Socialist Worker

Thatcher, chemical weapons, a scab union and Piper Alpha

Issue No. 2564

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher (Pic: White House)


Margaret Thatcher suggested threatening Iraq with chemical weapons after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, declassified documents show.

The formerly top secret correspondence was between the then British prime minister and US defence secretary Dick Cheney.

Thatcher said the US should consider retaliating “in like manner” if Iraq used chemical weapons.

But President George Bush senior said such a move would “put the US in the wrong in world opinion”.

Under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, Iraq invaded the Gulf state of Kuwait in August 1990.

Bush described reports in the British press that the US could use nuclear weapons against Iraq as not “at all helpful”.


New light has been shone on Thatcher’s scab union the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM). It was created during the 1984-5 strike to undermine the NUM.

Newly released files reveal UDM leader Roy Lynk met Thatcher three times between 1986 and 1989–and he insisted each time that the details of these meetings be kept secret.

The minutes of the meeting in July 1989 note, “Mr Lynk wished to clarify the UDM’s position on coal privatisation. The union’s public position had to be one of opposition. But privately the union leadership supported privatisation and saw it as an opportunity.”

The report on their October 1986 meeting showed how “the prime minister emphasised her great concern that everything possible should be done to help the UDM”.

Preferential treatment was extended to “uneconomical” pits. Notes prepared by civil servants for Thatcher’s January 1988 meeting with the UDM reveal that pits with a strong NUM membership were earmarked for earlier closure.


Thatcher skipped a memorial service for victims of the Piper Alpha disaster so she could meet a Tory donor.

The prime minister was invited to the event at a church in Aberdeen five days after the tragedy on 6 July 1988, which saw 167 people die.

Instead Thatcher held a lunch with bosses in London and met Lord McAlpine


Tory Clarke told bloody lies on compensation

Tory Kenneth Clarke has been forced to retract a claim that victims of the contaminated blood scandal received compensation.

Clarke was health secretary in the 1980s, when thousands were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV after being given contaminated blood. In his autobiography, he claimed that John Major’s Tory government paid victims compensation.

He has now agreed to change his autobiography in new editions. But his lawyers didn’t miss an opportunity to try and distance Clarke from the scandal.

They said his autobiography “does no more than set out his recollection of and limited involvement in these events”.


Memory loss is not uncommon for MPs. Possibly because we paid £2.7 million to subsidise bars and restaurants in the House of Commons last year—a rise of 8 percent compared to the previous year.

Prices are cheaper in those areas where only MPs are allowed.


Lord Vaux of Harrowden has a seat for life in the House of Lords after a nailbitingly close election last week.

Just 31 fellow hereditary peers were allowed to take part in the election. And just 27 votes were cast. Vaux won by a “landslide” of 16 votes.


The sky is the limit for cops’ ‘sexual gratification’

A South Yorkshire Police (SYP) helicopter crew used a powerful video camera to spy on naked sunbathers, a couple having sex in their garden and naturists, a court has heard.

The crew is accused of a “gross waste of valuable resources”.

PC Adrian Pogmore admitted four counts of misconduct in a public office and has been sacked.

But two other officers, Matthew Lucas and Lee Walls, deny the charges along with pilots Matthew Loosemore and Malcolm Reeves.

They blame Pogmore for the whole thing.

The trial of the four opened at Sheffield Crown Court last week.

Richard Wright QC prosecuting said members of the public suffered “a gross violation of their privacy”.

He added that, “This was a deliberate invasion of their privacy for, at the very least, the inappropriate amusement of the crew, and at worst, for their sexual gratification.”

The trial continues.


Bumper year for fat cats

Shareholders are rolling in cash after dividend payments hit an all-time high in the in the last three months.

Companies reported £33.3 billion was handed over to shareholders, up 15 percent from the previous year. A number of companies made special payouts totalling £4.6 billion.

One example is Lloyds, sold off by the government in May following its £20.3 billion bailout during the financial crisis. It handed out £357 million as a special payout on top of a £1.2 billion regular dividend.

Some 20 companies paid special dividends, the second highest number in any quarter on record.


United Utilities pled guilty last week to supplying water unfit for human consumption to around 700,000 people in Lancashire. Customers there had to boil water in 2015 after the parasite cryptosporidium was found in water at a treatment plant.

It can cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramps if ingested. People were unable to drink tap water for three weeks.


Psychiatric wards not safe

Two out of five psychiatric wards are not safe enough for patients. The Care Quality Commission said 40 percent of wards were rated inadequate or in need of improvement.

It said patients are at risk of harm from others because of crowded wards and a lack of staff. The number of nurses on wards has dropped by 12 percent in seven years.

The number of available inpatient psychiatric beds has fallen by 4 percent since 2014. Yet detentions under the Mental Health Act rose by 26 percent between 2012-13 and 2015-16.


Workers must graft an extra year after the Tories brought forward a rise in the pension age to 68. The change is set to begin in 2037.

Around six million workers aged 39 to 47 will be hit. The move is expected to save £74 billion. That’s £9,800 per person affected.


The things they say

‘She is effectively crippled. She herself must know that she will not be a long-term prime minister”

Ed Costelloe, chairman of the Grassroots Conservative activist group

‘A lot of people who aren’t actually that good, scrabbling for position”

Former Tory cabinet minister David Mellor on his sucessors

‘They’re nagged to death by their other half’

Berkshire NHS boss Sir Andrew Morris on why men die younger than women

‘One of our greatest living authors’

Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom on Jane Austen—who died 200 years ago

‘Somebody has to do the job of trying to hold power to account and speak the truth about all that stuff’

Broadcaster John Humphrys on his £600,000-£650,000 pay range


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