1984 Miners Strike: Where Did All the Money Go?

Andrew Wood
11 min readFeb 27, 2024

“Arthur Scargill started the miners strike with a big union and a small house,
and ended it with a big house and a small union” — Anonymous

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous UK miner’s strike. An event that lasted a year and took its toll on tens of thousands of people. While the mines have all closed, and the once mighty union is all but gone, one question remains unanswered, “Where did all the money go?”

President Arthur Scargill

After the 1984 miners’ strike, Arthur Scargill was elected to lifetime presidency of the National Union of Miners (NUM) by an overwhelming majority in a controversial election in which some candidates claimed they were given very little time to prepare any challenge to his candidacy. He did not step down from leadership of the NUM until the end of July 2002, when he became the honorary president. It was a presidency marred by controversy, lawsuits, and questionable accounting.

The Money Came Pouring In

During the 1984 miners’ strike, the money came in by mail in five-pound, ten-pound, and twenty-pound donations from ordinary working-class people in the street. They were often accompanied by letters of support. The cash came in suitcases carried by a courier from Libya, fifty thousand plus at a time, in bundles of twenty-pound notes. It came in wires from Russia to secret bank accounts in France, Switzerland, and Poland. The bank accounts were all controlled by one man, Arthur Scargill and his French friend, Alan Simon.

The money came from Union leaders’ tours of mines in Holland, Germany, France, and many other European countries. The NUM representatives raised thousands of guilders, francs, and marks in cash and brought them back to the UK in brown paper bags, duffel bags, and briefcases. Other industries’ unions in the UK donated cash collected from their members. Unions in other countries sent checks or wired money that bounced from bank account to bank account until no one was quite sure where it was.

Shortly after the end of the strike, Scargill moved from a house he had bought before the strike for £25,000 to a £200,000-pound house. The average price of a home at that time was £57,901. There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting a bigger house, but that was a mighty big jump, especially since he claimed not to be paid during the strike.

The Barbican Estate in Central London

In 1993, Scargill tried to use Thatcher’s flagship Right to Buy scheme to buy a luxury three-bedroomed flat in Shakespeare Tower on the Barbican Estate in Central London. His application was refused because the flat was not Scargill’s primary residence. Former Scargill loyalist Jimmy Kelly said he was astonished to learn of the attempt to buy the flat. “It’s so hypocritical it’s unreal,” he said. “It was Thatcher’s legislation, actually giving council tenants the right to buy their own houses. If it had been made public before then, there’d have been a huge outcry. I think people would be astounded if they knew that.” Giving further credence to the label of hypocrisy, it was a scheme that the political party Scargill founded, the Socialist Labour Party had sought to abolish.

Scargill Used the NUM as a Bank

For years, the NUM had been paying £34,000 annual rent for the flat on Scargill’s instructions, without the knowledge of NUM members or many senior officials; Scargill claimed the NUM should continue funding his flat for the rest of his life, and after that, for any widow who survived him.

Chris Kitchen, NUM leader at the time, said, “I would say it’s time to walk away, Mr. Scargill. You’ve been found out. The NUM is not your personal bank account and never will be again.” Kitchen said that Scargill “has had thirty years of decent living out of the Union, and he’s got a pension that’s second to none. Had he done the humble thing and walked away with what he was entitled to, his reputation would still be intact…. I’ve always said that if Arthur can no longer control the NUM, he’ll try to destroy it. That’s what I believe.”

Closet Capitalist

Persistent as ever, Scargill kept trying and, in 2014, bought the property under the scheme for half its estimated value of two million pounds. He claimed he would donate the flat to the Union, but no such thing has ever happened. Chris Kitchen said of Scargill, “There is his public image as a socialist and a trade unionist that Arthur likes to portray, but the reality is he is a capitalist, in that he’s all out for himself. And he’s done very well out of it. I honestly do believe that Arthur, in his own world, believes that the NUM is here to afford him the lifestyle that he’s become accustomed to.”

