How the Left was won? Media re-positioning of the 'moderate' during the 1984-5 Miners Strike

Myers, Frances (2018). How the Left was won? Media re-positioning of the 'moderate' during the 1984-5 Miners Strike. In: Social History Society 42nd Annual Conference, 11-13 Jun 2018, Keele University, Newcastle under Lyme.


Current research follows contemporary accounts that recognise the Coal Dispute of 1984-5 as a material, political and cultural struggle (Adeney and Lloyd, 1986) and part of a group of visible domestic ideological oppositions (Fairclough 1994) characterising this period of British history. The complexity of the dispute and subsequent impact on the “balance of power between capital and labour” (Benyon, 2014) has provided a rich vein for academics studying media perspectives, presentation and audience receptions accompanying journalistic memoirs and biographical accounts of key actors. However, the continuing persistence of powerful myths around the strike and the role of the media in mythmaking has been less reported.

Conceptual frames of conflict as key to the rhetoric of the Thatcher administration through speechmaking and policy documents has rendered visible connections between persuasion, metaphor, ideology and myth (Charteris-Black, 2005). Whilst equivocality and complexity in the immediate conditions as the strike broke out offered both a threat and an opportunity to government legitimacy and the post-war consensus, this paper considers how the Conservative government were able to mobilise the press to signify and consolidate their position during the early weeks of the strike, promoting their strategy by proxy.

Three aspects of legitimisation myths, and presentation of striking miners as ‘other’ were provided via the media; identification and stigmatisation of militant ideas and behaviour (as opposed to moderate), demonization of key individuals, particularly Arthur Scargill as the epitome of distilled otherness and myth of a new Britannia and accompanying taboo of a lawless Marxist/ Soviet threat.

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