Government in crisis: UDM leader reflects on road to dole queue: Barrie Clement looks at why Roy Lynk is standing down from his post as union president and returning his OBE

Barrie Clement
Tuesday 20 October 1992 23:02 BST

ROY LYNK has had time to ponder the short but momentous history of his union and his part in its creation since he started his protest 1,200 feet below ground at Silverhill colliery last Thursday.

He has spent up to 12 hours a day on his own, much of it in a dusty electricity sub-station about 20 yards from the bottom of the pit shaft he first descended as a new recruit to the industry.

His decision to withdraw his candidacy for his present job as president of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and hand back his OBE came after Michael Heseltine's partial climbdown over pit closures. It was the last straw for the UDM leader.

Mr Lynk, not a man to deal in inconsequential subtleties, described it as a 'whitewash'. He feels betrayed by both the original revelation that seven pits were to be closed in his own backyard in Nottinghamshire and Monday's announcement that five would be the subject of a 'moratorium'. He believes that there has been a delay and no more.

He was also under pressure from his members, one of whom said: 'He has jumped before he was pushed.'

Mr Lynk's personal bitterness is based on his pit-bottom contemplation of how far he has come in the last eight years since his days as an activist in the National Union of Mineworkers.

To the undying rage of his erstwhile comrades in other coalfields, he led his men into work during the 1984-85 coal strike. Mr Lynk and the overwhelming majority of Nottinghamshire miners thought the best way to defend 'pits, jobs and communities' in the constantly repeated refrain of Arthur Scargill, president of the NUM, was to cross picket lines.

Since the pit strike, the coal industry in Nottinghamshire has been halved. Immediately after the strike there were 27,500 miners in Nottinghamshire at 25 collieries. Now there are 10,800 workers at 12 pits. Under the Government's plan, by the end of March there would be just over 5,000 miners at five collieries.

As a consequence, the pitmen and their families in Nottinghamshire are experiencing a wave of born-again cynicism about the Conservative government and some of them about Mr Lynk.

After the miners' strike and the Labour Party's ambivalence towards it, a number of them voted Tory - although few were converted to Conservatism.

Susan Else, wife of a miner at Silverhill colliery, also believes the county's colliers have been betrayed. 'The UDM did what the Government wanted them to do. You'd have thought they would have stuck up for them. I've always been Labour, never voted Conservative, but it's been proved they only stick up for their own people. I think the Nottinghamshire miners have been let down.'

The train of events which led to the establishment of the UDM began on the morning of 12 March 1984 when the first groups of Yorkshire pickets trickled over the border from Yorkshire into the Nottinghamshire pit village of Harworth. As it became clear that the historically moderate Nottinghamshire men were determined to keep working, the trickle became a flood and ended up as a small army - 'Arthur's army'.

The determination of the Nottinghamshire men to keep working was matched by the determination of the Scargill loyalists to 'picket them out'. For each family in Yorkshire which can tell a tale of heroism and privation, there is its equivalent in Nottinghamshire which can speak of the courage of their men who ran the gauntlet of abuse and violence as they crossed the picket lines.

Just weeks ago the UDM and its leader were active in a consortium formed to bid for collieries in the area. In spite of Monday's climbdown, Mr Lynk believes there will be 'bugger all left to privatise'.

It was not so much the defiance of Scargillism that has led him to second thoughts. It was more the involvement with the Government during the pit strike of people like David Hart, a lobbyist on the far right of the Conservative Party, who oiled the wheels which transformed the National Working Miners' Committee set up in 1984 into the UDM.

Mr Lynk feels that having led the Nottinghamshire miners through the picket lines, he might have also led them on to the dole.

(Photograph omitted)

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