

Two potential threats were identified: a future government might try to limit applications by increasing the cost threshold for inquiries or might follow the example of the Irish government and introduce a charge for FOI inquiries.

The warnings were given by Maurice Frankel, long-standing director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, and by the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

They both voiced concern that frivolous and inane inquiries, especially by journalists, should be avoided because they were being used in a campaign by the Local Government Association and Whitehall departments to try to persuade ministers to save money by limiting the number of applications.