There was me thinking Kevin would stay away along with John Healey and Sarah Champion but I was wrong. Was it the lure of the over generous expenses on offer for this session that made the difference?
Extract from Hansard:
Mr Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I offer my condolences to Lady Thatcher’s family, and in particular to her children and grandchildren. Both Front-Bench speakers have said that she was not only the only woman Prime Minister of this country, but someone who rose to the top of a major political party when it was dominated by men, as it is still. The Prime Minister has said she broke through a big glass ceiling, and we should recognise that fact.
I add my thoughts to those of the hon. Member for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell). Today is the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. The House should acknowledge that Lady Thatcher’s initiative in the 1980s was the start of the peace process, for which many people have good reason to thank her today.
Lady Thatcher was a radical politician and will remain a controversial figure. She would have expected that her conviction politics would court controversy even at such a time. Many of her domestic policies caused great concern and harm to many people and communities. I entered the House in 1983, nine months before the start of the miners’ strike. I come from a mining background and represent a mining constituency. My overriding memory of the 12-month strike was not the violence that we saw on our television screens—I condemned the violence at the time—but the poverty and hardship that miners and their families went through for the best part of 12 months.
We know that the cause of the strike was the proposed pit closure programme and the consequent effect, particularly on male unemployment, which had been traditionally high in coal mining communities. I am not saying that the Government of the day were wholly to blame for the strike and its consequences, but I believe they had a responsibility to bring the dispute to an early end, which they did not meet.
On Saturday, I attended a march commemorating the closure of Maltby colliery—the coal mine I worked at as a young man. It was the sixth and last coal mine to close in the Rother Valley constituency. The bitterness that stems from the ’84-’85 strike is there among people even all these years later. Although tribute can and will be paid to Margaret Thatcher, other voices in the country ought to be heard.
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