The Workers’ Party notes with sadness the death of Peter Heathfield, the former General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers. Along with Arthur Scargill and Mick McGahey, Peter Heathfield provided bold and resolute leadership against Margaret Thatcher’s vicious and reactionary plan to devastate the mining industry and destroy the rights of working people organised in trade unions during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5.
Peter Heathfield, his fellow leaders, and the miners and their families, were on the front line of an intense struggle to defend the jobs, rights and traditions of entire communities across
Britain that were being sacrificed in the interests of bankers and speculators concentrated in the City of London. The Tory government brought the full weight of the state and its security services to bear on the National Union of Mineworkers and their families. Several striking miners were killed on the picket line, the police regularly attacked the strikers, the secret services were let loose to smear and spread disarray, and the families supporting the strikers were subjected to harassment, arrest and humiliation by means such as strip-searching. The miners persevered.
The leadership provided by Peter Heathfield and Arthur Scargill in particular was never forgotten by their enemies, and in 1990 they were the victims of vindictive and false allegations of financial corruption in the media, including in the Daily Mirror. The two were cleared by an independent inquiry, and the paper’s editor Roy Greenslade later apologised for being fooled by the allegations and for recklessly printing them.
Workers’ Party General Secretary John Lowry said: “One of the proudest possessions of The Workers’ Party hangs on the wall of our office in Belfast. It is a metal plate presented to The Workers’ Party by the National Union of Mineworkers in recognition of our solidarity work to raise funds and support for the striking miners throughout the island of Ireland. The miners and their leaders earned the respect and gratitude of socialists everywhere for their stand against Thatcherism. We need only look at the fate of those former mining communities to see that the National Union of Mineworkers were right about the consequences of Thatcherism for the working class. We remember Peter Heathfield with admiration, and send our condolences to his family and comrades.”