British trade-union leader. Elected president of the National Union of Miners (NUM) in 1981, he embarked on a collision course with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. The damaging miners’ strike of 1984 – 1985 split the miners’ movement.
Born in Leeds, Scargill became a miner on leaving school and was soon a trade-union and political activist, in the Young Communist League (1955 to 1962), and then in the Labour Party from 1966.
President of the Yorkshire miners’ union from 1973 to 1981, he became a fiery and effective orator.
During the 1984 – 1985 miners’ strike, he was criticised for not seeking an early NUM ballot to support the strike decision.
He was a member of the TUC General Council between 1986 and 1988 and in 1995 – criticising what he saw as the Labour Party’s lurch to the right – he announced that he would establish a rival party, the independent Socialist Labour Party.
This proved to be largely ineffectual and made little impact in consequent elections.
By 1997 membership of the NUM had fallen to 10,000.