The Union argued that Scargill had unlawfully continued to occupy a rent-free luxury apartment in London, which was initially provided for his use during the miners’ strike. The case went to court, and in 2019, a judge ruled against Scargill, ordering him to pay £576,000 in rent and legal costs.

Roger Windsor, former CEO of the National Union of Mineworkers

Financial Impropriety

In 1990, the Daily Mirror and the Roger Cook investigative TV show accused Scargill of mishandling money donated to the striking miners during the 1984–1985 strike. Many of the sources were those who had previously worked with him in the NUM, such as Kim Howells, Jim Parker, his bodyguard, and Roger Windsor, NUM CEO. It was alleged that, of the money donated from Libya, Scargill took £29,000 for his bridging loan and £25,000 for his home in Yorkshire but gave only £10,000 to the striking Nottinghamshire miners. In addition, it was alleged that he had taken over £1,000,000 of cash donated by the Soviet Union for the Welsh miners and placed it in a Dublin bank account for the “International Miners’ Organization,” where it stayed until a year after the strike had finished.

There was much criticism of Scargill within the NUM from the Welsh and Scottish areas, who briefly considered splitting from the NUM. Windsor, former chief executive of the NUM, admitted on TV to taking £29,500 to pay off his mortgage. Scargill had given him the money in cash and, according to Windsor, told him to “Regard it as a gift from Libya.” These allegations were verified in an audio interview with the Daily Mail by Steve Hudson, the NUM’s accountant.

The Lightman Report

The 253-page Gavin Lightman QC report commissioned by the NUM in (1990) exonerated Scargill from taking money to pay off his mortgage as had been alleged by Windsor. However, Lightman concluded that Arthur Scargill had sought political and financial help from the Soviets and the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi and that there had been a number of misapplications of funds, including the operation of two separate sets of accounts, one official and the other unofficial, the latter having no supervision or control. This Lightman called a “remarkable breach of duty” and suggested that Scargill should repay the money to the NUM.

The report also charged that Scargill had channeled funds that should have gone to the Union to the international organization he set up in Paris and used it for personal projects. It alleged, for example, that he borrowed $150,000 from the organization five months after the strike to buy a new house, lent money to Heathfield, and paid for house repairs without Union knowledge.

Lightman said that in trying to trace the missing funds, he received no cooperation from the IEMO, which he described as “practically impenetrable.” As for Scargill, Lightman added, “I regret it has been my strong impression that Mr. Scargill’s story on a number of points has changed as it suits him throughout the conduct of this inquiry.”

Sued by his Own Union

In July 1990, the NUM executive voted unanimously to sue Scargill and Peter Heathfield, general secretary of the NUM. This action created the unlikely scenario of a union led by Arthur Scargill suing the IEMO, another union led by Arthur Scargill. It was all getting very messy and was about to get more so.

In September 1990, the certification officer brought criminal charges against Scargill and Heathfield for willfully neglecting to perform the Union’s duty to keep proper accounting records. Scargill reached an agreement to repay money to the NUM shortly after this. The prosecution brought by the certification officer was rejected in July 1991 on the grounds that it would be inappropriate to use the material provided in confidence to Lightman’s inquiry.

An Apology and More Judgments

In May 2002, the editor of the Daily Mirror at the time, Roy Greenslade, one of three reporters involved in the original story, wrote an article in the Guardian apologizing to Scargill for the false claims about paying off the mortgage and for putting too much trust in Roger Windsor, who at the time had still not repaid the £29,500 that he had taken from the Miners’ Welfare Fund, money that the Lightman Report had asked that he repay. Meanwhile, the two other reporters involved in the article published articles standing by their story.

In 2010, the NUM’s current general secretary, Chris Kitchen, stopped subscription payments of £20,000 a year from the NUM to the IEMO, which had been paid since 1985 and totaled more than £464,000. He had no idea what they were paying for, and no answer was given. In addition, there were questions about a one-off payment of £145,000 to the IEMO shortly before Mr. Scargill retired from the NUM in 2002. The Union’s national executive committee was never consulted. Mr. Scargill said the payment was a grant, and because a NUM trust fund made it, it did not need to be reported to the Union’s national executive committee.

