Aug 2008 - A funeral too far

01 June 2013

THE central pages of this edition are devoted to rail in Wales. It is where I was born and I will always retain a deep respect and affection for the land and its people. The most vivid memories of my youth (the publishable ones anyway!) centre around the working people of South Wales, principally my fellow workers on the railways – and members of the Welsh mining community.


I met many of my former work-mates last month when I went to a reception the Swansea branch kindly laid on to mark my 45th year as an ASLEF member. The gathering brought back many memories of distant, often happy, days, but we also – almost inevitably – spoke about the events of the mid-1980s when the Tory government vandalised the Welsh coal-fields.


A vindictive right-wing government was hell-bent on revenge on the miners for standing up to previous Conservative governments, and for representing values at the opposite end of the scale from their culture of individual greed. At enormous cost, which we are still paying today, they closed pits, destroyed an entire mining industry and left whole communities devastated and poverty stricken.


It was a government that waged war on working people – and at its head was Margaret Thatcher.


A few days after I returned to London came the announcement that the government had agreed that it would be fitting to spend £3 million on a grand sendoff for Thatcher when she finally passes on. Labour – my government – supported the idea of a formal, lavish and expensive State Funeral for the former Prime Minister. I could hardly believe what I read.


To be as fair to her as I can, Thatcher represented her class in a militant and single minded way. But she only ever represented a narrow section of society – the rich, the privileged and the avaricious. She held working people in contempt. She had no sympathy or concern for them. This alone, in my book, means she does not merit a State Funeral. Let her be mourned by her friends at their expense – not mine.


To ask the working people of this country to subsidise Thatcher’s funeral is an insult to the tens of thousands who were thrown out of work because of her, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives were made poorer because of her.


On a brighter note, I’d like to thank all our members who have been making such positive efforts to recruit drivers in London Underground. Thanks to Boris, there’s never been a better time to join ASLEF!

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