Government in Crisis: NUM chiefs fear extremist threat

LEADERS of the National Union of Mineworkers fear that infiltrators may provoke violence in London tomorrow when thousands of demonstrators protest against pit closures. Organisers have appointed stewards to ensure extremists do not use the march as an opportunity for confrontation with the police in a repeat of violent clashes during protests against the poll tax.

Some NUM officials claim the presence in London of members of the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers could prompt some fierce exchanges and settling of scores from the 1984-85 strike, which UDM members broke. The Metropolitan Police was widely criticised for its coalfield tactics during the dispute.

Derbyshire NUM, which has reported a 'fantastic' demand for bus and rail travel to the demonstration, will be represented mainly by women and children.

'We are aware of a danger of agents provocateur using the demonstration to stir up trouble,' Gordon Butler, Derbyshire area NUM secretary, said.

'We know it is a risk and it has influenced our thinking. It hasn't been helped by people like Cecil Parkinson talking about what people allegedly did in 1984, and how the miners brought down the Government in 1974. It wasn't us but public opinion, and the strength of public opposition to these closures has taken us by surprise.'

At Shirebrook colliery yesterday, NUM officials were scouring Derbyshire for extra buses to take demonstrators to London. More than 700 seats had been filled, 213 of them children given the day off from local schools.

Alan Gascoyne, Shirebrook NUM secretary, said no miners would be demonstrating. 'They will be stopping here cutting coal for the community. Our community will be down in London arguing for us. If we go down, we lose a day's production. We shall be underground proving our determination to keep the pit open.'

All sections of the Shirebrook community had helped to organise the demonstration, with traders contributing toward hampers for the protesters. 'Everyone will get two cobs (bread rolls), an apple, an orange, crisps, a Mars bar and two bottles of pop,' Mr Gascoyne said. In Yorkshire, march organisers said that they could not find enough buses and coaches to carry all the protesters to London.