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Arthur, Arthur, Arthur Out! Out! Out!

Miners' union and Scargill in court over claim they must still pay for the £1.5m Barbican flat he moved into in the 1980s
  • @tompeck

The most effective solution would probably be a picket line across the entry to Shakespeare Tower, in London’s highly sought after Barbican Centre, however displeasing it might be to Arthur Scargill and his City financier neighbours.

In the culmination of a lengthy legal battle, the former President – and now lifetime honorary President – of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) finally gave evidence at the High Court today, in a court room full of union reps to whom he was once a hero, and who now wish to stop paying the £34,000 a year rent on his £1.5m London flat.

The NUM also wishes to establish whether there is a limit to the fuel allowance they are obliged to provide for Mr Scargill’s second home, a cottage in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, whether they are indeed obliged to meet the costs of its security system, and pay for accountants KPMG to complete his tax return for the rest of his life.

Mr Scargill was presented with document after document during around two hours of questioning today, from the 80s, 90s and 2000s, as he, Mr Justice Underhill and Nicholas Davidson QC, Counsel for the NUM, held lengthy discussions over quite what the handwritten documents, some of which had been amended by Scargill himself several decades ago, actually said.

Today’s evidence pertained to the contract that was signed shortly before Mr Scargill stood down after twenty years as the head of the NUM in 2002, which he maintains entitles him to an unlimited fuel allowance for the Barnsley cottage.

Tomorrow, when he returns to continue his evidence, his home in the Barbican Centre – slap in the middle of London’s financial heartland and among the most desirable in the capital – will be up for discussion.

When Mr Scargill first took the flat, in the early 1980s, the NUM numbered several hundred thousand members, now it is less than 2,000, all of whom are paying around £20 a year for their controversial former leader’s housing.

The NUM are concerned not only at the costs of paying Mr Scargill’s rent for the rest of his life – he is 74 – but that they may be expected to do so for any widow he might leave. His long-term companion is his former press officer Nell Myers, now in her sixties.

Mr Scargill simply raised his eyebrows at journalists when asked repeatedly for comment, but did stop to have his picture taken with a court security guard who told him: “You’re my hero Arthur.”

It is a view not shared by members of the Durham branch of the National Union of Mineworkers, who are attending the week long hearing to report back to their members.

“He could have gone out on a high. He could have gone out at the top. Loved. Worshipped,” said one, who wouldn’t give his name. “But not now. He’ll go out at the very bottom.”