Were the miners heroic victims of the ‘hand of history’?
I watched BBC Four’s retrospective look at the miner’s strike (9 March 2009), which, typically, I am inclined to be outraged by. On the surface it displayed the BBC’s usual commitment to its questionable notion of balance, focusing on picket-line clashes as experienced by a handful of miners as well as policemen. Unfortunately this ‘worm’s eye view’ of events came at the expense of a more political history of the period. And in the end it descended into a version of ‘make-over TV’, emphasising the individual ‘journeys’ of the miners’ interviewed; proud of their role in the strike but now with new jobs and careers – one a pub landlord, another a fitness coach, and yet another was self-employed. They might have been recruited by the BBC for being exemplary of the sort of flexibility and continual reinvention fashionable in job-seeking’s ‘official’ discourse these days. There is of course enormous ideological comfort in the BBC’s selective account of the strike. One that a more considerate look at the strike and the condition of former coal fields might reveal as wishful thinking. It seems that on its 25 anniversary, the dispute is being stripped of its divisive aspects and incorporated into a more consensual national narrative. Gone is any talk of the miners as ‘the enemy within’; replaced by the condescending notion that they were heroic victims, their industry dealt a fatal blow by the ‘hand of history’.
Hovis’s recent advertisement performs a similar ideological trick in the way it recuperates the strike into a version of ‘our island story’.