The former president of what was the largest mining union in South Derbyshire says he finally feels vindicated 30 years on from the Miners' Strike after claims in a new report that members of a break-away union were working with Tory government at the time.

The national Miners' Strike in 1984 was one of the bitterest industrial disputes in British history and saw thousands of miners across the country go on strike as the Tory Government of the day led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attempted to close many pits and privatise what was left of the industry.

Before 1994 Britain’s coal industry had been publicly owned and employed entire communities in many areas of the country.

The strike lasted a year and saw miners, led by union leader Arthur Scargill, from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) go out of strike. At the time a break-away union - the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM)- was formed.

It was formed by miners at Nottinghamshire pits but included miners at neighbouring South Derbyshire pits, including Cadley Hill. The union was formed by miners who did not want to strike and continued working during the dispute.

Now research from a PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool Steven Daniels claim that the UDM and its leader Roy Lynk was connected to and communicated with Mrs Thatcher. He has examined newly released files from the National Archives which detail secret meetings between UDM boss Roy Link and Mrs Thatcher.

Paul Liversage was the president of the NUM in South Derbyshire during the 1980s and has explained that they were always suspicious that this was happening.

Mr Liversage said: "We were always very suspicious that there was a close relationship between the UDM and the Tory government. We knew they were speaking to Edwina Currie and we knew they were holding secret meetings in Matlock.

"This coming out now, really vindicates what we fought for and what we said, that the Tory government wanted to privatise the mining business.

"We knew how profitable the mining business was. They could have made millions from privatising it.

"Now that this has all come out, it really makes you feel proud to be part of the NUM. I feel proud personally and vindicated. Back when we said this in the '80s, we didn’t know day to day whether there’d be a knock on the door and we'd be locked up."

Mr Liversage also expressed his pity towards those miners who were unaware of this at the time and chose to back the break-away UDM throughout the strikes.

He said: "In a sad way, you do feel sorry for those miners who didn’t know and joined the UDM and now it’s been revealed that they were apparently talking to the Tories. But I am pleased it has come to light. It’s what I have openly been saying for years."

Mr Daniels has published his findings online, on

He reviewed the minutes from the meetings held between Mrs Thatcher and Mr Lynk in a bid to uncover evidence of any form of partnership between the two groups.

Speaking about his findings Mr Daniels claimed that: "Lynk met Thatcher three times between 1986 and 1989 – and he insisted each time that the details of these meetings be kept secret. Now, 30 years later, the secret is out and it’s clear why he was eager for the information not to become public."

He claimed that the break-away UDM had been suspected of working with the Conservative Party for many years, but no proof was ever found to back this up - until now.

Minutes from one of the meetings read: "Mr Lynk … wished to clarify the UDM’s position on coal privatisation. The Union’s public position had to be one of opposition. But privately the union leadership supported privatisation and saw it as an opportunity.”

Further on in the minutes, it stated: "The Prime Minister … emphasised her great concern that everything possible should be done to help the UDM".

Mr Daniels continued to say: "The new files make it clear just how close the two parties were and how vital an ally the Government considered the UDM to be."

In his findings, Mr Daniels says he believes that had Mr Lynk’s views on privatising the coal industry been known at the time, it would have made a devastating blow to the UDM.

A young miner at Cadley Hill Colliery drops his strike ballow slip into the box
A young miner at Cadley Hill Colliery drops his strike ballow slip into the box

How did the NUM begin the mining strikes in 1984?

The National Union of Mineworkers was one of the largest union groups representing miners throughout the 19 century.

When it was claimed by the government in 1981 that coal mines had become largely unprofitable, due to the falling price of coal and that some pits may be closed, the NUM began threatening strike action. But a settlement was agreed between the union and the government to back down on the closures.

But in 1984 when plans were put forward to close 20 pits, NUM president Arthur Scargill declared an 'illegal' strike, because the move had not been out to a vote of members.

The NUM was not unified in striking, as many workers decided to not join in on taking action.

Some votes were not held across the country by the NUM on whether to strike or not, and areas that did hold a ballet, largely voted against.

There were many clashes with the police and picket lines were set up outside of pits that were in danger of closure.

What were the mining strikes about in the 1980s?

The miners’ strike during the 1980s was a major British landmark in the history of industrial action.

The strike was led by National Union of Mineworkers, the NUM, led by Arthur Scargill, and the action partially stopped coal mining across the country between 1984 and 1985.

Coal mines were run by the nationalised National Coal Board at the time and was backed by the Government.

After secretly stockpiling coal at power stations, it was announced that 20 pits were to close. On March 6, 1984 miners walked out of Cortonwood Colliery, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire after it was threatened with closure - and so the action began.

At its strongest, there were 142,000 miners out of strike. Many would man picket lines, some, known as the 'flying pickets' would be bused to other pits to man picket lines there. There were many clashes with the police and this led to the dispute being described as: “The most bitter industrial dispute in British history.”

Eventually the strike ended on March 3, 1985 and all miners returned to work, without an agreement being reached.

The strike was unsuccessful and almost all coal mines and collieries were closed across the country.

Many members of the NUM were split regarding the strikes and did not know whether to stop working or not. Particularly in the Midlands, where many workers decided to continue working through the dispute.

There was much bitterness between members of the NUM and the UDM.

Margaret Thatcher called Scargill "the enemy within". Few major unions supported the NUM, primarily because of the absence of a vote at national level. Violent confrontations between flying pickets and police characterised the year-long strike, which ended in a decisive victory for the government and led to the closure of most of Britain's collieries. It was "the most bitter industrial dispute in British history.

The much reduced coal industry was privatised in December 1994, ultimately becoming UK Coal. In 1983 Britain had 174 working pits but by 2009, there were six. Poverty increased in former coal mining areas, and in 1994 Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire was the poorest settlement in the country.