19 July 2019, the High Court ordered the International Energy and Miners Union IEMO (Arthur Scargill and Alan Simon) to pay the NUM the sum of £161,299.29. The Union is also seeking to recover further sums regarding legal costs and will continue to receive additional future payments from Mr. Windsor.

The Strike to End All Strikes

The whole truth may never be known, but one thing that’s sure is that Arthur Scargill became a multimillionaire while miners lost their homes, jobs, and their entire industry. Rather than slow down the demise of mining, the disastrous strike helped speed up its end. The actual cost of the strike was far more devastating than the loss of jobs or the eight lives lost. Lifelong friends became lifelong enemies, pitting father against son and brother against brother when one or the other crossed the picket line, desperate for the income to save his home or feed his family. The scars ran deep, and the wounds never healed. Whole communities were torn apart. Others died slowly as the mines closed, and the men had to move to find employment.

Famed Scottish Union leader Jimmy Reid said, “Arthur Scargill’s leadership of the miners’ strike has been a disgrace. The price to be paid for his folly will be immense. He will have destroyed the NUM as an effective fighting force within British trade unionism for the next twenty years. If kamikaze pilots were to form their own union, Arthur would be an ideal choice for leader.”

The strike’s failure helped Thatcher revive the British economy but had significant implications for the future of labor unions and coal mining in Britain. Union membership fell from 40 percent of the nation’s workforce to 22 percent.

Four decades after 1984, NUM President Kitchen said, “There are many aspects of the strike and its aftermath that have yet to be thrashed out in public. I would have thought that someone who was public enemy number one (Scargill) with MI5 tapping his calls and following him; I’m very surprised he managed to live the life he did and get away with what he did without being pulled up.”

The Battle of Orgreave called into question aggressive police tactics

There is indeed strong evidence that the government was involved in questionable tactics to undermine Scargill. There is even more evidence that the police used excessive force and trumped-up charges, hundreds of which were later dropped, to subdue Union pickets. With so many conflicting stories and shady characters involved, we will never know where all the money went or how much of it there was. One thing seems clear, however; much of it never went where it should have, to the hard-working miners and their families caught up in a strike not all of them wanted or believed in — led by a former communist, Marxist, and founder of the Socialist Labour Party who became a multimillionaire along the way.

Maybe capitalism is not so bad after all, Arthur?

This true story is the backdrop to my new thriller, Death of a Union.

“A literary powerhouse of a thriller that seamlessly blends past and present, weaving together the events of the 1984 miners’ strike with the contemporary political landscape.” — Chris Riches, Correspondent for North-West England and Wales — Daily Express

“This gripping geopolitical thriller strikes a rich seam connecting a fragmenting nation to a seismic secret from the darkest days of its industrial past.” — Richard Moriarty, North West District Editor — The Sun

Death of a Union

“Death of a Union” is a geopolitical thriller set against the tumultuous backdrop of the UK’s infamous 1984 miners’ strike. George McDonald is a union leader, on the verge of exposing staggering corruption within Arthur Scargill’s National Union of Miners, where millions have vanished. However, sinister forces, including a shadowy KGB agent and fellow union leaders, conspire against him, setting the stage for a high-stakes showdown.

Fast forward four decades, and Scotland is on the verge of becoming an independent nation under dynamic new leadership, transforming the SNP from a joke into a powerhouse of positive change. But this new direction leads Scotland into uncharted territory, forming unconventional alliances, particularly with China. These alliances draw the ire of Whitehall and Washington, triggering alarms on both sides of the Atlantic.

As the political landscape intensifies, MI5 reopens the Pandora’s box of George McDonald’s corruption case. The echoes of the past resonate in the present, thrusting Scotland’s First Minister into a web of intrigue and peril. Amidst political maneuvering, covert operations, and the weight of untold secrets, “Death of a Union” becomes a riveting tale of power, betrayal, and the relentless pursuit of justice.




Andrew Wood

Author & Marketing Legend with over 50 books :I write on: Marketing, Travel, Sales, Success, Biz, Leadership, Golf, Autos, Books, Events www.AndrewWoodInc.com